United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANNETTE A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Bradley Crow's appeal
regarding the denial of disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income under the Social Security Act.
The Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this
action under 42 U.SC. § 405(g). The parties have
consented to the exercise of authority by the United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Doc.
8.] The Court has reviewed the parties' briefs and the
entire administrative record, including the transcript and
medical evidence. Based on the following, the Court will
reverse the Commissioner's decision and remand this
presents one error for review. Crow asserts that the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) failed to
include a relevant limitation regarding Crow's ability to
respond to usual work situations and changes in a routine
work setting in the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) determination. The Commissioner contends
that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial
evidence in the record as a whole and should be affirmed.
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),
Social Security Administration (“SSA”) uses a
five-step analysis to determine whether a claimant seeking
disability benefits is in fact disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(1), 416.920(a)(1). First, the
claimant must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 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.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 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. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the
claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listed
impairment, the SSA determines the claimant's RFC to
perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
the claimant must establish that the impairment prevents him
or her from doing past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 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, 736 (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.
sole issue on appeal states that the ALJ erred by failing to
include a limitation regarding his ability to respond
appropriately to usual work situations and changes in a
routine work setting in the RFC determination. The RFC is
defined as the most the claimant can do despite his or her
limitations, and includes an assessment of physical abilities
and mental impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a),
416.945(a). The RFC is a function-by-function assessment of
an individual's ability to do sustained work-related
physical and mental activities on a regular and continuing
basis. SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *1 (July 2,
1996). It is the ALJ's responsibility to determine the
claimant's RFC based on all relevant evidence, including
medical records, observations of treating physicians and
others, and the claimant's own descriptions of his
limitations. Pearsall, 274 F.3d at 1217. An RFC
determination made by an ALJ will be upheld if it is
supported by substantial evidence in the record. See
Cox, 471 F.3d at 907. “[T]he ALJ is not qualified
to give a medical opinion but may rely on medical evidence in
the record.” Wilcockson v. Astrue, 540 F.3d
878, 881 (8th Cir. 2008). In making a disability
determination, the ALJ shall “always consider the
medical opinion in the case record together with the rest of
the relevant evidence in the record.” Heino v.
Astrue, 578 F.3d 873, 879 (8th Cir. 2009); see
also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(b), 416.927(b).
Thomas J. Spencer's Psychological Evaluation and Medical
Source Statement (Mental)
Social Security Administration hired Dr. Thomas J. Spencer, a
licensed psychologist, to prepare a psychological evaluation
and mental medical source statement regarding Crow. The
evaluation occurred on May 6, 2016. (Tr. 525). Dr. Spencer
reviewed Crow's mental health records, his allegations,
and conducted an in-person interview. (Tr. 525.) Dr. Spencer
prepared a written psychological evaluation and a medical
source statement of ability to do work-related activities
(mental). (Tr. 525-531.)
his interview, Crow reported to Dr. Spencer that he applied
for benefits due to chronic back and ankle pain and bipolar
disorder. (Tr. 527.) Crow stated that he had been clean from
methamphetamine use for “maybe six months.” (Tr.
527.) Crow stated he had been involved in a motor vehicle
accident, which resulted in a broken back and ankle. (Tr.
525.) Crow informed Dr. Spencer that he had been hospitalized
two or three times, most recently with a suicide attempt two
years prior to the interview. (Tr. 526.) Crow stated that he
spent most of day at home watching TV and occasionally he
goes to town. (Tr. 527.) Crow stated that his mind races and
he cannot sleep, think straight, focus, or stay on task. (Tr.
526.) Crow also stated ...