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Eddingfield v. Saul

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

September 19, 2019

SCOTT EDDINGFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, [1] Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Scott Eddingfield brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.

         An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found that, despite Eddingfield's severe impairments, he was not disabled as he had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform work existing in significant numbers in the national economy.

         This matter is pending before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). A summary of the entire record is presented in the parties' briefs and is repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner will be reversed and remanded.

         I. Procedural History

         Eddingfield filed his application for benefits on May 15, 2015, claiming that he became unable to work on February 1, 2014. (Tr. 180-81.) In his Disability Report, Eddingfield alleged disability due to Parkinson's disease, [2] dyskinesia, dystonia, depression, a herniated disc at L4-L5, rheumatoid arthritis, a knee impairment, migraines, insomnia, and a melanoma. (Tr. 207.) Eddingfield was 46 years of age at his alleged onset of disability. (Tr. 24.) His application was denied initially. (Tr. 75-81.) Eddingfield's claim was denied by an ALJ on January 29, 2018. (Tr. 15-26.) On July 24, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Eddingfield's claim for review. (Tr. 1-5.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         In this action, Eddingfield raises the following claims: (1) "There is no explanation of how the evidence supports the RFC, " (2) "The ALJ failed to conduct a proper credibility determination when discounting Plaintiffs pain/subjective complaints;" and (3) "The ALJ improperly afforded Plaintiffs treating physician's opinion 'little weight.'" (Doc. 19 at pp. 3, 5, 6.)

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ first found that Eddingfield last met the insured status requirements of the Act on March 31, 2015. (Tr. 17.) She next found that Eddingfield did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset date of February 1, 2014, through his date last insured of March 31, 2015. Id. The ALJ concluded that, through his date last insured, Eddingfield had the following severe impairments: right and left knee osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, obesity, and Parkinson's disease. (Tr. 18.) The ALJ found that Eddingfield did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 19.)

         As to Eddingfield's RFC, the ALJ stated:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except: the claimant can occasionally lift, carry, push, and pull 10 pounds; frequently lift, carry, push, and pull less than 10 pounds; sit for six hours; stand for two hours; and walk for two hours in an 8-hour work day. The claimant can handle items frequently with the left and right hands; and finger frequently with the left and right hands. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch; and never crawl. The claimant can never work at unprotected heights or near moving mechanical parts. The claimant is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. The claimant is limited to simple work-related decisions.

Id.

         The ALJ found that Eddingfield was unable to perform any past relevant work through the date last insured, but was capable of performing other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as production assembler, general office clerk, and accounting clerk. (Tr. 24-25.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Eddingfield was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from February 1, 2014, the alleged onset date, through March 31, 2015, the date last insured. (Tr. 25.)

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits protectively filed on May 15, 2015, the claimant was not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2015, the last date insured.

(Tr. 26.)

         III. Applicable Law

         III.A. Standard of Review

         The decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed 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 of the evidence, 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). This "substantial evidence test, " however, is "more than a mere search of the record for evidence supporting the Commissioner's findings." Coleman v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 767, 770 (8th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Substantial evidence on the record as a whole . . . requires a more scrutinizing analysis." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         To determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, the Court must review ...


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