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Shy v. Berryhill

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

March 30, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL[1], Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's request for judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of Defendant denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, 1381-1385. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's applications.

         Facts and Background

         On April 16, 2015, following a hearing, an ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a “disability” as defined in the Act during any portion of the period of alleged disability.

         On February 26, 2015, Administrative Law Judge Henry Kramzyk conducted a video hearing from Chicago, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri. Plaintiff appeared in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Brian Lee Womer, Vocational Expert also appeared.

         Plaintiff resided in Bonne Terre, Missouri at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff is single and has one child. She was 51 years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff completed one year of college.

         Plaintiff, since 2012, becomes nervous and upset around crowds. She suffers from Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome. She also has irritable bowel syndrome, Hepatitis B, endometriosis, and psoriasis. Plaintiff also testified she has rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism. She has anxiety and depression. Plaintiff has difficulty with leg cramps, pain in her stomach, and loose bowels. She had been taking PTSD medication for a month before the hearing.

         Plaintiff further testified that she can lift 25 pounds, can walk a mile, has to sit for 30 minutes and can stand for 30 minutes.

         Plaintiff lives alone. She sweeps, vacuums once in a while, does very little dusting, straightening, and cooking. She washes the dishes and does her laundry. Plaintiff tends to her own personal hygiene. She has three dogs. Plaintiff has a driver's license and drives.

         There was testimony from the Vocational Expert. Mr. Womer testified regarding Plaintiff, who had past experience as a furniture salesperson, and consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational titles. Based upon that consideration and the stated hypotheticals of the ALJ, including stated limitations, the Vocational Expert concluded there was work in the national economy available for Plaintiff as a laundry worker, a kitchen helper, and an inspector and hand packager.

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not entitled to a finding of disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 19, 2016. The decision of the ALJ is now the final decision for review by this court.

         Statement of Issues

          The issues in a Social Security case are whether the final decision of the Commissioner is consistent with the Social Security Act, regulations, and applicable case law, and whether the findings of fact by the ALJ are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Here the Plaintiff asserts the specific issue in this case is: whether the ALJ properly gave no weight to the only examining opinion despite it being consistent with the other examining source observations.

         Standard for Determining Disability

          The 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 Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir.2010). The impairment must be “of such severity that [the claimant] is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his 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 he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).

         A five-step regulatory framework is used to determine whether an individual claimant qualifies for disability benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a); see also McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir.2011) (discussing the five-step process). At Step One, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is currently engaging in “substantial gainful activity”; if so, then he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(I), 416.920(a)(4)(I); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. At Step Two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a severe impairment, which is “any impairment or combination of impairments which significantly limits [the claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities”; if the claimant does not have a severe impairment, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a) (4)(ii), 404.1520(c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(c); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. At Step Three, the ALJ evaluates whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the ...

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