United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Northern Division
KATHY L. KOECK, 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 she 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) (quotins
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 [ALJs] decision." Pearsall 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 August 31, 2011.
two, the ALJ determined that plaintiffs Reynaud's
syndrome, fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, major
depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder represent severe
impairments that more than minimally interfere with her
ability to engage in basic work activities. The ALJ rejected
any contention that plaintiffs hypothyroidism, diabetes,
anemia, or fatigue represent severe impairments.
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). The ALJ must
also determine "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 factor." Jones v. Astrue, 619 F.3d
963, 971 (8th Cir. 2010).
determined that plaintiff has the residual functional
capacity to perform a full range of light work. Specifically,
the ALJ determined that plaintiff can lift and carry 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, can sit a total
of 6 hours, as well as stand and walk a combined 6 hours in
an 8-hour day, has no limits reaching and can frequently
"handle and finger, " the latter finding being not
well defined. He determined that she had no postural, visual,
or communicative limitations but must avoid exposure to
extreme cold temperatures, unprotected heights, and fast and
dangerous machinery. She was found to be limited to work
involving only brief and superficial contact with others
while performing simple, routine and repetitive tasks. There
is no indication in the record where he got those
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 the medical evidence of degenerative disc disease
does not support that such impairments are as severe as
alleged by the plaintiff. He reviewed some of her treatment
records and determined that her fibromyalgia and
Reynaud's limitations were consistent with the residual
functional capacity set forth above. The ALJ reviewed some of
plaintiff s mental health records and determined that they
did not support her allegations of disabling symptoms.
four, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was unable to perform
her past relevant work as a cashier, data entry clerk,
general clerk, or still photographer. Since the ALJ
determined that plaintiff could not return to her past
relevant work, the burden shifted to the Commissioner to show
that plaintiff retains the residual functional capacity to
perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy. Moore v. Astrue, 572 F.3d at 523.
The ALJ determined at step five that plaintiff has the
residual functional capacity to perform light work ...