United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court for judicial review of the final
decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security
denying the application of plaintiff for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401, et seq. For the reasons set forth below, the
final decision of the Commissioner is reversed, and this
matter is remanded to the Commissioner for further review in
accordance with this Opinion.
was 53 years old at the time of her alleged disability onset.
She filed her application on June 5, 2015, alleging a January
1, 2015 onset date, and alleging disability due to
facet-joint, chronic and radicular pain, bone spurs, and back
impairments including degenerative disc disease, scoliosis,
and spinal stenosis. Plaintiff's application was denied,
and she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
23, 2017, a hearing was held. Following the hearing, an ALJ
issued a decision on November 27, 2017 finding that plaintiff
was not disabled under the Act. Plaintiff filed a Request for
Review of Hearing Decision/Order on January 2, 2018.
Plaintiff submitted further evidence to the Appeals Council.
The Appeals Council denied her request for review on May 23,
2018. In its denial, the Appeals Counsel ruled that the
additional evidence Plaintiff submitted from the Hinton
Healthcare Group dated February 19, 2018 and Manish Suther,
M.D. dated January 22, 2018 did not relate to the period at
issue, to wit: January 1, 2015 through the date of the
ALJ's decision on November 27, 2017. Thus, the decision
of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
of the ALJ
November 27, 2017, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding
that plaintiff was not disabled. At Step One, the ALJ found
that plaintiff had not performed substantial gainful activity
since January 1, 2015, her application date. At Step Two, the
ALJ found that plaintiff had the severe impairments of stable
scoliosis without spondylolisthesis, sever bilateral
foraminal stenosis L3-5, and mild central canal stenosis with
probable minimal impingement of the L5 nerve root. However,
the ALJ found plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments listed in or medically equal to
one contained in the Listings, 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P,
determined that plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity to perform “sedentary” work with the
limitations. She requires a sit/stand option defined as
allowing her to stand briefly every 15-20 minutes to stretch
and move about but otherwise remain on task. She must be able
to alternate between sitting and standing positions. She can
never crawl or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can
occasionally balance, climb ramps and stairs, stoop, crouch,
and kneel. She must avoid exposure to wetness, humidity, and
extreme heat and cold.
Four, the ALJ found that plaintiff had past relevant work as
an office worker, and that this work did not require
Plaintiff to perform work that was precluded by the ALJ's
RFC finding. Therefore, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not under
a disability. Step Five was not required.
Court's role on judicial review of the Commissioner's
decision is to determine whether the Commissioner's
findings apply the relevant legal standards to facts that are
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 942 (8th Cir.
2009). “Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance but is enough that a reasonable mind would find
it adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusion.” Id. In determining whether the
evidence is substantial, the Court considers evidence that
both supports and detracts from the Commissioner's
decision. Id. As long as substantial evidence
supports the decision, the Court may not reverse it merely
because substantial evidence exists in the record that would
support a contrary outcome or because the Court would have
decided the case differently. See Krogmeier v.
Barnhart, 294 F.3d 1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002).
entitled to disability benefits, a claimant must prove he is
unable to perform any substantial gainful activity due to a
medically determinable physical or mental impairment that
would either result in death or which has lasted or could be
expected to last for at least twelve continuous months. 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(a)(1)(D), (d)(1)(A);
Pate-Fires, 564 F.3d at 942. A five-step regulatory
framework is used to determine whether an individual is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); see also
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987)
(describing five-step process).
One through Three require the claimant to prove: (1) he is
not currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) he
suffers from a severe impairment; and (3) his condition meets
or equals a listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(iii). If the claimant does not suffer from
a listed impairment or its equivalent, the Commissioner's
analysis proceeds to Steps Four and Five. Step Four requires
the Commissioner to consider whether the claimant retains the
RFC to perform past relevant work (PRW). Id. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv). The claimant bears the burden of
demonstrating he is no longer able to return to his PRW.
Pate-Fires, 564 F.3d at 942. If the Commissioner
determines the claimant cannot return to his PRW, the burden