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Johnson v. Saul

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

June 18, 2019

ANDREW M. SAUL Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court, pursuant to the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3), authorizing judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's Title II application for disability insurance benefits and Title XVI application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, 1381-1385. For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

         Plaintiff originally filed a claim for benefits under Title II and Title XVI on November 18, 2014. After the claim was denied Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing which was held. The Administrative Law Judge issued an unfavorable decision. Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council, which request was denied on January 24, 2018.

         On October 17, 2016 a hearing was conducted by ALJ Bradley Hanan in Creve Coeur, Missouri. Plaintiff appeared in person and with counsel. Also in appearance was Dr. Taylor, a Vocational Expert.

         Plaintiff was born on August 20, 1992. She was 24 on the date of the hearing. She alleged she became disabled beginning March 1, 2014. Plaintiff asserted she was disabled due to bipolar disorder, depression, anger, and inability to concentrate. Plaintiff has an eleventh grade education and was not successful in securing her GED, although she attempted training and preparation for it a number of times. There is testimony that Plaintiff lives with her cousin as she cannot afford an apartment.

         There was testimony from Plaintiff that she feels whenever she is around people they are always talking about her. Whether it's family members, co-workers, or strangers, is of no consequence. If in a public setting she feels people are out to get her.

         In January/February she visited a clinic at Myrtle Hilliard Davis and she was prescribed Wellbutrin, Risperdal, and Vistaril. She testified she never filled the prescriptions because they were too costly and she did not have the funds to buy them outright.

         Plaintiff testified that she cannot keep and doesn't have any friends because they all talk about her and talk down to her. She doesn't spend time with family members for the same reason.

         Next, the Vocational Expert, Dr. Taylor, testified. Taylor testified as to a proper hypothetical which assumed the past work of Plaintiff with specific limitations of: no exertional, postural, manipulative, environmental, or visual limitations. However, there are limitations to occupations that involve only simple, routine, repetitive tasks and occupations that do not require any written communications, and to be in a low-stress job, defined as jobs of only occasional decision-making required, of only occasional changes in the work setting occur, with no contact with the public, no interaction with coworkers, but contact with coworkers can still occur as long as that contact is casual and infrequent. The work should also be isolated, defined as work where there is contact with supervisory staff concerning work duties when the work duties are being performed up to expectations still occurs no more than four times per work day. In these regards, Dr. Taylor noted there were 287, 000 medium skilled dishwasher positions; 380, 000 medium, unskilled cleaner positions nationally.

         The ALJ added an additional limitation that the individual could have no contact with other coworkers. Dr. Taylor then noted that all jobs involve at least superficial contact with coworkers. As a consequence the additional limitation obviated any jobs being available. These conclusions and opinions by Dr. Taylor were noted in the record as consistent with the DOT.

         Accordingly, the ALJ held, on April 19, 2017, that Plaintiff was not under any disability since the date the application was filed. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe impairments which included attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and intellectual disability. The ALJ found that she did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with non-exertional limitations. Plaintiff was limited to occupations that involve simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. In a low-stress job defined as requiring only occasional decision making and only occasional changes in the work setting with no contact with the public, only casual and infrequent contact with coworkers, and contact with supervisors concerning work duties (when they are being performed satisfactorily) occurring no more than four times per workday. Consequently, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled.

         On January 24, 2018, the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies, and the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner subject to judicial review.

         Statement of the Issues

         Generally the issues in a Social Security case are whether the final decision of the Commissioner is consistent with the Social Security Act, regulations, and applicable case law, and whether the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. The issues here are whether there is substantial evidence in support of the ALJ analysis of Plaintiff's severe impairments and whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's analysis of the medical opinion.

         As explained below, the Court has considered the entire record in this matter. The decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence and it will be affirmed.

         Standard for Determining Disability

         The standard of review here is limited to a determination of whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See Milam v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2015). Substantial evidence is less than preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion. See id.

         The Court must consider evidence that both supports and detracts from the Commissioner's decision but cannot reverse the decision because substantial evidence also exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome, or because it would have decided the case differently. See Andrews v. Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015). If the Court finds that the evidence supports two inconsistent positions and one of those positions represents the Commissioner's findings, the Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision. Wright v. Colvin, 789 F.3d 847, 852 (8th Cir. 2015). The Eighth Circuit has stated that ...

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