United States District Court, E.D. Missouri
DEBORAH L. ROBBINS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Operations for Social Security,  Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
RICHARD WEBBER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying the application
of Deborah Robbins (“Plaintiff”) for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II, 42
U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. Plaintiff has filed
a brief in support of the Complaint (ECF No. 21) and
Defendant has filed a brief in support of the Answer (ECF No.
filed her application for DIB under Title II of the Social
Security Act on March 13, 2014. Plaintiff claimed she became
disabled on November 12, 2010, because of spinal stenosis,
feet-swelling, neck spurs, arthritis in the right hand and
knees, osteoarthritis and a degenerating disk in her back,
depression, and the inability to lift anything heavy. (Tr.
164.) Plaintiff was initially denied relief on April 29,
2014. At Plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), at which
Plaintiff and a vocational expert testified. (Tr. 320-61.) At
the hearing, Plaintiff amended her disability onset date to
December 14, 2012. (Tr. 44, 157.) After the hearing, by a
decision dated May 20, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not
disabled. (Tr. 23-40.) On June 26, 2017, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 1-6.) Thus, the ALJ's decision stands as
the final decision of the Commissioner.
action for judicial review, Plaintiff claims the ALJ's
decision is not supported by substantial evidence on the
record as a whole. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that: 1)
the ALJ erred in weighing the medical opinion evidence
because the ALJ gave Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr.
Indu Patel's opinion “partial” and not
controlling weight; and 2) the ALJ erred in failing to
properly consider Plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (RFC) as her determination excluded a sit/stand
reasons that follow, the ALJ did not err in her
Medical Records and Other Evidence Before the ALJ
respect to the medical records and other evidence of record,
the Court adopts Plaintiff's recitation of facts set
forth in her Statement of Uncontroverted Facts (ECF 22) and
notes that they are admitted in their entirety by the
Commissioner (ECF 27-1). The Court also adopts the additional
facts set forth in the Commissioner's Statement of
Additional Facts (ECF 27-2) and notes they are unrefuted by
Plaintiff. Together, these statements provide a fair and
accurate description of the relevant record before the Court.
specific facts will be discussed as needed to address the
eligible for disability insurance benefits under the Social
Security Act, Robbins must prove that she is disabled.
Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir.
2001); Baker v. Secretary of Health & Human
Servs., 955 F.2d 552, 555 (8th Cir. 1992). The Social
Security Act defines disability as the “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 which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). An
individual will be declared disabled “only if [her]
physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that [she] is not only unable to do [her] previous
work but cannot, considering [her] age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.” 42 U.S.C.
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(a), 404.1520(a).
‘“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)). First, the claimant must not be
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a), 404.1520(a).
the claimant must have a “severe impairment, ”
defined as “any impairment or combination of
impairments which significantly limits [claimant's]
physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(c),
404.1520(c). ‘“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)).
the claimant must establish that his or her impairment meets
or equals an impairment 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.
considering step four, the ALJ must determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). RFC is defined as
“the most a claimant can do despite her
limitations.” Moore v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 520,
523 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1)).
At step four, the ALJ determines whether the claimant can
return to her past relevant work, by comparing the
claimant's RFC with the physical and mental demands of
the claimant's past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1520(f), 416.920(a)(4)(iv),
416.920(f); McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th
Cir. 2011). If the claimant can still perform past relevant
work, he will not be found to be disabled; if the claimant
cannot, the analysis proceeds to the next step.
McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611.
five, the ALJ considers the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience to see if the claimant can
make an adjustment to other work in the national economy. 20
C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant cannot
make an adjustment to other work, then he will be found to be
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v),
404.1520(a)(4)(v). Through step four, the burden remains with
the claimant to prove that he is disabled. Brantley v.
Colvin, No. 4:10CV2184 HEA, 2013 WL 4007441, at *3 (E.D.
Mo. Aug. 2, 2013) (citation omitted). At step five, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish the claimant
maintains the RFC to perform a significant number of jobs
within the national economy. Id. “The ultimate
burden of persuasion to prove disability, however, remains
with the claimant.” Meyerpeter v. Astrue, 902
F.Supp.2d 1219, 1229 (E.D. Mo. 2012) (citations omitted).
Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Estes v. Barnhart, 275 F.3d
722, 724 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance but enough that a reasonable person would find
it adequate to support the conclusion. Johnson v.
Apfel, 240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). Determining
whether there is substantial evidence requires scrutinizing
analysis. Coleman v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 767, 770 (8th
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole,
the Court must review the entire administrative record and
consider: 1) the credibility findings made by the ALJ; 2) the
plaintiff's vocational factors; 3) the medical evidence
from treating and consulting physicians; 4) the
plaintiff's subjective complaints relating to exertional
and non-exertional activities and impairments; 5) any
corroboration by third parties of the plaintiff's
impairments; 6) the testimony of vocational experts, when
required, which is based upon a proper hypothetical question,
which sets forth the claimant's impairment. Stewart
v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 957 F.2d 581,
585-86 (8th Cir. 1992) (internal citations omitted). See
also Frederick v. Berryhill, 247 F.Supp.3d 1014, 1018-19
(E.D. Mo. 2017).
Court must consider evidence that supports the
Commissioner's decision as well as any evidence that
fairly detracts from the decision. McNamara v.
Astrue, 590 F.3d 607, 610 (8th Cir. 2010). If, after
reviewing the entire record, it is possible to draw two
inconsistent positions and the Commissioner has adopted one
of those positions, the Court must affirm the
Commissioner's decision. Anderson v. Astrue, 696
F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2012). The Court may not reverse the