United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's request for
judicial review under 28 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final
decision of Defendant denying Plaintiff's applications
for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI, 42
U.S.C. §1381, et seq. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court will reverse and remand the
Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's application.
For Determining Disability
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).
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 “listings”). 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant has
such impairment, the Commissioner will find the claimant
disabled; if not, the ALJ proceeds with the rest of the
five-step process. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d),
416.920(d); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611.
to Step Four, the ALJ must assess the claimant's
“residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”), which is “the most a claimant can
do despite [his] limitations.” Moore v.
Astrue, 572 F.3d 520, 523 (8th Cir.2009) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545 (a) (1)); see also 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). At Step Four, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant can return to his past
relevant work, by comparing the claimant's RFC with the
physical and mental demands of the claimant's past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a) (4) (iv),
404.1520(f), 416.920(a) (4) (iv), 416.920(f); McCoy,
648 F.3d at 611. If the claimant can perform his past
relevant work, he is not disabled; if the claimant cannot,
the analysis proceeds to the next step. Id... At
Step Five, the ALJ considers the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience to determine whether the
claimant can make an adjustment to other work in the national
economy; if the claimant cannot make an adjustment to other
work, the claimant will be found disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v);
McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611.
Step Four, the burden remains with the claimant to prove that
he is disabled. Moore, 572 F.3d at 523. 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.; Brock v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1062, 1064 (8th Cir.2012).
For Judicial Review
Court's role in reviewing the Commissioner's decision
is to determine whether the decision “‘complies
with the relevant legal requirements and is supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole.'”
Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 942 (8th
Cir.2009) (quoting Ford v. Astrue, 518 F.3d 979, 981
(8th Cir.2008)). “Substantial evidence is ‘less
than preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind might
accept it as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
Renstrom v. Astrue, 680 F.3d 1057, 1063 (8th
Cir.2012) (quoting Moore v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 520,
522 (8th Cir.2009)). In determining whether substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's decision, the Court
considers both evidence that supports that decision and
evidence that detracts from that decision. Id.
However, the court “‘do[es] not reweigh the
evidence presented to the ALJ, and [it] defer[s] to the
ALJ's determinations regarding the credibility of
testimony, as long as those determinations are supported by
good reasons and substantial evidence.'”
Id. (quoting Gonzales v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d
890, 894 (8th Cir.2006)). “If, after reviewing the
record, the court finds it is possible to draw two
inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those
positions represents the ALJ's findings, the court must
affirm the ALJ's decision.'” Partee v.
Astrue, 638 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir.2011) (quoting
Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 789 (8th Cir.2005)).
The Court should disturb the administrative decision only if
it falls outside the available “zone of choice”
of conclusions that a reasonable fact finder could have
reached. Hacker v. Barnhart, 459 F.3d 934, 936 (8th
appeal of the decision of the ALJ, Plaintiff argues: (1) The
ALJ erred in relying on the VE's testimony, although the
hypothetical question differed significantly from the RFC
finding; (2) The ALJ erred in failing to ask the VE if there
were conflicts between his testimony and the DOT; and (3) The
ALJ erred in failing to consider whether Plaintiff's
borderline intellectual functioning equaled listing 12.05;
argues that none of the alleged errors are harmless, and
attempts to establish that the decision is supported by
substantial evidence on the record. The Court disagrees.
Under applicable law, the ALJ is required to pose
hypothetical questions in accordance with the RFC finding.
The question posed by the ALJ allowed for the VE to consider
jobs for which Plaintiff may not be capable of performing.
while the Commissioner argues that there were no conflicts
between the VE's testimony and the DOT, and therefore,
the fact that the ALJ did not ask the question is harmless,
Plaintiff points out that there is indeed a significant
conflict between the DOT and her level of education, which
the ALJ asked the VE to consider.
also urges consideration of the “adaptive-functioning
inquiry on adaptive deficits” and “significant
limitations in conceptual, social, or practical adaptive
skills, ” as articulated in Moore v. Texas,
137 S.Ct. 1039 (2017). The focus on adaptive deficits is
consistent with the ...