United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
VINETTA J. WOODS, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Vinetta J. Woods brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
1383 seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision denying her claim for supplemental security income
(SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381, et seq. Because the
Commissioner's final decision is not supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole, I will reverse
the decision and remand the matter for further proceedings.
January 28, 2015, the Social Security Administration denied
Woods' October 2014 application for SSI in which she
claimed she became disabled on November 1, 2011, because of
arthritis in both hands and right elbow, migraines, curvature
of the spine, pressure on discs, depression, and
deterioration of the spine. Woods later amended her alleged
onset date to October 10, 2014. At Woods' request, a
hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on
March 10, 2017, at which Woods and a vocational expert
testified. On September 1, 2017, the ALJ denied Woods'
claim for benefits, finding that she could perform work that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy. On
June 27, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Woods' request
to review the ALJ's decision. The ALJ's decision is
thus the final decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. §
action for judicial review, Woods claims that the ALJ erred
in classifying her as a “younger individual” when
determining her ability to perform work. Woods also claims
that the ALJ erred in discounting her subjective complaints.
For the reasons that follow, I will reverse the ALJ's
decision and remand this matter to the Commissioner for
birthdate is January 2, 1968. In determining Woods'
ability to perform work, the ALJ classified Woods as a
“younger individual, ” reasoning that Woods was
46 years old when she filed her application in October 2014.
When the ALJ rendered her decision in September 2017,
however, Woods was 49 years old and was four months away from
turning 50. This scenario placed Woods in a “borderline
age situation” under the Social Security Regulations,
which required the ALJ to consider applying the higher age
category of “closely approaching advanced age”
for persons aged 50 to 54. Woods argues that the ALJ's
failure to consider her borderline age situation rendered the
decision of non-disability unsupported by substantial
respect to the medical records and other evidence of record,
I adopt Woods' recitation of facts set forth in her
Statement of Uncontroverted Facts (ECF 12-1) and note that
they are admitted in toto by the Commissioner. (ECF
17-1.) I also adopt the factual statements set out in the
Commissioner's Statement of Additional Material Facts
(ECF 17-2), which Woods admits in their entirety. (ECF 19-1.)
These statements provide a fair and accurate description of
the relevant record before the Court. Additional specific
facts are discussed as needed to address the parties'
eligible for SSI under the Social Security Act, Woods must
prove that she is disabled. Pearsall v. Massanari,
274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); Baker v. Secretary
of Health & Human Servs., 955 F.2d 552, 555 (8th
Cir. 1992). The Social Security Act defines disability as the
inability “to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual will be declared
disabled “only if [her] physical or mental impairment
or impairments are of such severity that [she] is not only
unable to do [her] previous work but cannot, considering
[her] age, education, and work experience, engage in any
other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the
national economy.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Commissioner engages in a five-step evaluation process to
determine whether a claimant is disabled. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.920; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137, 140-42 (1987). The first three steps involve a
determination as to whether the claimant is currently engaged
in substantial gainful activity; whether she has a severe
impairment; and whether her severe impairment(s) meets or
medically equals the severity of a listed impairment. At Step
4 of the process, the ALJ must assess the claimant's
residual functional capacity (RFC) - that is, the most the
claimant is able to do despite her physical and mental
limitations, Martise v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 909, 923
(8th Cir. 2011) - and determine whether the claimant is able
to perform her past relevant work. Goff v. Barnhart,
421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005) (RFC assessment occurs at
fourth step of process). If the claimant is unable to perform
her past work, the Commissioner continues to Step 5 and
determines whether the claimant, with her RFC and other
vocational factors, can perform other work as it exists in
significant numbers in the national economy. If so, the
claimant is found not disabled, and disability benefits are
The ALJ's Decision
written decision here, the ALJ found that Woods had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 10,
2014, the alleged onset date of disability. The ALJ found
that Woods' degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine
with L5-S1 facet osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease of
the cervical spine, obesity, and depression/mood disorder due
to medical condition were severe impairments but that ...