United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. COLLINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner denying the
application of Thomas Thompson (“Plaintiff”) for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401, et seq. and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et
seq. Plaintiff has filed a brief in support of the
Complaint (Doc. 15) and Defendant has filed a brief in
support of the Answer (Doc. 20). The parties have consented
to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)
filed applications for DIB and SSI on February 4, 2015 and
February 13, 2015, respectively (Tr. 174-82, 207-17).
Plaintiff was initially denied on March 13, 2015 (Tr.
102-13). Plaintiff filed a Request for Hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on March 20,
2015 (Tr. 114-15). After a hearing, by decision dated
September 23, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr.
23-38). In a decision dated July 10, 2017 the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-7). As such,
the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the
DECISION OF THE ALJ
determined that Plaintiff meets the insured status
requirement through March 31, 2014 (Tr. 28). The ALJ found
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since April 1, 2009, the alleged onset date (Id.).
The ALJ further found Plaintiff has the severe impairments of
degenerative joint disease of the bilateral hips,
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, and obesity,
but that no impairment or combination of impairments met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr.
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform sedentary work with the following limitations (Tr. 30).
He can lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently (Id.). He can stand or walk 2 hours in an
8-hour workday, for 30 minutes at a time, and sit for 6 hours
in an 8-hour workday, for 30 minutes at a time
(Id.). He can occasionally climb stairs, but never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and he can occasionally
stoop, crouch, kneel, or crawl (Id.). He should
avoid unprotected heights and hazardous moving machinery
(Id.). The ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform any
past relevant work but that there were jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform including document preparer, administrative
support worker, and cutter/paster (Tr. 33-34). Thus, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled (Tr. 33). Plaintiff
appeals, arguing a lack of substantial evidence to support
the Commissioner's decision (Doc. 15).
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, 404.1529. “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.” Goff v.
Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 590-91 (8th
Cir. 2004)). In this sequential analysis, the claimant first
cannot be engaged in “substantial gainful
activity” to qualify for disability benefits. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(b), 404.1520(b). Second, the claimant
must have a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§
416.920(c), 404.1520(c). The Social Security Act defines
“severe impairment” as “any impairment or
combination of impairments which significantly limits
[claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities. . . .” Id. “‘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 [his
or] 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), citing
Nguyen v. Chater, 75 F.3d 429, 430-31 (8th Cir.
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment
which meets or equals one of the impairments 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 the claimant is per se disabled
without consideration of the claimant's age, education,
or work history. Id.
the impairment must prevent the claimant from doing past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(f),
404.1520(f). The burden rests with the claimant at this
fourth step to establish his or her RFC. Steed v.
Astrue, 524 F.3d 872, 874 n.3 (8th Cir. 2008)
(“Through step four of this analysis, the claimant has
the burden of showing that she is disabled.”). The ALJ
will review a claimant's RFC and the physical and mental
demands of the work the claimant has done in the past. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
the severe impairment must prevent the claimant from doing
any other work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(g),
404.1520(g). At this fifth step of the sequential analysis,
the Commissioner has the burden of production to show
evidence of other jobs in the national economy that can be
performed by a person with the claimant's RFC.
Steed, 524 F.3d at 874 n.3. If the claimant meets
these standards, the ALJ will find the claimant to be
disabled. “The ultimate burden of persuasion to prove
disability, however, remains with the claimant.”
Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1069 n.5 (8th Cir.
2000). See also Harris v. Barnhart, 356 F.3d 926,
931 n.2 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing 68 Fed. Reg. 51153, 51155
(Aug. 26, 2003)); Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d 801,
806 (8th Cir. 2004) (“The burden of persuasion to prove
disability and to demonstrate RFC remains on the claimant,
even when the burden of production shifts to the Commissioner
at step five.”). Even if a court finds that there is a
preponderance of the evidence against the ALJ's decision,
the decision must be affirmed if it is supported by
substantial evidence. Clark v. Heckler, 733 F.2d 65,
68 (8th Cir. 1984). “Substantial evidence is less than
a preponderance but is enough that a reasonable mind would
find it adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusion.” Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d
1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002). See also Cox v. Astrue,
495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007).
not the job of the district court to re-weigh the evidence or
review the factual record de novo. Cox, 495 F.3d at
617. Instead, the district court must simply determine
whether the quantity and quality of evidence is enough so
that a reasonable mind might find it adequate to support the
ALJ's conclusion. Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962,
966 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing McKinney v. Apfel, 228
F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000)). Weighing the evidence is a
function of the ALJ, who is the fact-finder. Masterson v.
Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). Thus, an
administrative decision which is supported by substantial
evidence is not subject to reversal merely because
substantial evidence may also support an opposite conclusion
or because the reviewing court would have decided
differently. Krogmeier, 294 F.3d at 1022.
determine whether the Commissioner's final decision is
supported by substantial evidence, the court is required to
review the ...