Submitted: January 11, 2018
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri - St. Louis
SMITH, Chief Judge, MELLOY and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
Courtney appeals from the district court's affirmance of the
Social Security Commissioner's decision denying her
claims for a period of disability, disability insurance
benefits, and supplemental security income. We affirm.
daily activities primarily involve caring for her children
and household. They include cooking, helping her kids get
ready for school, and picking them up at the end of the day.
She spends time with her sister, grocery shops, and manages
the household finances. Courtney suffers from degenerative
disc disease/degenerative joint disease of the spine, and has
a history of syncopal episodes. She also suffers from left
ankle degenerative osteoarthritis and has a history of bone
fractures. Courtney has also been diagnosed with
post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder,
and generalized anxiety disorder.
2011, Courtney alleged she was disabled and applied for
social security benefits. After remand from the Appeals
Council, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a
supplemental hearing. In his written opinion, proceeding
through the five-step evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4), the ALJ found at steps one through three that
Courtney had not engaged in substantial gainful activity in
the relevant period and that she has severe mental and
physical impairments. The ALJ concluded, however, that these
impairments do not meet or equal impairments listed in the
social security regulations. The ALJ then determined
Courtney's residual functional capacity (RFC). At step
four, the ALJ concluded that Courtney could no longer perform
her past relevant work but can perform light work with
appropriate limitations. At step five, the ALJ found that
Courtney can adjust to other work with jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy. He thus found
that Courtney was not "disabled" within the meaning
of the Social Security Act.
Appeals Council denied Courtney's request for review. The
ALJ's denial thus became the final agency decision and
subject to judicial review. Lott v. Colvin, 772 F.3d
546, 548 (8th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). Courtney sought
judicial review. After the district court heard oral
argument, it affirmed the ALJ's decision.
review the district court's judgment affirming the denial
of benefits de novo, and "[w]e will reverse the findings
of an agency only if they are not supported by substantial
evidence or result from an error of law." Draper v.
Colvin, 779 F.3d 556, 559 (8th Cir. 2015) (citations
omitted). In this appeal, we address whether the Commissioner
failed at step five to show that Courtney could perform jobs
in the national economy, by erroneously relying on the
vocational expert's (VE) testimony.
hearing, the ALJ asked the VE a hypothetical question about
an individual limited by factors not found in the Dictionary
of Occupational Titles (DOT) or its companion publication,
the Selected Characteristics of Occupations (SCO).
Specifically, the ALJ asked the VE to assume a hypothetical
claimant who can do the following:
[L]ift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently; can stand or walk for six hours out of eight; sit
for six; should never climb ropes, ladders and scaffolds; can
occasionally climb stairs and ramps, stoop, kneel, crouch and
crawl; should avoid even moderate exposure to unprotected
She is able to understand, remember and carry out at least
simple instructions and non-detailed tasks. She can
demonstrate adequate judgment to make simple/work-related
decisions and can respond appropriately to supervisors and
co-workers, adapt to routine/simple ...