United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
TANA L. MURPHY, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. COLLINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner denying the
application of Tana L. Murphy (“Plaintiff”) for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381,
et seq. and for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. Plaintiff
has filed a brief in support of the Complaint (Doc. 18) and
Defendant has filed a brief in support of the Answer (Doc.
25). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title
28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. 9).
filed her applications for SSI and DIB on October 1, 2015
(Tr. 225-32). Plaintiff was initially denied on December 31,
2015, and she filed a Request for Hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on January 26,
2016 (Tr. 146-59, 162-66). After a hearing, by decision dated
December 6, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr.
12-33). On July 13, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff’s request for review (Tr. 1-6). As such, the
ALJ’s decision stands as the final decision of the
DECISION OF THE ALJ
determined that Plaintiff meets the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30,
2015, and that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since April 1, 2014, the alleged onset date
(Tr. 17). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments
of right knee chondrosis, osteoarthritis, and meniscus tear
status post-surgery, polyarthralgia, morbid obesity,
degenerative disc disease and facet arthropathy, bilateral
sacroiliitis, borderline intellectual functioning, bipolar
affective disorder, major depressive disorder, borderline
personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but
that no impairment or combination of impairments met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr.
18-21). After considering the entire record, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with the
following limitations (Tr. 21). She can never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds, but can occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl (Id.). She
can have occasional exposure to vibration, but cannot work at
unprotected heights, work around moving mechanical parts, or
operate a motor vehicle as a job duty (Id.). She is
limited to simple routine tasks and simple work-related
decisions (Id.). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is
unable to perform any past relevant work but that there are
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that Plaintiff could perform including addressing
clerk and document preparer (Tr. 26-27). Thus, the ALJ
concluded that a finding of “not disabled” was
appropriate (Tr. 27). Plaintiff appeals, arguing a lack of
substantial evidence to support the Commissioner’s
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, 404.1529. “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)). In this sequential analysis, the claimant first
cannot be engaged in “substantial gainful
activity” to qualify for disability benefits. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(b), 404.1520(b). Second, the claimant
must have a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§
416.920(c), 404.1520(c). The Social Security Act defines
“severe impairment” as “any impairment or
combination of impairments which significantly limits
[claimant’s] physical or mental ability to do basic
work activities. . . .” Id. “‘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), citing Nguyen v. Chater, 75 F.3d 429, 430-31
(8th Cir. 1996)).
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment
which meets or equals one of the impairments 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. Id.
the impairment must prevent the claimant from doing past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(f),
404.1520(f). The burden rests with the claimant at this
fourth step to establish his or her RFC. Steed v.
Astrue, 524 F.3d 872, 874 n.3 (8th Cir. 2008)
(“Through step four of this analysis, the claimant has
the burden of showing that she is disabled.”). The ALJ
will review a claimant’s RFC and the physical and
mental demands of the work the claimant has done in the past.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
the severe impairment must prevent the claimant from doing
any other work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(g),
404.1520(g). At this fifth step of the sequential analysis,
the Commissioner has the burden of production to show
evidence of other jobs in the national economy that can be
performed by a person with the claimant’s RFC.
Steed, 524 F.3d at 874 n.3. If the claimant meets
these standards, the ALJ will find the claimant to be
disabled. “The ultimate burden of persuasion to prove
disability, however, remains with the claimant.”
Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1069 n.5 (8th Cir.
2000). See also Harris v. Barnhart, 356 F.3d 926,
931 n.2 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing 68 Fed. Reg. 51153, 51155
(Aug. 26, 2003)); Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d 801,
806 (8th Cir. 2004) (“The burden of persuasion to prove
disability and to demonstrate RFC remains on the claimant,
even when the burden of production shifts to the Commissioner
at step five.”). Even if a court finds that there is a
preponderance of the evidence against the ALJ’s
decision, the decision must be affirmed if it is supported by
substantial evidence. Clark v. Heckler, 733 F.2d 65,
68 (8th Cir. 1984). “Substantial evidence is less than
a preponderance but is enough that a reasonable mind would
find it adequate to support the Commissioner’s
conclusion.” Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d
1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002). See also Cox v. Astrue,
495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007).
not the job of the district court to re-weigh the evidence or
review the factual record de novo. Id. Instead, the
district court must simply determine whether the quantity and
quality of evidence is enough so that a reasonable mind might
find it adequate to support the ALJ’s conclusion.
Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)
(citing McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th
Cir. 2000)). Weighing the evidence is a function of the ALJ,
who is the fact-finder. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363
F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). Thus, an administrative
decision which is supported by substantial evidence is not
subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence may
also support an opposite conclusion or because the reviewing
court would have decided differently. Krogmeier, 294
F.3d at 1022.
appeal of the Commissioner’s decision, Plaintiff
generally asserts that the ALJ erred in determining an RFC
not based on substantial evidence (Doc. 18 at
14-18). Plaintiff specifically argues that the ALJ
erred in not applying the appropriate weight to the opinion
of treating psychiatric nurse practitioner Carol Greening,
APRN PMHCNS-BC (Doc. 18 at 11-14). For the following
reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s arguments are