United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
RICHARD WEBBER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying the application
of Dzemila Topalovic (“Plaintiff”) 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 (ECF No. 18) and Defendant has filed a brief in
support of the Answer, along with a Statement of
Uncontroverted Material Facts (ECF No. 23).
filed her application for DIB under Title II of the Social
Security Act on September 26, 2014. (Tr. 138-44) Plaintiff
claimed she became disabled on August 11, 2011 because of a
heart condition, knee problems, and frequent dizziness. (Tr.
65) Plaintiff was initially denied relief on December 10,
2014. (Tr. 73-78) At Plaintiff's request, a hearing was
held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
on October 24, 2016, at which Plaintiff, one witness, and a
vocational expert testified. (Tr. 83, 32-64) After the
hearing, by a decision dated July 18, 2017, the ALJ found
Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 16-26) On April 18, 2018,
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-6) Thus, the ALJ's
decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
action for judicial review, Plaintiff claims the ALJ's
decision is not supported by substantial evidence on the
record as a whole. Specifically, Plaintiff argues: (1) the
ALJ erred in failing to properly evaluate the opinion of
Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Farzana;(2) the ALJ
erred in failing to properly evaluate the Plaintiff's
complaints of pain; and (3) the ALJ erred in failing to
properly consider the Plaintiff's obesity.
reasons that follow, the ALJ did not err in her
Medical Records and Other Evidence Before the ALJ
respect to the medical records and other evidence of record,
the Court notes Plaintiff did not file a Statement of
Uncontroverted Facts. However, Plaintiff's Brief
thoroughly summarizes Plaintiff's hearing testimony and
the medical evidence in the record, which the Court adopts.
(ECF No. 18) The Court also adopts the facts set forth in the
Commissioner's Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts
(ECF 23-1) and notes they are unrefuted by Plaintiff.
Together, evidence set forth in Plaintiff's Brief and the
Commissioner's statement provide a fair and accurate
description of the relevant record before the Court.
specific facts will be discussed as needed to address the
eligible for disability insurance benefits under the Social
Security Act, Plaintiff must prove 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
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(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.
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(a), 404.1520(a).
‘“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)). First, the claimant must not be
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a), 404.1520(a).
the claimant must have a “severe impairment, ”
defined as “any impairment or combination of
impairments which significantly limits [claimant's]
physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(c),
404.1520(c). ‘“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)).
the claimant must establish his or her impairment meets or
equals an impairment 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.
considering step four, the ALJ must determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). RFC is defined as
“the most a claimant can do despite her
limitations.” Moore v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 520,
523 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1)).
At step four, the ALJ determines whether the claimant can
return to her past relevant work by comparing the
claimant's RFC with the physical and mental demands of
the claimant's past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1520(f), 416.920(a)(4)(iv),
416.920(f); McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th
Cir. 2011). If the claimant can still perform past relevant
work, she will not be found to be disabled; if the claimant
cannot, the analysis proceeds to the next step.
McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611.
five, the ALJ considers the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience to see if the claimant can
make an adjustment to other work in the national economy. 20
C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant cannot
make an adjustment to other work, then she will be found to
be disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v),
404.1520(a)(4)(v). Through step four, the burden remains with
the claimant to prove she is disabled. Brantley v.
Colvin, No. 4:10CV2184 HEA, 2013 WL 4007441, at *3 (E.D.
Mo. Aug. 2, 2013) (citation omitted). At step five, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish the claimant
maintains the RFC to perform a significant number of jobs
within the national economy. Id. “The ultimate
burden of persuasion to prove disability, however, remains
with the claimant.” Meyerpeter v. Astrue, 902
F.Supp.2d 1219, 1229 (E.D. Mo. 2012) (citations omitted).
Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Estes v. Barnhart, 275 F.3d
722, 724 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance but enough that a reasonable person would find
it adequate to support the conclusion. Johnson v.
Apfel, 240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). Determining
whether there is substantial evidence requires scrutinizing
analysis. Coleman v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 767, 770 (8th
Court must consider evidence which supports the
Commissioner's decision as well as any evidence that
fairly detracts from the decision. McNamara v.
Astrue, 590 F.3d 607, 610 (8th Cir. 2010). If, after
reviewing the entire record, it is possible to draw two
inconsistent positions and the Commissioner has adopted one
of those positions, the Court must affirm the
Commissioner's decision. Anderson v. Astrue, 696
F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2012). The Court may not reverse the
Commissioner's decision merely because substantial
evidence could also support a contrary outcome.
McNamara, 590 F.3d at 610.