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Manes v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

March 21, 2019

KEVIN LEE MANES, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NOELLE C. COLLINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This is an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner denying the application of Kevin Lee Manes (“Plaintiff”) for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. Plaintiff has filed a brief in support of the Complaint (Doc. 13), Defendant has filed a brief in support of the Answer (Doc. 16), and Plaintiff has filed a reply brief (Doc. 17). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. 7).

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed his applications for DIB and SSI on January 11, 2015 (Tr. 10, 134-49). Plaintiff was initially denied on February 20, 2015, and he filed a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 66-75, 76-89). After a hearing on August 12, 2016, by decision dated January 5, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 7-24). On January 18, 2018, 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 Commissioner.

         II. DECISION OF THE ALJ

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 22, 2014, the alleged onset date (Tr. 12). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, bilateral hearing loss, status/post hernia repair surgery, unspecified disorder of the male genital organs, migraine headaches, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder 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. 12-13).

         After considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, [1] with the following limitations (Id.). He can lift or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently (Id.). He can stand or walk 6 hours in an 8-hour workday (Id.). He can sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday (Id.). He can push or pull in the limits for lifting and carrying (Id.). Plaintiff is able to occasionally bend, kneel, crouch, and crawl (Id.). He can occasionally use ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, and scaffolds (Id.). He can do occasional overhead reaching with his right dominant upper extremity (Id.). He should work in a moderate or office noise level environment (Id.). He should avoid concentrated exposure to flashing lights and inhaled pulmonary irritants, such as dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, and high humidity (Id.). The ALJ found Plaintiff incapable of performing his past relevant work (Tr. 18). However, the ALJ found there are jobs that exist in significant numbers that Plaintiff can perform, namely jobs as a routing clerk, cafeteria attendant, and mail clerk (Tr. 18-19). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that a finding of “not disabled” was appropriate.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under 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. 1996)).

         Third, 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.

         Fourth, 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).

         Fifth, 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).

         It is 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.

         To determine whether the Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial evidence, the court is required to review the ...


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