United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division
JACK A. MURPHY, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
WILLIAMS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jack A. Murphy (“claimant”) seeks judicial review
of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(the “Commissioner”) denying his application for
disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34
(the “Act”), and for supplemental security income
under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-83f of the Act.
Claimant contends that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred in determining that claimant was
not disabled. For the following reasons, the Court
affirms the Commissioner's decision.
4, 2015, claimant filed an application for disability and
disability benefits and an application for supplemental
security income, alleging an onset date of October 12, 2012.
(Doc. 11, at 2; AR 13). On August 26, 2015, the Social Security
Administration denied claimant's application and on
December 3, 2015, affirmed the denial on reconsideration. (AR
141-44, 149-57). On December 17, 2015, claimant requested a
hearing before an ALJ. (AR 13). On August 7, 2017, ALJ Robert
Kelly held a hearing on claimant's application.
(Id.). On October 19, 2017, the ALJ denied
claimant's application. (AR 13-22). On April 20, 2018,
the Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's decision. (AR 1-6).
21, 2018, claimant filed his complaint in this Court. (Doc.
4). Between December 2018 and February 2019, the parties
filed briefs on the merits of the case. (Docs. 12-14). On
February 11, 2019, the Court deemed this case fully submitted
and ready for decision. (Doc. 15). On the same day, the Court
referred the case to a United States Magistrate Judge for a
Report and Recommendation. On July 10, 2019, the Court
un-referred the case.
DISABILITY DETERMINATIONS AND BURDEN OF PROOF
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 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual has a disability when, due to
his physical or mental impairments, “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 in significant numbers either in the region where
such individual lives or in several regions of the
country.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(B). If the claimant is able to do work which
exists in the national economy but is unemployed because of
inability to get work, lack of opportunities in the local
area, economic conditions, employer hiring practices, or
other factors, the ALJ will find the claimant not disabled.
determine whether a claimant has a disability within the
meaning of the Act, the Commissioner follows the five-step
sequential evaluation process outlined in the regulations.
Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707-08 (8th Cir.
2007). First, the Commissioner will consider a claimant's
work activity. If the claimant is engaged in substantial
gainful activity, then the claimant is not disabled. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) and 416.920(a)(4)(i).
“Substantial” work activity involves significant
physical or mental activities. Id. §
416.972(a). “Gainful” activity is work done for
pay or profit, even if the claimant did not ultimately
receive pay or profit. Id. § 416.972(b).
if the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful
activity, then the Commissioner looks to the severity of the
claimant's physical and mental impairments. Id.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the impairments are not severe,
then the claimant is not disabled. Id. An impairment
is not severe if it does “not significantly limit [a]
claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” Kirby, 500 F.3d at 707 (citations
ability to do basic work activities means the ability and
aptitude necessary to perform most jobs. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 141 (1987). These include: (1)
physical functions such as walking, standing, sitting,
lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying, or handling;
(2) capacities for seeing, hearing, and speaking; (3)
understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple
instructions; (4) use of judgment; (5) responding
appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and usual work
situations; and (6) dealing with changes in a routine work
setting. Id. See also 20 C.F.R. §§
if the claimant has a severe impairment, then the
Commissioner will determine the medical severity of the
impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the
impairment meets or equals one of the presumptively disabling
impairments listed in the regulations, then the claimant is
considered disabled regardless of age, education, and work
experience. Kelley v. Callahan, 133 F.3d 583, 588
(8th Cir. 1998).
if the claimant's impairment is severe, but it does not
meet or equal one of the presumptively disabling impairments,
then the Commissioner will assess the claimant's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) and the demands of
his past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv).
If the claimant can still do his past relevant work, then he
is not disabled. Id. Past relevant work is any work
the claimant performed within the fifteen years before the
application that was substantial gainful activity and lasted
long enough for the claimant to learn how to do it.
Id. § 416.960(b)(1). “RFC is a medical
question defined wholly in terms of the claimant's
physical ability to perform exertional tasks or, in other
words, what the claimant can still do despite [ ] her
physical or mental limitations.” Lewis v.
Barnhart, 353 F.3d 642, 646 (8th Cir. 2003) (citations
and internal quotation marks omitted). The RFC is based on
all relevant medical and other evidence. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(3) (“We will assess your
residual functional capacity based on all of the relevant
medical and other evidence.”). The claimant is
responsible for providing the evidence the Commissioner will
use to determine his RFC, but the Commissioner is responsible
for developing the record. Eichelberger v. Barnhart,
390 F.3d 584, 592 (8th Cir. 2004); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(3). If a claimant retains enough RFC to perform
past relevant work, then the claimant is not disabled.
Eichelberger, 390 F.3d at 591.
if the claimant's RFC as determined in Step Four will not
allow the claimant to perform past relevant work, then the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show there is other work
the claimant can do, given the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience. Id.; see
also 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). The Commissioner
must show not only that the claimant's RFC will allow him
to make the adjustment to other work, but also that other
work exists in significant numbers in the national economy.
Eichelberger, 390 F.3d at 591; see also 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can make the
adjustment, then the Commissioner will find the claimant not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). At Step Five,
the Commissioner has the responsibility of developing the
claimant's medical history before determining the
existence of a disability. Although the ALJ has the duty to
develop the factual record, the burden of persuasion to prove
disability and demonstrate RFC remains on the claimant.
Eichelberger, 390 F.3d at 592.
THE ALJ'S FINDINGS
made the following findings at each step:
One, the ALJ found that claimant had not engaged in
substantial gainful ...