United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Northern Division
CHARNELL S. BROWN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY; Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. KORNMANN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brought this action pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial
review of defendant's final decision denying plaintiffs
claim for disability insurance benefits. I have conducted a
de novo review of the record. I find that the
Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole.
individual is considered to be disabled if, inter
alia, she is unable "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 12 months." 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). Accord, Bernard v. Colvin, 744
F.3d 482, 486 (8th Cir. 2014). An individual shall be
determined to be disabled "only if [their] physical or
mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that
[they are] not only unable to do [their] previous work but
cannot, considering [their] age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy." 42 U.S.C.
be eligible for disability insurance benefits, a claimant has
the burden of establishing the existence of a disability
under the Act." Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d
1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). Judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision that claimant has failed to
establish by a preponderance of the evidence that he is
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act is
limited to determining whether the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record
as a whole. Kamann v. Colvin, 721 F.3d 945, 950 (8th
Cir. 2013). "Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind might find
it adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusions." Draper v. Colvin, 779 F.3d 556,
(8th Cir. 2015) (internal quotations omitted) (quoting
Travis v. Astrue, 477 F.3d 1037, 1040 (8th Cir. 2007)).
"We consider both evidence that detracts from the
ALJ's decision, as well as evidence that supports it, but
we will not reverse simply because some evidence supports a
conclusion other than that reached by the ALJ."
McDade v. Astrue, 720 F.3d 994, 998 (8th Cir. 2013)
(internal citations omitted). "If, after reviewing the
record, the court finds it is possible to draw two
inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those
positions represents the [ALJ's] findings, the court must
affirm the [ALJ's] decision." Pear sail v.
Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001).
used the familiar five-step sequential evaluation to
In step one, the ALJ decides whether the claimant is
currently engaging in substantial gainful activity; if the
claimant is working, he is not eligible for disability
insurance benefits. In step two, the ALJ determines whether
the claimant is suffering from a severe impairment. If the
claimant is not suffering a severe impairment, he is not
eligible for disability insurance benefits. At the third
step, the ALJ evaluates whether the claimant's impairment
meets or equals one of the impairments listed in Appendix 1
of the regulations (the "listings"). If the
claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the listed
impairments, he is entitled to benefits; if not, the ALJ
proceeds to step four. At step four, the ALJ determines
whether the claimant retains the "residual functional
capacity" (RFC) to perform his or her past relevant
work. If the claimant remains able to perform that past
relevant work, he is not entitled to disability insurance
benefits. If he is not capable of performing past relevant
work, the ALJ proceeds to step five and considers whether
there exist work opportunities in the national economy that
the claimant can perform given his or her medical
impairments, age, education, past work experience, and RFC.
If the Commissioner demonstrates that such work exists, the
claimant is not entitled to disability insurance benefits.
McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir. 2011)
(internal C.F.R. citations omitted).
determined at step one that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since February 16, 2012,
although he acknowledged that she attempted to work until
two, the ALJ determined that plaintiffs cervical and lumbar
disc disease, thyroid disorder and history of migraine
headaches represent severe impairments that more than
minimally interfere with her ability to engage in basic work
activities. The ALJ rejected any contention that plaintiffs
lupus-like symptoms, claimed peripheral neuropathy, bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome, and depression or anxiety represent
three, the ALJ determined that plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals a listed impairment.
to step four, the ALJ must assess the claimant's residual
functioning capacity ("RFC"), which is the most a
claimant can do despite her limitations." Moore v.
Astrue, 572 F.3d 520, 523 (8th Cir. 2009).
At this stage, the ALJ must determine the claimant's
residual functional capacity (RFC), that is, what she can
still do physically even with her impairments, and also the
claimant's age, education, and relevant work
experience-the latter three findings being referred to as
vocational factors, as opposed to RFC, which is a medical
Jones v. Astrue, 619 F.3d 963, 971 (8th Cir. 2010).
determined that plaintiff has the residual functional
capacity to perform light work with some restrictions.
Although the medical records showed she has medically
determinable impairments, the ALJ rejected plaintiffs claimed
intensity, persistence, and the limiting effects of her
symptoms. He opined that her inconsistent reports of pain
were patently out of proportion to the objective findings and
were therefore not credible. He opined that "the record
is fundamentally devoid of objective findings supportive of