United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision
denying Larry Brockman's (“Brockman”)
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et
seq. and supplemental security income benefits under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381,
applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income benefits on August 14, 2013, alleging
disability as of June 30, 2013, due to schizophrenia and
bipolar disorder. After his application was denied at the
initial administrative level, he requested a hearing before
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Following a
hearing on December 4, 2014, the ALJ issued a written
decision on February 17, 2015, denying his application.
Brockman's request for review by the Appeals Council was
denied. Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530
U.S. 103, 107 (2000).
Court adopts Brockman's Statement of Facts (Doc. No.
19-1). The Court's review of the record shows
that the adopted facts are accurate and complete. Specific
facts will be discussed as part of the analysis.
court's role on judicial review is to determine whether
the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence
in the record as a whole. Johnson v. Astrue, 628
F.3d 991, 992 (8th Cir. 2009). “Substantial evidence is
that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id. (citations
omitted). The court may not reverse merely because
substantial evidence exists in the record that would support
a contrary outcome or because the court would have decided
the case differently. See Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294
F.3d 1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002).
determine whether the ALJ's final decision is supported
by substantial evidence, the Court is required to review the
administrative record as a whole and to consider:
(1) The 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 activity and impairment;
(5) The corroboration by third parties of the claimant's
(6) The testimony of vocational experts based upon prior
hypothetical questions which fairly set forth the
claimant's physical impairment; and
(7) The testimony of consulting physicians.
Brand v. Sec'y of Dept. of Health, Educ. &
Welfare, 623 F.2d 523, 527 (8th Cir. 1980).
Social Security Act defines as disabled a person who is
“unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity
by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which
has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period
of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A). The impairment must be “of such
severity that [the claimant] is not only unable to do his
previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and
work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless
of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.” 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Commissioner has established a five-step process for
determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(a), 404.1520(a). “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)).
the claimant must not be engaged in “substantial
gainful activity” (“SGA”). 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(a), 404.1520(a). Second, the claimant
must have a “severe impairment, ” defined as
“any impairment or combination of impairments which
significantly limits [claimant's] physical or mental
ability to do basic work activities.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(c), 404.1520(c). “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)).
claimant has a severe impairment, the ALJ must determine at
step three whether any of the claimant's impairments
meets or equals an impairment 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.
claims based on mental disorders are evaluated in essentially
the same manner as claims based on physical impairments. If
the mental impairment is severe, the ALJ must determine
whether it meets or equals any of the Listings. The Listings
of mental impairments consist of three sets of
“criteria”- the paragraph A criteria (a set of
medical findings), paragraph B criteria (a set of
impairment-related functional limitations), and paragraph C
criteria (additional functional criteria applicable to
certain Listings). The paragraph A criteria substantiate
medically the presence of a particular mental disorder. The
paragraphs B and C criteria describe the impairment-related
functional limitations that are incompatible with the ability
to perform SGA. There are four areas in which the ALJ rates
the degree of functional limitation: (1) activities of daily
living; (2) social functioning; (3) concentration,
persistence, or pace; and (4) episodes of decompensation (the
“paragraph B criteria”). 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520a(c)(3). A claimant can satisfy the paragraph C
criteria by showing: (1) extended episodes of decompensation;
(2) a “residual disease process that has resulted in
such marginal adjustment that even a minimal increase in
mental demands or change in the environment would be
predicted to cause the individual to decompensate, ” or
(3) a “[c]urrent history of 1 or more years'
inability to function outside a highly supportive ...