United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision
denying Rolline Timmons's applications for disability
insurance benefits under Title II and supplemental social
security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq.
January 15, 2014, Timmons protectively filed an application
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental social
security income, alleging disability beginning April 1, 2013,
to a history of Hepatitis C and affective disorder. (Tr.
23-25.) After her application was denied at the initial
administrative level, Timmons requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. 6.) A
hearing was held on March 13, 2015. (Tr. 23.) Thereafter,
Timmons underwent a consultative examination. (Tr. 629-640.)
The ALJ issued a written decision denying Timmons's
application on June 2, 2015. (Tr. 23-27.) On August 8, 2016,
the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration
denied Timmons's request for review. (Tr. 1-3.) Thus, the
decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the
Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 560 U.S. 103, 107
filed this appeal on October 12, 2016. (Doc. 1.) The
Commissioner filed an Answer. (Doc. 12.) Thereafter, Timmons
filed a Brief in Support of her Complaint (Doc. 19), and the
Commissioner filed a Cross Brief in Support of the Answer
Court adopts Timmons's Statement of Facts (Doc. 19 at
1-8), as supplemented by the Commissioner's Response to
Timmons's Statement of Facts (Doc. 24-1), and the
Commissioner's Statement of Additional Facts (Doc. 24-2).
The Court's review of the record shows that the adopted
facts are accurate and complete. Specific facts will be
discussed as part of the analysis.
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 twelve months." 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A); see also Brantley v. Colvin, 2013 WL
4007441, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 2, 2013). The impairment must
be "of such severity that [the claimant] is not only
unable to do [her] previous work but cannot, considering
[her] 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 [s]he lives, or whether a
specific job vacancy exists for [her], or whether [s]he would
be hired if [s]he applied for work." 42 U.S.C. §
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(a), 404.1520(a).
"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." Goffv.
Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 590-91 (8th
the claimant must not be engaged in "substantial gainful
activity." 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a),
404.1520(a). Second, the claimant must have a "severe
impairment, " defined as "any impairment or
combination of impairments which significantly limits
[claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities." 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(c),
404.1520(c). "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 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). Third, the claimant must establish that her impairment
meets or equals an impairment 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 she is per se disabled without consideration of her age,
education, or work history. Id.
claims based on mental disorders are evaluated in essentially
the same manner as claims based on physical impairments. If
the mental impairment is severe, the ALJ must determine
whether it meets or exceeds and of the Listings of mental
impairments. The Listings consist of three sets of
"criteria"-the paragraph A criteria (a set of
medical findings), paragraph B criteria (a set of
impairment-related functional limitations), and paragraph C
criteria (additional functional criteria applicable to
certain Listings). The paragraph A criteria substantiate
medically the presence of a particular mental disorder. The
paragraphs B and C criteria describe the impairment-related
functional limitations that are incompatible with the ability
to work. There are four areas in which the ALJ rates the
degree of functional limitation: (1) activities of daily
living; (2) social functioning; (3) concentration,
persistence, and pace; and (4) episodes of decompensation
(the "paragraph B criteria"). 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520a(c)(3). A claimant can satisfy the paragraph C
criteria by showing: (1) extended episodes of decompensation;
(2) a "residual disease process that has resulted in
such marginal adjustment that even a minimal increase in
mental demands or change in the environment would be
predicted to cause the individual to decompensate, " or
(3) a "[c]urrent history of 1 or more years'
inability to function outside a highly supportive living
arrangement." 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1,
§ 12.00(C). The paragraph C criteria are assessed only
if the paragraph B criteria are not satisfied. If the
claimant satisfies the A and B, or A and C criteria, she will
be considered disabled. 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1,
§ 12.00(A); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a
(detailing evaluation of mental impairments).
considering step four, the ALJ must determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e),
416.920(e). RFC is defined as "the most a claimant can
do despite her limitations." Moore v. Astrue,
572 F.3d 520, 523 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1)). At step four, the ALJ determines whether the
claimant can return to her past relevant work by comparing
the claimant's RFC with the physical and mental demands
of the past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1520(f), 416.920(a)(4)(iv),
416.920(f); McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th
Cir. 2011). If the claimant can still perform past relevant
work, she will not be found to be disabled; if the claimant
cannot, the analysis proceeds to the next step. Id.
five, the ALJ considers the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience to see if she can make an
adjustment to other work in the national economy. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant cannot make an
adjustment to other work, then she will be found to be
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v),
404.1520(a)(4)(v). Through step four, the burden remains with
the claimant to prove that she is disabled.
Brantley, 2013 WL 4007441, at *3 (citation omitted).
At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
establish that the claimant maintains the RFC to perform a
significant number of jobs within the national economy.
Id. "The ultimate burden of persuasion to prove
disability, however, remains with the claimant."
Meyerpeter v. Astrue, 902 F.Supp.2d 1219, 1229 (E.D.
Mo. 2012) (citations omitted).
Court's role on judicial review is to determine whether
the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence
in the record as a whole. Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564
F.3d 935, 942 (8th Cir. 2009). In determining whether the
evidence is substantial, the Court considers evidence that
both supports and detracts from the Commissioner's
decision. Andrews v. Colvin,791 F.3d 978, 983 (8th
Cir. 2015); Cox v. Astrue,495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th
Cir. 2007). As long as substantial evidence supports the
decision, the Court may not reverse it merely because
substantial evidence exists in the record that ...