United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
SHIRLEY PINKSTON o/b/o JOSEPH E. HOFSTETTER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Pinkston (“Plaintiff”) brings this action on
behalf of Joseph E. Hofstetter, deceased, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social
Security Administration Commissioner's denial of
Hofstetter's application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
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
contained in the parties' briefs and is repeated here
only to the extent necessary.
following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner will be
filed an application for SSI on February 20, 2013, claiming
that he became unable to work due to his disabling condition
on December 31, 2003. (Tr. 12, 144-49.) He claimed that he
was unable to work due to asthma, high blood pressure, atopic
eczema dermatitis, and a heart murmur. (Tr. 169.)
Hofstetter's claim was denied initially. (Tr. 85-90.)
Following an administrative hearing, Hofstetter's claim
was denied in a written opinion by an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ), dated February 13, 2015. (Tr. 12-24.) The ALJ
found that, despite Hofstetter's severe impairments, he
was not disabled as he had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy.
died on March 15, 2015, after which the Appeals Council of
the Social Security Administration substituted Plaintiff
Shirley Pinkston for Hofstetter. (Doc. 19 at 2.) The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 21,
2016. (Tr. 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.
instant action, Plaintiff first argues that the ALJ erred in
determining Hofstetter's RFC. Plaintiff also contends
that the ALJ erred in finding Hofstetter did not meet or
equal Listing 8.05. Plaintiff next argues that the ALJ erred
“by failing to evaluate the combined effects of all of
the impairments of the Plaintiff and by failing to give
controlling weight to the opinion of a treating
doctor.” (Doc. 19 at 10.) Finally, Plaintiff argues
that the ALJ “and the Commissioner erred as a matter of
law in failing to sustain their burden of establishing that
there is other work in the national economy that the
Plaintiff can perform.” Id. at 14.
The ALJ=s Determination
found that Hofstetter had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since February 20, 2013, the application date. (Tr.
addition, the ALJ concluded that Hofstetter had the following
severe impairments: eczema, atopic dermatitis, xerosis,
asthma. Id. The ALJ found that Hofstetter did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. (Tr. 15.)
Hofstetter's RFC, the ALJ stated:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in
20 CFR 416.967(a). He needs to alternate between standing and
sitting every 30 minutes for a brief position change; can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; can frequently balance, stoop, kneel,
and crouch; can occasionally crawl; cannot finger; must avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme cold and humidity, as well
as fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poor ventilation; should
avoid concentrated exposure to work hazards, such as moving
machinery and unprotected heights; and can tolerate no more
than incidental contact with co-workers and no contact with
the general public.
found that Hofstetter's allegations regarding his
limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 18.) In
determining Hofstetter's RFC, the ALJ indicated that she
was assigning “partial weight” to the opinion of
treating dermatologist, William V. Stoecker, M.D.
further found that Hofstetter was unable to perform any past
relevant work. (Tr. 20.) The ALJ noted that a vocational
expert testified that Hofstetter could perform jobs existing
in significant numbers in the national economy, such as egg
processor, production checker, and cutter-paster. (Tr. 21.)
The ALJ therefore concluded that Hofstetter had not been
under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act,
since February 20, 2013, the date the application was filed.
ALJ's final decision reads as follows:
Based on the application for supplemental security income
protectively filed on February 20, 2013, the claimant is not
disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security
Standard of Review
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).
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole,
the Court must review the entire administrative record and
1. The credibility findings made by the ALJ.
2. The plaintiff's vocational factors.
3. The medical evidence from treating and consulting