United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. COLLINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner denying the
application of Susan Neidert (“Plaintiff”) for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401,
et seq. Plaintiff has filed a brief in support of
the Complaint (Doc. 15) and Defendant has filed a brief in
support of the Answer (Doc. 20). Plaintiff has also filed a
Reply to the Answer. (Doc. 21). The parties have consented to
the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 10).
filed her application for DIB on April 26, 2013, alleging an
onset date of March 3, 2008. (Tr. 152-158). Plaintiff was
initially denied on August 27, 2013, and she filed a Request
for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on October 1, 2013. (Tr. 105- 106). The
ALJ conducted a video conference hearing on December 8, 2014.
(Tr. 53-85). After the hearing, by decision dated December
18, 2014, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 10-25).
On February 23, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-6). As such, the
ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the
Commissioner. In a separate proceeding, Plaintiff was
approved for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”)
benefits with an onset in April 2013, the date on which she
applied for benefits. (Tr. 9).
DECISION OF THE ALJ
determined that Plaintiff has the severe impairment of mild
degenerative disc disease. (Tr. 15). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff does not have any impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of the
listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, and
Appendix 1. (Tr. 17).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(c) with the following limitations. (Tr. 17-18).
Plaintiff can lift, carry, push and pull 50 pounds
occasionally and 25 pounds frequently. (Id.). She
can sit, stand, and walk for six hours of an eight-hour
workday. (Tr. 18). Plaintiff can occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, but can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds.
(Id.). She can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch,
and crawl. (Id.). The ALJ found Plaintiff was
capable of performing her past relevant work as a motor
vehicle assembler through the date last insured. (Tr. 20).
Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a
disability at any time between March 3, 2008, the alleged
onset date, and December 31, 2012, the date last insured.
the Social Security Act, the Commissioner has established a
five-step process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920, 404.1529.
“‘If a claimant fails to meet the criteria at any
step in the evaluation of disability, the process ends and
the claimant is determined to be not disabled.'”
Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005)
(quoting Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584,
590-91 (8th Cir. 2004)). In this sequential analysis, the
claimant first cannot be engaged in “substantial
gainful activity” to qualify for disability benefits.
20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(b), 404.1520(b). Second, the
claimant must have a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(c), 404.1520(c). The Social Security Act
defines “severe impairment” as “any
impairment or combination of impairments which significantly
limits [claimant's] physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. . . .” Id.
“‘The sequential evaluation process may be
terminated at step two only when the claimant's
impairment or combination of impairments would have no more
than a minimal impact on [his or] her ability to
work.'” Page v. Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040,
1043 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting Caviness v. Massanari,
250 F.3d 603, 605 (8th Cir. 2001), citing Nguyen v.
Chater, 75 F.3d 429, 430-31 (8th Cir. 1996)).
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment
which meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the
Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 404.1520(d).
If the claimant has one of, or the medical equivalent of,
these impairments, then the claimant is per se disabled
without consideration of the claimant's age, education,
or work history. Id.
the impairment must prevent the claimant from doing past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(f),
404.1520(f). The burden rests with the claimant at this
fourth step to establish his or her RFC. Steed v.
Astrue, 524 F.3d 872, 874 n.3 (8th Cir. 2008)
(“Through step four of this analysis, the claimant has
the burden of showing that she is disabled.”). The ALJ
will review a claimant's RFC and the physical and mental
demands of the work the claimant has done in the past. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
the severe impairment must prevent the claimant from doing
any other work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(g),
404.1520(g). At this fifth step of the sequential analysis,
the Commissioner has the burden of production to show
evidence of other jobs in the national economy that can be
performed by a person with the claimant's RFC.
Steed, 524 F.3d at 874 n.3. If the claimant meets
these standards, the ALJ will find the claimant to be
disabled. “The ultimate burden of persuasion to prove
disability, however, remains with the claimant.”
Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1069 n.5 (8th Cir.
2000). See also Harris v. Barnhart, 356 F.3d 926,
931 n.2 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing 68 Fed. Reg. 51153, 51155
(Aug. 26, 2003)); Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d 801,
806 (8th Cir. 2004) (“The burden of persuasion to prove
disability and to demonstrate RFC remains on the claimant,
even when the burden of production shifts to the Commissioner
at step five.”). Even if a court finds that there is a
preponderance of the evidence against the ALJ's decision,
the decision must be affirmed if it is supported by
substantial evidence. Clark v. Heckler, 733 F.2d 65,
68 (8th Cir. 1984). “Substantial evidence is less than
a preponderance but is enough that a reasonable mind would
find it adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusion.” Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d
1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002). See also Cox v. Astrue,
495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007).
not the job of the district court to re-weigh the evidence or
review the factual record de novo. Cox, 495 F.3d at
617. Instead, the district court must simply determine
whether the quantity and quality of evidence is enough so
that a reasonable mind might find it adequate to support the
ALJ's conclusion. Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962,
966 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing McKinney v. Apfel, 228
F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000)). Weighing the evidence is a
function of the ALJ, who is the fact-finder. Masterson v.
Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). Thus, an
administrative decision which is supported by substantial
evidence is not subject to reversal merely because
substantial evidence may also support an opposite conclusion
or because the reviewing court would have decided
differently. Krogmeier, 294 F.3d at 1022.
determine whether the Commissioner's final decision is
supported by substantial evidence, the court is required to
review the administrative record as a whole and to consider:
(1) Findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the
(3) The medical evidence given by the claimant's treating
(4) The subjective complaints of pain and description of the
claimant's physical ...