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Clancy v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

November 14, 2014

JAMES M. CLANCY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

GREG KAYS, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff James Clancy seeks judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found Plaintiff had multiple severe impairments, including chronic heart failure and obesity, but retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform work as a folding machine operator or grinder operator.

After carefully reviewing the record and the parties' arguments, the Court holds the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. The Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

Factual and Procedural Background

The medical record is summarized in the parties' briefs and is repeated here only to the extent necessary.

Plaintiff filed the pending application on June 22, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of September 1, 2010. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application at the initial claim level, and Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. On July 30, 2012, the ALJ held a hearing, and on August 22, 2012, the ALJ issued his decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on October 22, 2013, leaving the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff has exhausted all of his administrative remedies and judicial review is now appropriate under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).

Standard of Review

A federal court's review of the Commissioner of Social Security's decision to deny SSI benefits is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough evidence that a reasonable mind would find it sufficient to support the Commissioner's decision. Id. In making this assessment, the court considers evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision, as well as evidence that supports it. McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000). The court must "defer heavily" to the Commissioner's findings and conclusions. Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010). The court may reverse the Commissioner's decision only if it falls outside of the available "zone of choice, " and a decision is not outside this zone simply because the court might have decided the case differently were it the initial finder of fact. Buckner, 646 F.3d at 556.

Analysis

The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process[1] to determine whether a claimant is disabled, that is, unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

Plaintiff contends the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence and should be reversed because: (1) the ALJ failed to obtain Plaintiff's medical records, and so this case should be remanded under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)(6); (2) the ALJ improperly evaluated Plaintiff's credibility; and (3) the ALJ erred in weighing the opinion of the state agency medical consultant.[2] The Court finds no merit to these claims.

A. The additional medical records submitted by Plaintiff do not justify remand.

Plaintiff submits approximately 67 pages of additional evidence with his brief and argues that this new evidence warrants remand. See Pl.'s Br. at 15-16 (citing Doc. 9-2 through 9-12). Plaintiff alleges that SSA failed to obtain these records, and therefore the case must be remanded pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)(6). Plaintiff does not, however, provide any explanation for his failure to obtain this evidence during the administrative process.

A Plaintiff seeking remand under sentence six of § 405(g) on the basis of additional evidence must show (1) that the new evidence is material, and (2) good cause for failure to incorporate that evidence into the record before the Commissioner. Jones v. Callahan, 122 F.3d 1148, 1154 (8th Cir. 1997). To be considered material, the new evidence must be "noncumulative, relevant, and probative of the claimant's condition for the time period for which benefits were denied." Id. at 1154. The claimant bears the burden of demonstrating good cause, and "[g]ood cause does not exist when the claimant had the opportunity to obtain the new ...


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