United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
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 William Young (“Plaintiff”)
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. 16) and Defendant has filed a brief in
support of the Answer (Doc. 24). The parties have consented
to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)
filed his application for DIB on November 7, 2014 (Tr.
489-90). Plaintiff was initially denied on February 6, 2015
and Plaintiff filed a Request for Hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on February 13,
2015 (Tr. 421-29). After a hearing, by decision dated January
30, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 302-21).
On February 14, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff’s request for review (Tr. 1-7). 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 March 31,
2019, and that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since February 18, 2014, the alleged onset
date (Tr. 307). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe
impairment of degenerative disc disease of the cervical
spine, 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.
307-08). After considering the entire record, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work with the
following limitations (Tr. 308). He can lift up to 20 pounds
occasionally and can lift or carry up to 10 pounds frequently
(Tr. 308-09). He can stand and/or walk for about six hours in
an eight-hour work day with normal breaks (Tr. 309). He can
occasionally climb ramps or stairs, but never climb ladders,
ropes or scaffolds (Id.). He can occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch, but can never crawl
(Id.). He should avoid unprotected heights and
exposure to hazardous machinery (Id.). The ALJ found
Plaintiff not capable of performing any past relevant work
but that other jobs exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff can perform including retail
sales, dining attendant, and loss prevention (Tr. 316-17).
Thus, the ALJ concluded that a finding of “not
disabled” was appropriate (Tr. 317). Plaintiff appeals,
arguing a lack of substantial evidence to support the
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. Cox, 495 F.3d at
617. 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 raises
three issues. First, Plaintiff argues that the RFC is not
supported by substantial evidence (Doc. 16 at 3-8). Second,
Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ erred in failing to properly
evaluate the opinion of Dr. Sean Ragain, M.D.,
Plaintiff’s treating physician (Id. at
8-12). Third, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred
in failing to properly apply “the Eighth Circuit pain
standard” by failing to provide specific reasons for
his evaluation of the credibility of Plaintiff’s
subjective pain complaints (Id. at 12-14). For the
following reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s
arguments are without merit, and that the ALJ’s
decision is based on substantial evidence and is consistent
with the Regulations and case law.
Additional Evidence Submitted ...