United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. COLLINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner denying the
application of Gina Clark (“Plaintiff”) for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381,
et seq. and for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. Plaintiff
has filed a brief in support of the Complaint (Doc. 21), and
Defendant has filed a brief in support of the Answer (Doc.
28). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title
28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. 9).
filed her applications for SSI and DIB on February 2, 2015,
and February 11, 2015, respectively (Tr. 176-87). Plaintiff
was initially denied on October 19, 2015, and she filed a
Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on December 15, 2015 (Tr. 99-102,
105-06). After a hearing, by decision dated April 28, 2017,
the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 13-33). On February
6, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review (Tr. 1-6). As such, the ALJ's decision stands
as the final decision of the Commissioner.
DECISION OF THE ALJ
determined that Plaintiff meets the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31,
2019, and that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since December 10, 2014, the alleged onset
date (Tr. 18). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease of the cervical and
lumbar spine, obesity, affective disorder, anxiety disorder
and a personality disorder, but that no impairment or
combination of impairments met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr. 18-19).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work with the following limitations (Tr. 20).
She can only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop and
crouch (Id.). She should never climb ladders, ropes
or scaffolds (Id.). She should never be required to
kneel or crawl (Id.). She can only use her left,
non-dominant hand for overhead reaching on a frequent basis
and she can tolerate only occasional exposure to vibration
(Id.). She is capable of frequent handling, but only
occasional fingering with her left upper extremity
(Id.). She should have no exposure to hazards such
as unprotected heights and dangerous machinery
(Id.). She is capable of performing simple, routine
tasks in an environment where contact with supervisors,
co-workers and the general public is occasional
(Id.). The ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform any
past relevant work but that there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform, including garment sorter, shipping weigher, and
inserting machine operator (Tr. 26-27). Thus, the ALJ
concluded that a finding of “not disabled” was
appropriate (Tr. 27). Plaintiff appeals, arguing a lack of
substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's
the Social Security Act, the Commissioner has established a
five-step process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920, 404.1529. “If
a claimant fails to meet the criteria at any step in the
evaluation of disability, the process ends and the claimant
is determined to be not disabled.” Goff v.
Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 590-91 (8th
Cir. 2004)). In this sequential analysis, the claimant first
cannot be engaged in “substantial gainful
activity” to qualify for disability benefits. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(b), 404.1520(b). Second, the claimant
must have a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§
416.920(c), 404.1520(c). The Social Security Act defines
“severe impairment” as “any impairment or
combination of impairments which significantly limits
[claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities. . . .” Id. “‘The
sequential evaluation process may be terminated at step two
only when the claimant's impairment or combination of
impairments would have no more than a minimal impact on [his
or] her ability to work.'” Page v. Astrue,
484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting Caviness v.
Massanari, 250 F.3d 603, 605 (8th Cir. 2001), citing
Nguyen v. Chater, 75 F.3d 429, 430-31 (8th Cir.
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment
which meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the
Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 404.1520(d).
If the claimant has one of, or the medical equivalent of,
these impairments, then the claimant is per se disabled
without consideration of the claimant's age, education,
or work history. Id.
the impairment must prevent the claimant from doing past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(f),
404.1520(f). The burden rests with the claimant at this
fourth step to establish his or her RFC. Steed v.
Astrue, 524 F.3d 872, 874 n.3 (8th Cir. 2008)
(“Through step four of this analysis, the claimant has
the burden of showing that she is disabled.”). The ALJ
will review a claimant's RFC and the physical and mental
demands of the work the claimant has done in the past. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
the severe impairment must prevent the claimant from doing
any other work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(g),
404.1520(g). At this fifth step of the sequential analysis,
the Commissioner has the burden of production to show
evidence of other jobs in the national economy that can be
performed by a person with the claimant's RFC.
Steed, 524 F.3d at 874 n.3. If the claimant meets
these standards, the ALJ will find the claimant to be
disabled. “The ultimate burden of persuasion to prove
disability, however, remains with the claimant.”
Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1069 n.5 (8th Cir.
2000). See also Harris v. Barnhart, 356 F.3d 926,
931 n.2 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing 68 Fed. Reg. 51153, 51155
(Aug. 26, 2003)); Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d 801,
806 (8th Cir. 2004) (“The burden of persuasion to prove
disability and to demonstrate RFC remains on the claimant,
even when the burden of production shifts to the Commissioner
at step five.”). Even if a court finds that there is a
preponderance of the evidence against the ALJ's decision,
the decision must be affirmed if it is supported by
substantial evidence. Clark v. Heckler, 733 F.2d 65,
68 (8th Cir. 1984). “Substantial evidence is less than
a preponderance but is enough that a reasonable mind would
find it adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusion.” Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d
1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002). See also Cox v. Astrue,
495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007).
not the job of the district court to re-weigh the evidence or
review the factual record de novo. Id. Instead, the
district court must simply determine whether the quantity and
quality of evidence is enough so that a reasonable mind might
find it adequate to support the ALJ's conclusion.
Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)
(citing McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th
Cir. 2000)). Weighing the evidence is a function of the ALJ,
who is the fact-finder. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363
F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). Thus, an administrative
decision which is supported by substantial evidence is not
subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence may
also support an opposite conclusion or because the reviewing
court would have decided differently. Krogmeier, 294
F.3d at 1022.