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Odom v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 29, 2017

REGINA ODOM, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Regina Odom brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act.

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that, despite Odom's severe physical and mental impairments, she was not disabled as she had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.

         This matter is pending before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). A summary of the entire record is presented in the parties' briefs and is repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

         I. Procedural History

         Odom filed an application for DIB on November 16, 2012, claiming that she became unable to work on September 20, 2009, because of fibromyalgia, kidney issues, neuropathy, endometriosis and “ovary issues, ” bursitis in both hips, tendonitis and left knee surgery, and migraines. (Tr. 73, 207.) Odom's claim was denied initially. (Tr. 85-89.) Odom subsequently amended her alleged onset of disability date to December 4, 2012. (Tr. 57.) Following an administrative hearing, Odom's claim was denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated May 26, 2015. (Tr. 9-20.) Odom then filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration (SSA), which was denied on June 23, 2016. (Tr. 4, 1-3.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         In the instant action, Odom argues that the ALJ's “findings of residual functional capacity do not find support in ‘some' medical evidence as required under the standards contained in Singh and Lauer.” (Doc. 16 at 4.)

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ found that Odom last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on December 31, 2012, and did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of December 4, 2012, through her date last insured. (Tr. 11.)

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Odom had the following severe impairments through the date last insured: fibromyalgia; neuropathy; obesity; chondromalacia of the left knee; cervical degenerative disk disease; bipolar disorder; and depression. Id. The ALJ found that Odom did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 12.)

         As to Odom's RFC, the ALJ stated:

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except the claimant is limited to sitting for four hours at a time, and eight hours in a work day. The claimant is limited to stand/walk for two hours at a time, and six hours in a work day. The claimant can frequently reach in all directions and handle, finger, feel, push, and pull with both upper extremities. The claimant can frequently operate foot controls with both lower extremities. The claimant can occasionally climb stairs, ramps, ladders and scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally crawl. The claimant can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch. The claimant can have occasional exposure to unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts. The claimant can have frequent exposure to humidity and wetness, extreme cold and vibration. The claimant can frequently operate a motor vehicle. Further, the claimant is limited to understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions and making simple work related decisions and having occasional interaction with supervisors, co-workers and the public.

(Tr. 14.)

         The ALJ found that Odom's allegations regarding the extent of her limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 16.) In determining Odom's physical RFC, the ALJ indicated that she was adopting the opinion of medical expert, Anne Winkler, M.D. (Tr. 18.)

         The ALJ further found that Odom was unable to perform past relevant work, but was capable of performing other jobs existing in the national economy, such as collator operator, mail clerk, and marker. (Tr. 34-18-19.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Odom was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from December 4, 2012, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2012, the date last insured. (Tr. 19.)

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits filed on November 16, 2012, the claimant was not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012, the date last insured.

(Tr. 20.)

         III. Applicable Law

         III. A. Standard of Review

         The decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Estes v. Barnhart, 275 F.3d 722, 724 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but enough that a reasonable person would find it adequate to support the conclusion. Johnson v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). This “substantial evidence test, ” however, is “more than a mere search of the record for evidence supporting the Commissioner's findings.” Coleman v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 767, 770 (8th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “Substantial evidence on the record as a whole . . . requires a more scrutinizing analysis.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         To determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, the Court must review ...


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