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Smith v. Berryhill

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

March 22, 2018

KATHY SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kathy Smith brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's denial of her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that, despite Smith's severe impairments, she was not disabled as she had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform past relevant work as a billing clerk.

         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 reversed and remanded.

         I. Procedural History

         Smith filed applications for DIB and SSI on December 9, 2013, claiming that she became unable to work on October 15, 2013, because of breast cancer, arthritis in the lower back and right hip, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a history of double mastectomy. (Tr. 143-56.) Smith was 55 years of age on her alleged onset of disability date. Id. Her claims were denied initially. (Tr. 85-89.) Following an administrative hearing, Smith's claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated November 19, 2015. (Tr. 13-21.) Smith 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 November 21, 2016. (Tr. 7, 1-5.) 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, Smith argues that the ALJ erred “by failing to provide a proper RFC in that the ALJ did not adequately evaluate the opinion of the treating physician and did not support the credibility assessment with substantial evidence.” (Doc. 9 at 7.)

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ first noted that Smith met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2018, and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 15, 2013, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 15.)

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Smith had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease-back; degenerative joint disease-hip; and history of breast cancer. The ALJ found that Smith did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 17.)

         As to Smith'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 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a)(sit for 6 of 8 hours in a work day; stand for 2 of 8 hours in a work day; lift and/or carry 10 pounds frequently or occasionally) except she can frequently climb ramps and stairs, and can frequently stoop. She can only occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds.

Id.

         The ALJ found that Smith's allegations regarding the extent of her limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 18.) In determining Smith's RFC, the ALJ indicated that he was assigning “significant weight” to the opinions of treating physician Philma Opinaldo, M.D. (Tr. 20.)

         The ALJ further found that Smith was capable of performing past relevant work as a billing clerk. (Tr. 21.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Smith was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 15, 2013, through the date of the decision. Id.

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits filed on December 9, 2013, the claimant is not disabled under sections 216(i) and ...

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