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Barker v. Saul

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

September 23, 2019

JAMES BARKER, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, [1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the application of plaintiff for disability insurance benefits under Title II, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. and denial of supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. The Court has reviewed the briefs and the administrative record as a whole, including the transcript and medical evidence. The Court will, therefore, affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

         Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1968. Plaintiff filed his application on February 22, 2016, alleging a November 11, 2015 onset date. He was 47 years of age at that time. He alleged inability to work due to back problems, shoulder problems, knee problems, anxiety, depression, anger problems, and HBP (high blood pressure).

         On January 11, 2018 a hearing was held. Following the hearing, an ALJ issued a decision on January 26, 2018 finding that plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order and on May 3, 2018, the Appeals Council denied his request for review. Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Decision of the ALJ

         At Step One of the of the decision from January 26, 2018, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 11, 2015, the onset date. At Step Two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. However, the ALJ found plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in or medically equal to one contained in the Listings, 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1, (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 AND 416.926).

         The ALJ determined that plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work except he could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds but could occasionally climb ramps and stairs. The ALJ also found Plaintiff could occasionally engage in balancing, stooping, crouching, and crawling and could occasionally reach, push, and pull bilaterally overhead. Also, he could not work at unprotected heights, around moving/mechanical parts or other such hazards and was limited to performing simple, routine tasks but in a fast paced, production environment such as an assembly line. The ALJ also found Plaintiff to be limited to work that requires only occasional changes in the work setting and could only have occasional interaction with co-workers and the public.

         At Step Four, the ALJ found that plaintiff is unable to perform his past relevant work as a dump truck driver. At Step Five, the ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in significant number in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform, such as a marking clerk, and shipping weigher. Therefore, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled.

         Statement of the Issues

         Generally the issues in a Social Security case are whether the final decision of the Commissioner is consistent with the Social Security Act, regulations, and applicable case law, and whether the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. The issue here is whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s conclusion that Plaintiff was capable of a reduced range of light work despite his medical impairments.

         General Legal Principles

         The Court’s role on judicial review of the Commissioner’s decision is to determine whether the Commissioner’s findings apply the relevant legal standards to facts that are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 942 (8th Cir. 2009). “Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner’s conclusion.” Id. In determining whether the evidence is substantial, the Court considers evidence that both supports and detracts from the Commissioner's decision. Id. As long as substantial evidence supports the decision, the Court may not reverse it merely because substantial evidence exists in the record that would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. See Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d 1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002).

         To be entitled to disability benefits, a claimant must prove he is unable to perform any substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that would either result in death or which has lasted or could be expected to last for at least twelve continuous months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(a)(1)(D), (d)(1)(A); Pate-Fires, 564 F.3d at 942. A five-step regulatory framework is used to determine whether an individual is ...


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