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Sohn v. Saul

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

September 30, 2019

EVAGENE SOHN, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL[1] , Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANNETTE A. BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Evagene Sohn's appeal regarding the denial of disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under the Social Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The parties have consented to the exercise of authority by the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Doc. 8.] The Court has reviewed the parties' briefs and the entire administrative record, including the transcript and medical evidence. Based on the following, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         Issues for Review

         Sohn asserts that the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) failed to properly designate her migraine headaches as a severe impairment. Next, Sohn contends that the ALJ erred by giving little weight to Dr. Paul Rexroat's medical opinion. Sohn also contends that the ALJ's residual functional capacity determination is not supported by medical evidence; therefore, the vocational expert testimony is not supported by substantial evidence and cannot be used to support the finding of no disability. The Commissioner asserts that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and should be affirmed.

         Standard of Review

         The Social Security Act defines disability as an “inability 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 has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1)(A), 423(d)(1)(A).

         The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) uses a five-step analysis to determine whether a claimant seeking disability benefits is in fact disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(1), 416.920(a)(1). First, the claimant must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). Second, the claimant must establish that he or she has an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limits his or her ability to perform basic work activities and meets the durational requirements of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Third, the claimant must establish that his or her impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in the appendix of the applicable regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listed impairment, the SSA determines the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).

         Fourth, the claimant must establish that the impairment prevents him or her from doing past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant meets this burden, the analysis proceeds to step five. At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish the claimant maintains the RFC to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. Singh v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 448, 451 (8th Cir. 2000). If the claimant satisfied all of the criteria under the five-step evaluation, the ALJ will find the claimant to be disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v).

         The standard of review is narrow. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). This Court reviews the decision of the ALJ to determine whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find adequate support for the ALJ's decision. Smith v. Shalala, 31 F.3d 715, 717 (8th Cir. 1994). The Court determines whether evidence is substantial by considering evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it. Cox v. Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006). The Court may not reverse just because substantial evidence exists that would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. Id. If, after reviewing the record as a whole, the Court finds it possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the Commissioner's finding, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004).

         The Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision so long as it conforms to the law and is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Collins ex rel. Williams v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 726, 729 (8th Cir. 2003). “In this substantial-evidence determination, the entire administrative record is considered but the evidence is not reweighed.” Byes v. Astrue, 687 F.3d 913, 915 (8th Cir. 2012).

         Discussion

         The ALJ found that Sohn had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease, residuals of fusion, right knee osteoarthritis, residuals of arthroscopic partial meniscectomy and chondroplasty, obesity, residuals of left knee meniscectomy, and residuals of bilateral foot and ankle surgery. The ALJ noted that there has been no continuous 12 month period of incapacity associated with any of Sohn's conditions or any disabling effects from her conditions. She found that the record demonstrates that Sohn responded well with treatment and repeatedly reported improvement with no pain. The ALJ also noted that there was no deterioration in her condition over a period of time. The ALJ held that Sohn did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

         The ALJ determined that Sohn had the RFC to perform sedentary work with the following limitations: (1) occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, crouch, and balance; (2) never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, kneel, or crawl; (3) occasional exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous machinery; (4) need to alternate between sitting and standing every hour for 1 to 3 minutes but would remain on task; and (5) need use of assistive device for prolonged ambulation. The ALJ then held that Sohn was unable to perform any of her past relevant work, but considering her age, education, and work experience, there are jobs in the national economy that Sohn can perform. Therefore, the ALJ found that Sohn did not have a disability between her alleged onset date of February 10, 2015 through the date of decision on March 28, 2017.

         For the following reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not met her burden of proof and the ALJ's decision is supported ...


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