United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the Commissioner of Social Security’s final decision
denying Vernon Meister Jr.’s application for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income under
Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, 1381-1385.
March 10, 2014, Meister protectively filed an application for
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, based on an operative disability onset date of
November 10, 2102. (Tr. 17.) On June 3, 2014, he filed an
application for supplemental security income under Title XVI,
with the same onset date. (Id.) Meister’s
applications were initially denied on October 17, 2014, and,
following his written request, a hearing was held before an
ALJ on November 2, 2016. (Id.) Meister and impartial
vocational expert Stella Doering testified. (Tr. 19-20.)
issued a written decision denying Meister’s
applications on March 21, 2017. (Tr. 36.) On February 13,
2018, the Appeals Council of the Social Security
Administration denied Meister’s request for review.
(Tr. 1-3.) The decision of the ALJ therefore stands as the
final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v.
Apfel, 560 U.S. 103, 107 (2000). Meister filed this
appeal on April 17, 2018. (Doc. 1.) The Commissioner filed an
Answer. (Doc. 10.) Thereafter, both parties filed briefing
and statements of fact. (Docs. 12, 19, 20.)
Court adopts the facts as stated in the certified agency
record (see Docs. 11-1 to 11-20), as supplemented by
the parties. (Docs. 12-1, 19-1, 19-2, 20-1.) The
Court’s review of the record shows that the adopted
facts are accurate and complete. Specific facts will be
discussed as part of the analysis.
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); see also Brantley v. Colvin, 2013 WL
4007441, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 2, 2013). The impairment must
be “of such severity that [the claimant] is not only
unable to do his 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, regardless of whether such work exists in the
immediate area in which she lives, or whether a specific job
vacancy exists for her, or whether she would be hired if she
applied for work.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
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). 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.” 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 that 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.
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. Id.
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 that she is disabled.
Brantley, 2013 WL 4007441, at *3 (citation omitted).
At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
establish that 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’s role on judicial review is to determine whether
the ALJ’s findings are supported by substantial
evidence in the record as a whole. Pate-Fires v.
Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 942 (8th Cir. 2009). In
determining whether the evidence is substantial, the Court
considers evidence that both supports and detracts from the
Commissioner’s decision. Andrews v. Colvin,
791 F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2015); Cox v. Astrue,
495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007). As long as substantial
evidence supports the decision, the Court may not reverse it
merely because substantial evidence exists in the record ...