United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern 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 Samuel Moss (“Plaintiff”) for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. Plaintiff filed a
brief in support of the Complaint (Doc. 12), Defendant filed
a brief in support of the Answer (Doc. 17), and Plaintiff
filed a reply brief (Doc. 18). The parties have consented to
the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. 8).
filed his application for DIB on September 25, 2014 (Tr.
Plaintiff was initially denied on December 1, 2014, and he
filed a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 164-71). After a hearing, by
decision dated March 29, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff not
disabled (Tr. 7-29). On December 5, 2017, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-4). As such,
the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the
DECISION OF THE ALJ
determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date of July 17,
2014, through his date last insured of December 31, 2016 (Tr.
12). The ALJ further found Plaintiff has the severe
impairments of diabetes mellitus; hypertension and evidence
of ischemia on cardiac testing; obstructive sleep apnea;
asthma with decreased pulmonary functioning on testing;
degenerative joint disease of the knees with status post
right knee surgery and replacement while in high school;
lumbago with degenerative disc disease of the lumber and
cervical spines, each with herniation; bipolar disorder;
anxiety disorder with panic and agoraphobia; and obesity (Tr.
12). However, the ALJ determined 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. 13-16).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform sedentary work with the following limitations (Tr. 16).
He is able to lift, carry, push, and pull 10 pounds
occasionally and less than 10 pounds on a more frequent basis
(Id.). He is able to sit 6 out of 8 hours as well as
stand or walk 2 out of 8 hours, for a combined total of 8 out
of 8 hours (Id.). There is to be no ambulating over
uneven surfaces, such as rutted construction sites, without
an ambulation assistive device (Id.). In addition,
there is to be no ambulating over slippery surfaces, such as
wet shop floors or icy loading docks (Id.).
Plaintiff may use a hand held assistive device for prolonged
ambulation in excess of 25 meters (Id.). He may not
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds (Id.). Plaintiff
is limited to occasional postural activities of stooping,
kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing of ramps and
stairs, and he is also limited to occasional overhead
reaching (Id.). There is to be no concentrated
exposure to pulmonary irritants such as smoke, dusts, odors,
fumes, gases, and poor ventilation (Id.). There is
to be no concentrated exposure to extreme heat, extreme cold,
or to extreme humidity (Id.). He must avoid hazards
of dangerous unprotected heights and dangerous unprotected
machinery (Id.). Plaintiff is able to understand,
remember, and carry out simple tasks that are routine
(Id.). He is able to use judgment in making
commensurate work-related decisions (Id.). He is
able to interact appropriately with the general public
occasionally and superficially and away from crowds, and he
is able to interact appropriately with coworkers occasionally
and appropriately with supervisors (Id.). Plaintiff
is limited to a reduced stress work environment defined as
having to make occasional commensurate decisions and no more
than occasional changes in routine in a normal work setting
found Plaintiff unable to perform any past relevant work (Tr.
22). However, the ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform, including semiconductor bonder, eyewear
assembler, and wafer breaker (Tr. 22-23). Thus, the ALJ
concluded Plaintiff is not disabled (Tr. 24). Plaintiff
appeals, arguing a lack of substantial evidence to support
the Commissioner's decision (Doc. 12).
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 administrative record as a whole and to consider:
(1) Findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the
(3) The medical evidence given by the claimant's treating
(4) The subjective complaints of pain and description of the
claimant's physical activity and impairment;
(5) The corroboration by third parties of the claimant's
(6) The testimony of vocational experts based upon proper
hypothetical questions which fairly set forth the
claimant's physical impairment; and
(7) The testimony of consulting physicians.
Brand v. Sec'y of Dep't of Health, Educ. &
Welfare, 623 F.2d 523, 527 (8th Cir. ...