United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jessica Lauer brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§
405 and 1383 seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying her claims for
disability insurance benefits and (DIB) under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et
seq., and for supplemental security income (SSI) under
Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et
seq. Because the Commissioner's final decision is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, I
will affirm the decision.
February 2, 2015, the Social Security Administration denied
Lauer's July 2014 application for DIB and SSI,
which she claimed she became disabled on December 20, 2010,
because of her severe impairments that included bipolar
disorder II, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and
borderline personality traits. Lauer requested a hearing and
the hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ)
on November 7, 2016, at which Lauer and a vocational expert
testified. On April 12, 2017, the ALJ denied Lauer's
claims for benefits, finding the vocational expert's
testimony to support a finding that Lauer could perform work
as it exists in significant numbers in the national economy.
On January 25, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Lauer's
request for review of the ALJ's decision. The ALJ's
decision is thus the final decision of the Commissioner. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
claims that the ALJ's decision is not supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Specifically,
she argues that the ALJ failed to consider properly the
medical opinion evidence in determining her mental residual
functional capacity and that the ALJ failed to consider the
side effects from her prescribed medications. For the reasons
that follow, the ALJ did not err in her determination.
Records and Other Evidence Before the ALJ
respect to the medical records and other evidence of record,
I adopt Lauer's recitation of facts set forth in her
Statement of Uncontroverted Facts (ECF 21) and note that they
are admitted in their entirety by the Commissioner (ECF
26-1). Together, these statements provide a fair and accurate
description of the relevant record before the Court.
Additional specific facts will be discussed as needed to
address the parties' arguments.
eligible for DIB under the Social Security Act, Lauer 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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(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. §§
Commissioner engages in a five-step evaluation process to
determine whether a claimant is disabled. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987). The first three
steps involve a determination as to whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; whether
she has a severe impairment; and whether her severe
impairment(s) meets or medically equals the severity of a
listed impairment. At Step 4 of the process, the ALJ must
assess the claimant's RFC - that is, the most the
claimant is able to do despite her physical and mental
limitations, Martise v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 909, 923
(8th Cir. 2011) - and determine whether the claimant is able
to perform her past relevant work. Goff v. Barnhart,
421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005) (RFC assessment occurs at
fourth step of process). If the claimant is unable to perform
her past work, the Commissioner continues to Step 5 and
determines whether the claimant can perform other work as it
exists in significant numbers in the national economy. If so,
the claimant is found not to be disabled, and disability
benefits are denied.
claimant bears the burden through Step 4 of the analysis. If
she meets this burden and shows that she is unable to perform
her past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner
at Step 5 to produce evidence demonstrating that the claimant
has the RFC to perform other jobs in the national economy
that exist in significant numbers and are consistent with her
impairments and vocational factors such as age, education,
and work experience. Phillips v. Astrue, 671 F.3d
699, 702 (8th Cir. 2012). If the claimant has non-exertional
impairments, such as pain or postural limitations, the
Commissioner may satisfy her burden at Step 5 through the
testimony of a vocational expert. Pearsall, 274 F.3d
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); Jones v. Astrue, 619 F.3d 963, 968 (8th
Cir. 2010). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance
but enough that a reasonable person would find it adequate to
support the conclusion. Jones, 619 F.3d at 968.
Determining whether there is substantial evidence requires
scrutinizing analysis. Coleman v. Astrue, 498 F.3d
767, 770 (8th Cir. 2007).
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, I must
affirm the Commissioner's decision. Anderson v.
Astrue, 696 F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2012). I may not
reverse the Commissioner's decision merely because
substantial evidence could also support a contrary outcome.
McNamara, 590 F.3d ...