United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
LAVERNE A. STOMER, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL,  Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
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 Laverne A. Stomer (“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 (Doc. 17) and Defendant has filed a brief in
support of the Answer (Doc. 24). The parties have consented
to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)
filed her application for DIB on August 6, 2014 (Tr. 171-79).
Plaintiff was initially denied on September 11, 2014, and she
filed a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) on November 7, 2014 (Tr. 89-93,
97-98). After a hearing, by decision dated February 10, 2017,
the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 9-24). On February
14, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review (Tr. 1-7). 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 July 3, 2014, the alleged onset date
(Tr. 14). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments
of degenerative disk disease of the cervical spine, obesity,
right knee dysfunction, right shoulder dysfunction, and
diabetic neuropathy/radiculopathy, 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. 14). After considering the
entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light
with the following limitations (Tr. 15). She can never
operate right foot controls (Id.). She can
frequently reach overhead and in all other directions on the
right side (Id.). She can frequently handle or
finger on the right side (Id.). She can never climb
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds (Id.). She can never
balance or crawl (Id.). She can occasionally climb
ramps and stairs (Id.). She can occasionally stoop,
kneel, or crouch (Id.). She can never be exposed to
extreme cold (Id.). The ALJ found Plaintiff had no
past relevant work but that other jobs exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform
including packer, cashier II, and spiral machine operator
(Tr. 18-19). Thus, the ALJ concluded that a finding of
“not disabled” was appropriate (Tr. 19).
Plaintiff appeals, arguing a lack of substantial evidence to
support the Commissioner's decision.
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.
appeal of the Commissioner's decision, Plaintiff raises
three issues. First, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ failed to
properly evaluate Plaintiff's RFC (Doc. 17 at 3-11).
Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to fully and
fairly develop the record (Id. at 11-13). Third,
Plaintiff asserts that Plaintiff meets the GRID requirements set
forth at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, Rule
201.12 (Id. at 13-14). For the following reasons,
the Court finds that Plaintiff's arguments ...