United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANNETTE A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Michael Swafford's appeal
regarding the denial of disability insurance benefits under
the Social Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction over the
subject matter of this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The parties have consented to the exercise of authority by
the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). [Doc. 9.] The Court has reviewed the
parties' briefs and the entire administrative record,
including the transcript and medical evidence. Based on the
following, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's
presents two issues for review. First, Swafford asserts that
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
determination is not supported by substantial evidence.
Second, Swafford contends that the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) failed to make a proper credibility
determination. The Commissioner asserts that the ALJ's
decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record
as a whole and should be affirmed.
Social Security Act defines disability as an “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 has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Social Security Administration (“SSA”) uses a
five-step analysis to determine whether a claimant seeking
disability benefits is in fact disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(1). First, the claimant must not be engaged in
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). Second, the claimant must establish that
he or she has an impairment or combination of impairments
that significantly limits his or her ability to perform basic
work activities and meets the durational requirements of the
Act. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Third, the claimant
must establish that his or her impairment meets or equals an
impairment listed in the appendix of the applicable
regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If the
claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listed
impairment, the SSA determines the claimant's RFC to
perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e).
the claimant must establish that the impairment prevents him
or her from doing past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant meets this burden, the
analysis proceeds to step five. At step five, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to establish the claimant
maintains the RFC to perform a significant number of jobs in
the national economy. Singh v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 448,
451 (8th Cir. 2000). If the claimant satisfied all of the
criteria under the five-step evaluation, the ALJ will find
the claimant to be disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
standard of review is narrow. Pearsall v. Massanari,
274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). This Court reviews the
decision of the ALJ to determine whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find
adequate support for the ALJ's decision. Smith v.
Shalala, 31 F.3d 715, 717 (8th Cir. 1994). The Court
determines whether evidence is substantial by considering
evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision
as well as evidence that supports it. Cox v.
Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006). The Court
may not reverse just because substantial evidence exists that
would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would
have decided the case differently. Id. If, after
reviewing the record as a whole, the Court finds it possible
to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one
of those positions represents the Commissioner's finding,
the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed.
Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir.
2004). The Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision
so long as it conforms to the law and is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Collins ex
rel. Williams v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 726, 729 (8th Cir.
disability insurance benefits application lists the following
impairments that that limit his ability to work: bilateral
knee reconstruction, spinal fusion L4/L5/S1, depression,
anxiety, hand numbness, and foot numbness. (Tr. 195.)
Swafford worked as a carpenter for 15 years and suffered a
workplace injury in February 2013. He last worked on April 4,
2013. (Tr. 196.) His alleged onset date of disability is
February 28, 2013.
application for disability insurance benefits was denied and
he requested a hearing before the administrative law judge.
(Tr. 94-105, 115-16.) After the administrative hearing, the
ALJ found that Swafford had the severe impairments of
status/post spinal fusion with lumbar radiculopathy. (Tr.
13.) The ALJ also found that Swafford did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meet or
medically equal the severity of one of the listed
impairments. (Tr. 16.) Next, the ALJ found that Swafford had
the RFC to perform sedentary work, except that he can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds. (Tr. 16.) The ALJ also found that he
could occasionally stoop, kneel, and crouch, but never
balance or crawl. (Tr. 16.) The ALJ also limited Swafford to
occasional contact with the public. (Tr. 16.) Then, the ALJ
found that Swafford was unable to perform his past relevant
work, but there were jobs that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy that he could perform. (Tr. 21.)
Therefore, the ALJ determined that Swafford had not been
under a disability under the Social Security Act from
February 28, 2013 through the date of the decision, June 15,
2016. (Tr. 22.)
Social Security Report regarding evaluation of symptoms in
social security disability claims was superseded on March 16,
2016. See SSR 16-3P, 1996 WL 374186, Social Security
Ruling 16-3p, Policy Interpretation Ruling Title II and XVI:
Evaluation of Symptoms in Disability Claims: Assessing the
Credibility of Individual Statements (July 2, 1996). Also,
many Social Security regulations were amended effective March
27, 2017. Per 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.614, 404.1527, the
Social Security Administration uses the regulations in effect
at the time that this claim was filed.