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Hashmat v. Saul

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

October 24, 2019

ANDREW SAUL, [1] Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Hashmat brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision denying her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq., and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 et seq.2 Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence from the record, I will affirm the decision.

         I. Procedural History

         On December 3, 2013, Hashmat filed applications for DIB and SSI benefits under 42 U.S.C. §§401 et seq. and 42 U.S.C. §§1381 et seq. Her claims were initially denied on June 19, 2014. She then filed a timely request for hearing on July 8, 2014. After the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on July 22, 2016. Hashmat then filed a request for review on August 29, 2016. After their review, the Appeals Counsel remanded the case to the ALJ for further proceedings.

         The remand hearing was held in January 2018 and the ALJ issued a non-favorable decision on March 8, 2018. The plaintiff promptly requested review, which was denied on July 31, 2018. In denying the plaintiff's request for review, the decision of the ALJ became a final agency decision ripe for judicial review. The plaintiff filed this suit challenging the ALJ's decision on September 26, 2018.

         In this case, she claims that the ALJ erred by not affording the proper weight to the opinion of her treating physician. Hashmat requests that I reverse the Commissioner's final decision and remand the matter for further consideration.

         II. Statement of Facts

         With respect to the medical records and other evidence of record, I adopt Hashmat's recitation of facts set forth in her Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts [ECF No. 18-1] to the extent they are admitted by the Commissioner [ECF No. 23-1].[2] I also adopt the additional facts set forth in the Commissioner's Statement of Additional Facts [ECF No. 23-2], as they are unrefuted by Hashmat. Additional specific facts will be discussed as needed to address the parties' arguments.

         III. Legal Standards

         To be entitled to disability benefits, a claimant must prove that she 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). To determine whether claimants are disabled, the Commissioner evaluates their claims through five sequential steps. 20. C.F.R. § 404.1520; Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 942 (8th Cir. 2009) (describing the five-step process).

         Steps one through three require that the claimant prove (1) she is not currently engaged in substantial gainful activity, (2) she suffers from a severe impairment, and (3) her disability meets or equals a listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(iii). If the claimant does not suffer from a listed impairment or its equivalent, the Commissioner's analysis proceeds to steps four and five. Step four requires the Commissioner to consider whether the claimant retains the residual functional capacity to perform her past relevant work (PRW). Id. at § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). The claimant bears the burden of demonstrating she is no longer able to return to her PRW. Pate-Fires, 564 F.3d at 942. If the Commissioner determines the claimant cannot return to her PRW, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show the claimant retains the residual functioning capacity to perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. Id.; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).

         In reviewing the ALJ's denial of Social Security disability benefits, my role 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, 564 F.3d at 942. “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, I must consider evidence that both supports and detracts from the Commissioner's decision. Id. As long as substantial evidence supports the decision, I may not reverse it merely because substantial evidence exists in the record that would support a contrary outcome or because I would have come to a different conclusion. See Johnson v. Astrue, 628 F.3d 991, 992 (8th Cir. 2011). I must “defer heavily to the findings and conclusions of the Social Security Administration.” Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal citation omitted).

         IV. ALJ's Decision

         In his initial decision the ALJ determined that the plaintiff was not under a disability from December 31, 2010 through July 27, 2016. Hashmat appealed the ALJ's determination. The Appeals Council remanded noting that the ALJ had incorrectly found that Hashmat's past work as a housekeeper satisfied the earnings requirement for past relevant work; incorrectly indicated that she could communicate in English; and did not ...

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