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Skaggs v. Berryhill

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

March 22, 2019

ARVEL SKAGGS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Arvel Skaggs brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's denial of his 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.

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that, despite Skaggs' severe impairments, he was not disabled as he had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work existing in significant numbers in the national economy.

         This 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.

         For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

         I. Procedural History

         Skaggs filed his applications for DIB and SSI on June 23, 2014, claiming that he became unable to work on September 30, 2009.[1] (Tr. 290-302.) In his Disability Report, Skaggs alleged disability due to diabetes, “crippled right arm/hand, ” lower degenerative disc problems, upper degenerative disc problems, left shoulder problems, left ankle problems, and neuropathy. (Tr. 333.) Skaggs was 39 years of age at the time of his alleged onset of disability. (Tr. 329.) His applications were denied initially. (Tr. 166-76.) Following two administrative hearings, Skaggs' claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated February 1, 2017. (Tr. 15-27.) Skaggs then filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council, which was denied on October 26, 2017. (Tr. 1-5.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         In this action, Skaggs first argues that the ALJ “failed to properly evaluate RFC.” (Doc. 18 at 3.) He next argues that the ALJ “failed to properly evaluate opinion evidence.” Id. at 13.

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ first found that Skaggs met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2014. (Tr. 17.) He found that Skaggs had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 27, 2014, the amended alleged onset date. Id. In addition, the ALJ concluded that Skaggs had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of the left shoulder; degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; cervical spine dysfunction; degenerative joint disease of the left ankle with history of fracture and open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) surgery and hardware removal; diabetes with neuropathy; and non-union of the right ulnar fracture (20 CFR §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)). Id. The ALJ found that Skaggs did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 19.)

         As to Skaggs'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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he can perform occasional lifting up to 20 pounds and frequent lifting/carrying 10 pounds; standing or walking 2 hours out of an 8-hour workday one hour at a time with total ambulation no more than 3-4 hours in an 8-hour workday and sitting 6 hours out of an 8 hour workday. The claimant requires a sit/stand option allowing change in position every 30 to 60 minutes for a few minutes at a time while remaining at the work station with no loss in production. The claimant could perform work that does not require climbing on ropes, ladders or scaffolds and no more than occasional climbing on ramps, stairs, stooping, kneeling, crouching or crawling, and should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat and cold, humidity, wetness, and work hazards such as unprotected heights and being around dangerous moving machinery. The claimant should have no exposure to vibration and no reaching overhead with the left non-dominant hand. The claimant can frequently reach with the right hand. The claimant could perform work that does not require operation of foot controls with the left lower extremity. The claimant requires use of a cane to ambulate.

(Tr. 20-21.)

         The ALJ found that Skaggs 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 charge account clerk, order clerk food/beverage, and surveillance system monitor. (Tr. 25-26.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Skaggs was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from March 27, 2014, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 27.)

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits filed on June 23, 2014, 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 protectively filed on June 23, 2014, the claimant is not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.

Id.

         III. Applicable Law

         III. A. Standard of Review

         The 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 ...


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