United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern 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
applications of Zena Kay Burns (“Plaintiff”) for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401,
et seq. and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. Plaintiff
has filed a brief in support of the Complaint (Doc. 14) and
Defendant has filed a brief in support of the Answer (Doc.
19). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title
28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. 8).
filed applications for DIB and SSI on November 14, 2013,
alleging an onset date of August 31, 2012 (Tr. 199-214).
Plaintiff was initially denied on April 4, 2014, and she
filed a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) on May 9, 2014 (Tr. 116-132,
136-137). After the hearing, by decision dated December 3,
2015, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 10-33). On
December 13, 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.
DECISION OF THE ALJ
established that Plaintiff meets the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2016
(Tr. 15). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since August 31, 2012, the
alleged onset date (Id.). The ALJ found that
Plaintiff has the severe impairments of degenerative disc
disease of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spines,
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, panic
disorder with agoraphobia, and an anxiety disorder but that
the ALJ determined that no impairment or combination of
impairments met or medically equaled the severity of one of
the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (Tr. 16).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
to have the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform less than a full range of light work in that she can
lift or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently
(Tr. 18). She can stand or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday (Id.). She can sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday (Id.). She can push or pull in the limits
for lifting and carrying (Id.). She can understand,
remember, and carry out simple work instructions and tasks at
a Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) 2 level (Id.).
She can have frequent contact with coworkers and supervisors
(Id.). She can have occasional contact with the
general public (Id.). The ALJ found Plaintiff is
unable to perform any past relevant work but that there are
jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national
economy that she could perform, including cleaner, laundry
folder, and warehouse checker (Tr. 24-25). Thus, the ALJ
concluded that a finding of “not disabled” was
appropriate (Tr. 26). Plaintiff appeals, arguing a lack of
substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's
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 ...