Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Klopfenstein v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 16, 2019

PETER KLOPFENSTEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Plaintiff Peter Klopfenstein's application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. and supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381, et seq.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits on June 11, 2015, alleging disability as of November 1, 2011 due to multi-level degenerative disc disease, left sciatica, lumbago, complex regional pain syndrome, and social anxiety disorder. After his application was denied at the initial administrative level, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). Following a hearing on July 31, 2017, the ALJ issued a written decision on October 11, 2017, denying Plaintiffs application. Plaintiffs request for review by the Appeals Council was denied on May 9, 2108. Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107(2000).

         II. Facts

         The Court adopts Plaintiffs Statement of Incontroverted Facts (Doc. No. 17-1) to the extent they are admitted by the Commissioner (Doc. No. 22-1). The Court also adopts Defendant's Statement of Additional Facts. (Doc. No. 22-2). Together, these statements provide a fair and accurate description of the relevant record before the Court. Additional specific facts will be discussed as necessary to address the parties' arguments.

         III. Standards

         The Court's role on judicial review is to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Johnson v. Astrue, 628 F.3d 991, 992 (8th Cir. 2011). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion. Chismarich v. Berryhill, 888 F.3d 978, 979 (8th Cir. 2018) (per curiam). The Court may not reverse merely because substantial evidence exists in the record that would support a contrary outcome or because the court would have decided the case differently. Chaney v. Colvin, 812 F.3d 672, 676 (8th Cir. 2016). A reviewing court must consider evidence that both supports and detracts from the ALJ's decision. Id. If it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the Commissioner's findings, the court must affirm the decision of the Commissioner. Id- hi other words, a court should "disturb the ALJ's decision only if it falls outside the available zone of choice." Papesh v. Colvin, 786 F.3d 1126, 1131 (8th Cir. 2015). A decision does not fall outside that zone simply because the reviewing court might have reached a different conclusion had it been the finder of fact in the first instance. Id. The Court defers heavily to the findings and conclusions of the Social Security Administration. Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010).

         To determine whether the ALJ's final decision is supported by substantial evidence, the Court is required to review the administrative record as a whole and to consider:

(1) The findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the claimant;
(3) The medical evidence given by the claimant's treating physicians;
(4) The subjective complaints of pain and description of the claimant's physical activity and impairment;
(5) The corroboration by third parties of the claimant's physical impairment;
(6) The testimony of vocational experts based upon prior hypothetical questions which fairly set forth the claimant's physical impairment; and
(7) The testimony of consulting physicians.

Brand v. Sec'y of Dept. of Health. Educ. & Welfare, 623 F.2d 523, 527 (8th Cir. 1980).

         The Social Security Act defines as disabled a person who is "unable 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). The impairment must be "of such severity that [the claimant] is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).

         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. Bamhart, 390 F.3d 584, 590-91 (8th Cir. 2004)).

         First, the claimant must not be engaged in "substantial gainful activity" ("SGA"). 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a), 404.1520(a). Second, 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." Pa ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.