United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Cynthia DeGroot brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security
Administration Commissioner's denial of her application
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under
Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that,
despite DeGroot's severe impairments, she was not
disabled as she had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform work existing in significant
numbers in the national economy.
matter is pending before the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties, pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c). A summary of the entire record is
presented in the parties' briefs and is repeated here
only to the extent necessary.
following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner will be
filed her applications for DIB and SSI on August 10, 2011,
claiming that she became unable to work on October 1,
2008. (Tr. 126-32.) In her Disability Report,
DeGroot alleged disability due to fibromyalgia, degenerative
disc disease, joint disease, lower lumbar problems,
hypertrophy, neck and back problems, carpal tunnel syndrome,
thyroiditis, GERD, ulcers, hiatal hernia, sliding hernia in
throat, anxiety, hallucinations, and “other mental
health issues.” (Tr. 160.) DeGroot was 40 years of age
at the time of her alleged onset of disability. Her
applications were denied initially. (Tr. 77.) Following an
administrative hearing, DeGroot's claims were denied in a
written opinion by an ALJ, dated April 18, 2013. (Tr. 9-20.)
the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration
(SSA) denied review, DeGroot filed a Complaint in the United
States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
(Tr. 1149-69.) On September 28, 2015, the undersigned
reversed and remanded the case to the Commissioner for
further proceedings, including the consideration of
DeGroot's thyroid disorder and tremors. (Tr. 1169.) On
remand, a second ALJ held another hearing and considered
additional medical evidence. (Tr. 1025-91.) On September 8,
2016, the ALJ denied DeGroot's claims in a written
opinion. (Tr. 1028-47.) DeGroot then filed a request for
review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council,
which was denied on October 3, 2017. (Tr. 982-90.) Thus, the
decision of the second ALJ stands as the final decision of
the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§
action, DeGroot first argues that the “hypothetical
questions that properly evaluated the claimant's
condition call for a finding of disabled.” (Doc. 12 at
3.) She next argues that the ALJ “failed to find that
the claimant's headaches were a severe impairment.”
Id. at 7. Finally, DeGroot argues that the ALJ
“did not give the proper weight to tremors and
headaches as required in the remand order.”
Id. at 9.
The ALJ's Determination
first found that DeGroot met the insured status requirements
of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2013. (Tr.
1031.) He found that DeGroot had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since July 10, 2009, the amended alleged
onset date. Id. In addition, the ALJ concluded that
DeGroot had the following severe impairments: obesity,
fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease of the cervical
spine, disorder of the lumbar spine, anxiety/posttraumatic
stress disorder (“PTSD”), depression, substance
addiction disorder, a history of carpal tunnel syndrome, and
a history of a thyroidectomy with post-surgery acquired
hypothyroidism. Id. The ALJ found that DeGroot did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. (Tr. 1032.)
DeGroot's RFC, the ALJ stated:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform a range of light work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). She can lift 20
pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; can walk or
stand for six hours out of an eight-hour workday, two hours
at a time; can sit for six hours out of an eight-hour
workday, four hours at a time; can occasionally climb stairs,
but never climb ropes, scaffolds, or ladders; can
occasionally balance, stoop, and crouch; can never crawl; is
limited to frequent reaching, handling, feeling, stoop, and
crouch; can never crawl; is limited to frequent reaching,
handling, feeling, and fingering; is limited to occasional
overhead reaching and handling; must avoid prolonged exposure
to temperature extremes, chemicals, dust, fumes, noxious
odors, humidity, and vibrating machinery; should avoid
unprotected heights and hazardous moving machinery; and is
limited to simple, routine, repetitive work tasks with
occasional interaction with co-workers and no interaction
with the general public.
found that DeGroot was unable to perform any past relevant
work, but was capable of performing other jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy, such as
photocopy machine operator, shipping/receiving weigher, and
folding machine operator. (Tr.1045-46.) The ALJ therefore
concluded that DeGroot was not under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from July 10, 2009, through the
date of the decision. (Tr. 1047.)
ALJ's final decision reads as follows:
Based on the application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits filed on August 10, 2011, the
claimant is not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of
the Social Security Act.
Based on the application for supplemental security income
filed on August 10, 2011, the claimant is not disabled under
section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.
A. Standard of Review
decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed 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 of the evidence, 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). This “substantial evidence test, ”
however, is “more than a mere search of the record for
evidence supporting the Commissioner's findings.”
Coleman v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 767, 770 (8th Cir. 2007)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
“Substantial evidence on the record as a whole . . .
requires a more scrutinizing analysis.” Id.
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
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
1. The credibility findings made by the ALJ.
2. The plaintiff's vocational factors.
3. The medical evidence from treating and consulting
4. The plaintiff's subjective complaints relating to
exertional and non-exertional ...