United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Melissa Squires 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.
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that,
despite Squires' severe physical and mental impairments,
she was not disabled as she had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy.
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.
following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner will be
reversed and remanded to the Commissioner.
filed an application for DIB on June 24, 2015, claiming that
she became unable to work on November 10, 2011,
because of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), arthritis, lower back pain, hip pain,
shoulder impingement, bilateral foot pain, ankle pain, joint
pain, and fibromyalgia. (Tr. 271.) Squires was 44 years of
age on her alleged onset of disability date. Id. Her
claims were denied initially. (Tr. 126-34.) Following an
administrative hearing, Squires' claim was denied in a
written opinion by an ALJ, dated July 18, 2016. (Tr. 11-26.)
Squires 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 2, 2016.
(Tr. 7, 1-6.) 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, Squires first argues that the “basis
for the RFC is unclear and it is not supported by substantial
evidence.” (Doc. 21 at 4.) She next claims that the ALJ
“erroneously afforded Dr. Ghosh's opinion
‘little' weight.” Id. at 8. Finally,
Squires argues that the ALJ “failed to make a proper
credibility determination.” Id. at 21.
The ALJ's Determination
first noted that Squires meets the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31,
2020, and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since January 1, 2014, her amended alleged onset date. (Tr.
addition, the ALJ concluded that Squires had the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; right shoulder
impingement; fracture and reconstruction of the left distal
radial ulnar joint; left ankle anterior talofibular ligament
tear; asthma; obesity; depression; anxiety; and PTSD.
Id. The ALJ found that Squires did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments. (Tr. 15.)
Squires' RFC, the ALJ stated:
After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that
the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) in that she
can perform occasional lifting up to 10 pounds and the
frequent lifting/carrying less than 10 pounds; standing or
walking 2 hours out of an 8 hour workday and sitting 6 hours
out of an 8 hour workday. In addition, she requires a
sit/stand option allowing a change in position every 30
minutes for a few minutes a time while remaining at the
workstation. She can never climb on ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. She can no more than occasionally climb on ramps
and stairs. She can no more than frequently stoop, kneel,
crouch, or crawl. Overhead reaching is limited to frequent.
Handling is limited to frequent. She should avoid even
moderate exposure to vibration, wetness, humidity, and
pulmonary irritants, such as gas, fumes, odors, dusts, and
workspace with poor ventilation. She should avoid
concentrated exposure to work hazards, such as unprotected
heights and being around dangerous, moving machinery. She
[is] able to understand, remember, and carry out simple to
moderately complex instructions consistent with semi-skilled
work. She can tolerate occasional interaction with coworkers
and supervisors. She can have no contact with the general
found that Squires' allegations regarding the extent of
her limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 19.) In
determining Squires' RFC, the ALJ indicated that she was
assigning “little weight” to the opinions of
treating rheumatologist Sanjay Ghosh, M.D. (Tr. 22.)
further found that Squires was unable to perform past
relevant work, but was capable of performing other jobs
existing in the national economy, such as addresser and
document preparer. (Tr. 24-25.) The ALJ therefore concluded
that Squires was not under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, from January 1, 2014, through the date
of the decision. (Tr. 25.)
ALJ's final decision reads as follows:
Based on the application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits protectively filed on June 24,
2015, the claimant is not disabled under sections 216(i) and
223(d) of the Social Security Act.
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 ...