United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)
for judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy
A. Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security,
denying the application of Plaintiff David Meyer
(“Plaintiff”) for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq., and for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381,
et seq. (the “Act”). The parties
consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned magistrate
judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 10). Because
I find the decision denying benefits was not supported by
substantial evidence, I will reverse the Commissioner's
denial of Plaintiff's application and remand the case for
October 7, 2013, Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI, alleging
that he had been unable to work since September 1, 2007. (Tr.
158-165, 166-71). His applications were initially denied.
(Tr. 82-90). On January 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Request
for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) (Tr. 93-94). On
May 21, 2015, after a hearing, the ALJ found Plaintiff was
not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 17-34). On June 12, 2015,
Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of Hearing Decision with
the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council.
(Tr. 14-16). On July 7, 1016, the Appeals Council denied his
request for review. (Tr. 1-6). Plaintiff has exhausted all
administrative remedies, and the decision of the ALJ stands
as the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
facts related to the issues raised by Plaintiff will be
addressed as needed in the discussion below.
Standard for Determining Disability Under the Act
eligible for benefits under the Social Security Act, a
claimant must prove he or she is disabled. Pearsall v.
Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001);
Baker v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 955
F.2d 552, 555 (8th Cir. 1992). The 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
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A);
1382c(a)(3)(A); see also Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d
734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010). The impairment must be “of
such severity that he 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. §§ 423(d)(2)(A); 1382c(a)(3)(B).
determine whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner
engages in a five-step evaluation process. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a); see also McCoy v.
Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir. 2011) (discussing
the five-step process). At Step One, the Commissioner
determines whether the claimant is currently engaging in
“substantial gainful activity”; if so, then he is
not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i),
416.920(a)(4)(i); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. At Step
Two, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a
severe impairment, which is “any impairment or
combination of impairments which significantly limits [the
claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities”; if the claimant does not have a severe
impairment, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 404.1520(c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii),
416.920(c); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. At Step Three,
the Commissioner evaluates whether the claimant's
impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed in
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the
“listings”). 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii); McCoy, 648
F.3d at 611. If the claimant has such an impairment, the
Commissioner will find the claimant disabled; if not, the
Commissioner proceeds with the rest of the five-step process.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d);
McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611.
to Step Four, the Commissioner must assess the claimant's
“residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”), which is “the most a claimant can
do despite [his or her] limitations.” Moore v.
Astrue, 572 F.3d 520, 523 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1)); see also 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). At Step Four, the
Commissioner determines whether the claimant can return to
his past relevant work, by comparing the claimant's RFC
with the physical and mental demands of the claimant's
past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1520(f), 416.920(a)(4)(iv),
416.920(f); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. If the claimant
can perform his past relevant work, he is not disabled; if
the claimant cannot, the analysis proceeds to the next step.
Id. At Step Five, the Commissioner considers the
claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience to
determine whether the claimant can make an adjustment to
other work in the national economy; if the claimant cannot
make an adjustment to other work, the claimant will be found
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611.
Step Four, the burden remains with the claimant to prove that
he is disabled. Moore, 572 F.3d at 523. At Step
Five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish
that, given the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work
experience, there are a significant number of other jobs in
the national economy that the claimant can perform.
Id.; Brock v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1062, 1064
(8th Cir. 2012).
The ALJ's Decision
the foregoing five-step analysis, the ALJ here found that
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since September 1, 2007, the alleged onset date; that
Plaintiff has the severe impairments of degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine, hypertension, diabetes mellitus,
and depression; and that Plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1
(Tr. 22-23). The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the RFC to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)
and § 416.967(b) except that he can occasionally stoop,
kneel, crouch, and crawl, with no work around hazards such as
unprotected heights or dangerous machinery and no jobs
requiring good depth perception or binocular vision such as
small parts assembly, and is limited to simple, routine tasks
with only occasional changes in a routine work setting. (Tr.
24). At Step Four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to
perform any of his past relevant work. (Tr. 28). At Step
Five, relying on the testimony of a vocational expert, the
ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform,
including mail clerk (Dictionary of Occupational Titles
(“DOT”) No. 209.687-026), merchandise marker (DOT
No. 209.587-034), and garment sorter (DOT No. 222.687-014).
(Tr. 29). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not been under
a disability, as defined in the Act, from September 1, 2007,
through the date of his decision. (Tr. 30).
Standard for ...