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Humphrey v. Berryhill

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

March 26, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Bryan Humphrey 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 Humphrey's 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 reversed and remanded.

         I. Procedural History

         Humphrey filed his applications for benefits on August 9, 2011, claiming that he became unable to work on August 10, 2009. (Tr. 249-50, 251-57.) In his Disability Report, Humphrey alleged disability due to diabetes, depression, back pain, foot and leg pain, tremors, ringing in ears, dizzy spells, double vision, heartburn, and nausea. (Tr. 325.) Humphrey was 38 years of age at the time of his alleged onset of disability. His applications were denied initially. (Tr. 59-60.) Humphrey's claims were denied by an ALJ on April 1, 2013, following a hearing. (Tr. 61-78.) The Appeals Council remanded the case for further proceedings before an ALJ on February 7, 2014. (Tr. 79-84.) Following another hearing, Humphrey's claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated October 16, 2014. (Tr. 85-106.) The Appeals Council remanded the case again on January 20, 2016. (Tr. 107-10.)

         A third hearing was held on July 1, 2016. (Tr. 1770-1804.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on December 9, 2016. (Tr. 15-27.) On December 5, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Humphrey's request for review. (Tr. 1-6.) Thus, the December 9, 2016 decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         In this action, Humphrey first argues that the ALJ erred “by failing to provide a proper analysis of Humphrey's ability to perform other work at step five of the sequential evaluation process.” (Doc. 17 at 13.) He next argues that the ALJ's RFC is not supported by substantial evidence “in that it conflicts with the opinions of Dr. Burchett and Dr. Spencer and the ALJ failed to explain why he did not include limitations from those opinions as required by SSR 96-8p.” Id. at 17.

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ first found that Humphrey met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2013. (Tr. 17.) The ALJ also found that Humphrey had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 10, 2009, the alleged onset date. Id. In addition, the ALJ concluded that Humphrey had the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus with neuropathy; diabetic retinopathy; depression and anxiety, NOS; obesity; right upper extremity osteoarthritis; and degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine. (Tr. 18.) The ALJ found that Humphrey did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. Id.

         As to Humphrey'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: lifting more than 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally and sitting, standing and walking six hours total in an eight-hour workday. The claimant must avoid climbing ropes, ladders and scaffolds, working at unprotected heights, working with or around hazardous machinery and operating foot controls bilaterally. The claimant must avoid working above shoulder level bilaterally and walking on unimproved terrain. The claimant must avoid exposure to extreme heat or cold. He would be limited to no more than occasionally climbing ramps and stairs, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling. Jobs that require handling and fingering more than frequently and jobs that require working with objects smaller than a shirt button. The claimant would be further limited to performing no more than simple repetitive tasks and jobs that do not require close interaction with the public.

         (Tr. 20.)

         The ALJ found that Humphrey 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 larger item packager, production worker, and assembler. (Tr. 26-27.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Humphrey was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from August 10, 2009, 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 August 9, 2011, the claimant is not disabled under sections 216(i) and ...

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