United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
DEBORAH R. PASTER, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL,  Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
D. NOCE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
action is before the Court for judicial review of the final
decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security
denying the application of plaintiff Deborah R. Paster for
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. The
parties consented to the exercise of plenary authority by a
United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is affirmed.
Deborah R. Paster applied for Title II disability benefits on
July 29, 2014, at the age of 54. (Tr. 177-83). Plaintiff
alleges she was disabled on account of fatigue, headaches,
and stress. (Tr. 25). Plaintiff’s application was
initially denied in November 2014. (Tr. 79-83). She requested
a hearing before an ALJ. (Tr. 84). The ALJ heard testimony
from plaintiff and a vocational expert on March 24, 2017.
(Tr. 43-70). After the hearing, the ALJ sent plaintiff for a
consultative examination, which was conducted on May 5, 2017.
(Tr. 585-600). On August 25, 2017, the ALJ decided that
plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act.
(Tr. 11-19). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s
request for review. (Tr. 1). The decision of the ALJ stands
as the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.
Court adopts the parties' several statements of
uncontroverted material facts (Docs. 20, 25). These facts,
taken together, present a fair and accurate summary of the
medical record and testimony at the evidentiary hearing. The
Court discusses specific facts as they are relevant to the
DECISION OF THE ALJ
determine whether a claimant qualifies for Social Security
disability benefits, the ALJ must conduct a five-step
sequential evaluation. See 20 CFR § 404.1520.
found that plaintiff would last meet the insured status
required by Title II of the Act on December 31, 2017. At Step
1, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not performed substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date of disability,
May 1, 2014. (Tr. 13). At Step 2, the ALJ found that
plaintiff had the severe impairment of degenerative joint
disease. (Id.). At Step 3, the ALJ found that
plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled an impairment
listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 14).
the limitations from plaintiff’s impairments, the ALJ
found that plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity to perform the full range of sedentary work as
defined in the regulations. (Id.). In formulating
her RFC assessment, the ALJ considered and discussed not only
plaintiff’s severe impairment of degenerative joint
disease, but also considered and discussed additional
impairments and symptoms that she alleged were disabling.
(Tr. 14-18). These impairments and related symptoms included
stress, headaches/migraines, sleeping all day, hypertension,
hypothyroidism, diabetes, sleep apnea, low back pain, hip
pain, knee pain, chest pain, left arm pain, dizziness, and
obesity. (Id.). The ALJ found that plaintiff’s
allegations regarding her symptoms were not entirely
consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in
the record and found that she had failed to carry her burden
to prove more restrictive functional limitations than those
included in the ALJ's RFC assessment. (Tr. 18).
on the vocational expert’s testimony in response to a
hypothetical question, the ALJ concluded at Step 4 that
plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a
collections agent. (Tr. 19). Accordingly, the ALJ found
plaintiff was not disabled and did not proceed to Step 5 in
the sequential evaluation.
GENERAL LEGAL PRINCIPLES
Court’s role on judicial review of the
Commissioner’s decision is to determine whether the
Commissioner’s findings comply with the relevant legal
requirements and 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).
entitled to disability benefits, a claimant must prove she is
unable to perform any substantial gainful activity due to a
medically determinable physical or mental impairment or
combination of impairments that can be expected to result in
death or that has lasted or could be expected to last for at
least 12 continuous months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A);
Pate-Fires, 564 F.3d at 942. A five-step regulatory
framework, described in footnote 2 above, is used to