United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
SHERI A. KEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANNETTE A. BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision
denying Sheri A. Key's application for supplemental
security income under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 416, et seq. The parties have consented to
the exercise of authority by the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Doc.
8.] Key alleged disability due to bipolar disorder, manic
depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, degenerative disc
disease, degenerative joint disease, migraines, learning
disabilities, and mood swings. (Tr. 192.) Based on the
following, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's final
November 6, 2014, Key applied for supplemental security
income, alleging disability beginning November 5, 2014. (Tr.
171, 187.) The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denied Key's claim and Key filed a
timely request for hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 90-96, 99-101.) The SSA granted
Key's request for review, and an administrative hearing
was held on July 28, 2016. (Tr. 48-75, 126-133.) Key,
represented by counsel, testified at the hearing. (Tr.
50-71.) Vocational expert, Michelle Peters-Pagella, also
testified at the hearing. (Tr. 71-74.)
August 25, 2016, the ALJ found Key not disabled as defined in
the Social Security Act. (Tr. 18-29.) Key requested a review
of the ALJ's decision from the Appeals Council. (Tr.
164.) On August 23, 2017, the Appeals Council denied
Key's request for review. (Tr. 1-7.) The decision of the
ALJ thus stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000). Key
filed this appeal on October 23, 2017. [Doc. 1] The
Commissioner filed an Answer and the certified Administrative
Transcript on December 27, 2017. [Docs. 11, 12.] Key filed a
Brief in Support of the Complaint on January 24, 2018. [Doc.
13.] The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer
on April 19, 2018. [Doc. 18.] Key then filed a Reply Brief on
April 20, 2018. [Doc. 19.]
Standard of Review
Social Security Act defines disability as an “inability
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 has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 416(i)(1)(A).
uses a five-step analysis to determine whether a claimant
seeking disability benefits is in fact disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(1). First, the claimant must not be engaged
in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(i). Second, the claimant must establish that he
or she has an impairment or combination of impairments that
significantly limits his or her ability to perform basic work
activities and meets the durational requirements of the Act.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Third, the claimant must
establish that his or her impairment meets or equals an
impairment listed in the appendix of the applicable
regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the
claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listed
impairment, the SSA determines the claimant's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e).
the claimant must establish that the impairment prevents him
or her from doing past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant meets this burden, the
analysis proceeds to step five. At step five, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to establish the claimant
maintains the RFC to perform a significant number of jobs in
the national economy. Singh v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 448,
451 (8th Cir. 2000). If the claimant satisfied all of the
criteria under the five-step evaluation, the ALJ will find
the claimant to be disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
standard of review is narrow. Pearsall v. Massanari,
274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). This Court reviews the
decision of the ALJ to determine whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find
adequate support for the ALJ's decision. Smith v.
Shalala, 31 F.3d 715, 717 (8th Cir. 1994). The Court
determines whether evidence is substantial by considering
evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision
as well as evidence that supports it. Cox v.
Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006). The Court
may not reverse just because substantial evidence exists that
would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would
have decided the case differently. Id. If, after
reviewing the record as a whole, the Court finds it possible
to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one
of those positions represents the Commissioner's finding,
the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed.
Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 726 (8th Cir.
2004). The Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision
so long as it conforms to the law and is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Collins ex
rel. Williams v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 726, 729 (8th Cir.
determined that Key had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 5, 2014. (Tr. 20.) The ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the following impairments: depression, anxiety,
bipolar disorder, and panic disorder with agoraphobia. (Tr.
20.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr.
21.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full
range of work at all exertional levels with the following
limitations: (1) must avoid exposure to hazardous work
environments; (2) avoid climbing ropes or ladders; (3)
limited to remembering and performing out simple, routine
tasks; (4) limited to making simple work-related decisions;
(5) frequent contact with supervisors but only occasional
contact with coworkers and the general public; (6) cannot
perform any tasks that require tandem work with coworkers;
and (7) work will be off-task ten percent of the workday.
(Tr. 23.) Although the ALJ determined that Key was unable to
perform any past relevant work, she opined that Key would be
able to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy. (Tr. 27-28.) Finally, the ALJ held that Key
had not been under a disability, as defined by the Social
Security Act, since November 6, 2014, the date the
application was filed. (Tr. 28.)
following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ:
heard testimony from Key and Michelle Peters-Pagella, the
vocational expert (“VE”). (Tr. 48-75.) Plaintiff