United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN R. CLARK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Angela Polk's
request for judicial review, under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
denying Polk's applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq.
and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. The Court
affirms the Commissioner's decision.
filed her applications for SSI and DIB on February 9, 2016,
and November 8, 2016, respectively. Tr. 15, 217-18. Polk
previously filed for disability benefits and an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her
applications in a decision dated October 18, 2013. Tr. 15,
112-122. Her applications at issue in this case were
initially denied on March 24, 2016. Tr. 15, 138-142. Polk
asked for a hearing before an ALJ on March 30, 2016, and a
hearing was held on January 9, 2018. Tr. 15, 44-69, 145-46.
The ALJ denied Polk's applications in a decision dated
April 5, 2018. Tr. 15-38. On August 31, 2018, the Appeals
Council denied Polk's request for review. Tr. 1-3. As
such, the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of
DECISION OF THE ALJ
determined that Polk meets the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through September 30, 2015, and that
Polk has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
October 19, 2013, the alleged onset date. Tr. 18. The ALJ
found Polk has severe impairments of type II diabetes
mellitus with neuropathy, major depressive disorder,
generalized anxiety disorder, and personality disorder. The
ALJ found 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.
19, 23. After considering the entire record, the ALJ
determined Polk has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform medium work with the following
limitations. Tr. 27. She can lift 50 pounds occasionally and
25 pounds frequently. Id. She can stand and/or walk
for about six hours in an eight-hour workday. Id.
She can sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday.
Id. She must avoid climbing ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds and she should avoid ambulating on uneven terrain
such as open fields or construction sites. Id. She
should avoid working at unprotected heights or around
unprotected dangerous machinery. Id. She is limited
to simple and/or repetitive work that does not require close
interaction with the public. Id. She must avoid jobs
requiring close interaction with coworkers where close
interaction with coworkers means collaborating with coworkers
to determine work duties, processes, locations, tools, and
similar factors. Id. The ALJ found Polk has no past
relevant work but that jobs exist in significant numbers in
the national economy that Polk can perform including
packer-wrapper, laundry worker, garment sorter, apparel stock
checker, assembler, and document preparer/scanner. Tr. 36-37.
Thus, the ALJ concluded that a finding of “not
disabled” was appropriate. Tr. 37. Polk appeals,
arguing a lack of substantial evidence to support the
disability is defined as the 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 which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). A
claimant has a disability “only if his physical or
mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he
is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot,
considering his age, education, and work experience, engage
in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in
the national economy[.]” Id. at §
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential process when
evaluating whether the claimant has a disability. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(1). First, the Commissioner considers the
claimant's work activity. If the claimant is engaged in
substantial gainful activity, the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i).
if the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful
activity, the Commissioner looks to see whether “the
claimant has a severe impairment [that] significantly limits
[the] claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic
work activities.” Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d
734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010); see also 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(ii). “An impairment is not severe if it
amounts only to a slight abnormality that would not
significantly limit the claimant's physical or mental
ability to do basic work activities.” Kirby v.
Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007); see
also 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(c), 416.920a(d).
if the claimant has a severe impairment, the Commissioner
considers the impairment's medical severity. If the
impairment meets or equals one of the presumptively disabling
impairments listed in the regulations, the claimant is
considered disabled, regardless of age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d).
if the claimant's impairment is severe, but it does not
meet or equal one of the presumptively disabling impairments,
the Commissioner assesses whether the claimant retains the
“residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”) to perform his or her past relevant work.
20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(iv), 416.945(a)(5)(i).
An RFC is “defined as the most a claimant can still do
despite his or her physical or mental limitations.”
Martise v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 909, 923 (8th Cir.
2011); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(1).
While an RFC must be based “on all relevant evidence,
including the medical records, observations of treating
physicians and others, and an individual's own
description of his limitations, ” an RFC is nonetheless
an “administrative assessment”-not a medical
assessment-and therefore “it is the responsibility of
the ALJ, not a physician, to determine a claimant's
RFC.” Boyd v. Colvin, 831F.3d 1015, 1020 (8th
Cir. 2016). Thus, “there is no requirement that an RFC
finding be supported by a specific medical opinion.”
Hensley v. Colvin, 829 F.3d 926, 932 (8th Cir.
2016). Ultimately, the claimant is responsible for
providing evidence relating to his RFC and the
Commissioner is responsible for developing the
claimant's “complete medical history, including
arranging for a consultative examination(s) if necessary, and
making every reasonable effort to help [the claimant] get
medical reports from [the claimant's] own medical
sources.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(3) (emphasis
added). If, upon the findings of the ALJ, it is determined
the claimant retains the RFC to perform past relevant work,
he or she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
if the claimant's RFC does not allow the claimant to
perform past relevant work, the burden of production to show
the claimant maintains the RFC to perform work that exists in
significant numbers in the national economy shifts to the
Commissioner. See Brock v. Astrue, 574 F.3d 1062,
1064 (8th Cir. 2012); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). If
the claimant can make an adjustment to other work that exists
in significant numbers in the national economy, the
Commissioner finds the claimant not disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant cannot make an
adjustment to other work, the Commissioner finds the claimant
disabled. Id. At Step Five, even though the
burden of production shifts to the Commissioner, the
burden of persuasion to prove disability remains on
the claimant. Hensley, 829 F.3d at 932.
substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the
Commissioner's decision, the Court must affirm the
decision. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g); 1383(c)(3).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct.
1148, 1154 (2019). “[T]he threshold for such
evidentiary sufficiency is not high.” Id.
Under this test, the court “consider[s] all evidence in
the record, whether it supports or detracts from the
ALJ's decision.” Reece v. Colvin, 834 F.3d
904, 908 (8th Cir. 2016). The Court “do[es] not reweigh
the evidence presented to the ALJ” and will
“defer to the ALJ's determinations regarding the
credibility of testimony, as long as those determinations are
supported by good reasons and substantial evidence.”
Id. The ALJ will not be “reverse[d] ...