United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER AND OPINION AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S FINAL
DECISION DENYING BENEFITS
D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE
is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner of Social
Security's final decision denying her application for
supplemental security income. For the following reasons, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
limited to a determination of whether the decision is
“supported by substantial evidence on the record as a
whole. Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance
but…enough that a reasonable mind would find it
adequate to support the conclusion.” Andrews v.
Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015) (citations
omitted). “As long as substantial evidence in the
record supports the Commissioner's decision, we may not
reverse it because substantial evidence exists in the record
that would have supported a contrary outcome, or because we
would have decided the case differently.” Cline v.
Colvin, 771 F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th Cir. 2014) (citation
omitted). Though advantageous to the Commissioner, this
standard also requires the Court consider evidence that
fairly detracts from the final decision. Anderson v.
Astrue, 696 F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2015) (citation
omitted). Substantial evidence means “more than a mere
scintilla” of evidence; it is relevant evidence a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Gragg v. Astrue, 615 F.3d 932, 938 (8th
was born in 1966, has a sixth-grade education, and has not
worked in any capacity since at least 2002. R. at 14, 22, 36,
51-53, 166, 178. On July 27, 2012, Plaintiff applied for
supplemental security income, alleging a disability onset
date of April 1, 2011. Her application was denied, and she
requested a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). After a hearing, ALJ Sheila Walters
concluded Plaintiff was not disabled as of January 14, 2014.
R. at 81-96. Plaintiff appealed the decision to the Appeals
Council, which denied her appeal in April 2014. R. at 101-06.
Plaintiff appealed to this Court, and the Honorable Brian C.
Wimes affirmed the Commissioner's decision in November
2016. Petris v. Colvin, No. 4:15-CV-381-BCW (Doc.
#23). Plaintiff appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of
Appeals, which affirmed Judge Wimes's decision in January
2018. Petris v. Berryhill, 709 Fed.Appx. 399 (8th
April 30, 2015,  Plaintiff again applied for supplemental
security income, alleging the same disability onset date. R.
at 11, 166-71. Her application was denied, and she requested
a hearing, which was held in March 2017. R. at 33-77, 121-24,
164-65. In August 2017, ALJ Mark A. Clayton issued his
decision, finding Plaintiff suffered from the following
severe impairments since April 1, 2011: torn meniscus in the
left knee, degenerative joint disease of the right knee with
a total knee arthroplasty, degenerative disc disease of the
lumbar spine, non-displaced sacral fracture, obesity, major
depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety
disorder, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and
borderline personality disorder. R. at 11-24. The ALJ
determined Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a)
except she cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch,
and crawl. The claimant needs to avoid even moderate exposure
to hazards, extreme cold temperatures, and vibrations. She
can occasionally push, pull, and operate foot pedals with the
lower extremities. The claimant needs to work in an
environment allowing brief positional changes every 30
minutes, which can be done without leaving the workstation,
as well as in an environment requiring only rudimentary
reading and writing. The claimant can do simple, routine,
repetitive type tasks involving only simple work-related
decision making. She needs to work in an environment with no
more than occasional change in the routine work setting
without emphasis on fast-paced production, that is, where
speed would be an essential element of the job. The claimant
can have occasional interaction with others, that is, with
supervisors, co-workers, and the general public.
R. at 16.
upon the record, the RFC, Plaintiff's testimony, and the
vocational expert's (“VE”) testimony, the ALJ
concluded that prior to February 14, 2016, Plaintiff, who was
then a “younger individual” (forty-five to
forty-nine years old), could have worked as a table worker or
final assembler; and therefore, she was not disabled. R. at
22-23. On February 14, 2016, Plaintiff turned fifty, and her
age category changed. Id. When considering
Plaintiff's new age category, along with her education,
work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined no job existed
in significant numbers in the national economy that she could
perform. Id. He concluded Plaintiff became disabled
on February 14, 2016. Id. Plaintiff appealed the
ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her
appeal. R. at 1-3. Plaintiff now appeals to this Court.
Plaintiff presents two
arguments, which both pertain to the RFC. One's RFC is
the “most you can still do despite your
limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). “A
disability claimant has the burden to establish her
RFC.” Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th
Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). If a claimant establishes she
is unable to do past relevant work, the burden of proof
shifts to the Commissioner who must prove (1) the claimant
retains the RFC to do other kinds of work, and (2) other work
the claimant is able to perform exists in substantial numbers
in the national economy. Id. (citations omitted).
When the burden of production shifts to the Commissioner,
“the burden of persuasion to prove disability and to
demonstrate RFC remains on the claimant….”
must base the RFC on “all of the relevant evidence,
including the medical records, observations of treating
physicians and others, and an individual's own
description of his limitations.” McKinney v.
Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000); 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.945(a)(32) (noting the ALJ, when assessing a
claimant's RFC, will consider “relevant medical and
other evidence, ” “statements about what [the
claimant] can still do that have been provided by medical
sources..., ” and “descriptions and observations
of [the claimant's] limitations from [his/her]
impairments… including limitations that result from
[the claimant's] symptoms…provided by [the
claimant], [the claimant's] family, neighbors, friends,
or other persons.”). Because the RFC is a medical
question, “an ALJ's assessment of it must be
supported by some medical evidence of [the plaintiff's]
ability to function in the workplace.” Hensley v.
Colvin, 829 F.3d 926, 932 (8th Cir. 2016) (citation
omitted). But “there is no requirement that an RFC
finding be supported by a specific medical opinion.”
Id. (citations omitted).