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Buckner v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 13, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


NANNETTE A. BAKER, Magistrate Judge.

This is an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of Commissioner's final decision denying Christopher L. Buckner's ("Buckner") application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Buckner alleges disability due to learning disability and asthma. (Tr. 268.) The parties consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). [Doc. 9.] Based on the following, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's decision.

I. Background

Buckner received SSI benefits as a child, beginning on May 21, 1996. (Tr. 54.) In accordance with social security regulations, Buckner's eligibility was re-determined under the social security rules for new adult claimants. 20 C.F.R. § 416.987. On July 30, 2010, the Social Security Administration ("SSA") determined Buckner was no longer disabled as of that date and ceased his SSI benefits. (Tr. 60-64.) Buckner filed an appeal before a hearing officer and a hearing was held on October 26, 2010. (Tr. 78.) Bucker's appeal was denied. (Tr. 78-89.) The SSA granted Buckner's timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. ("ALJ"). (Tr. 90-96.) An administrative hearing was held on May 22, 2012. (Tr. 33-53.) Buckner and Vocational Expert ("VE") Dale Thomas testified at the hearing. Id. The ALJ issued a written decision affirming the denial of benefits on July 26, 2012. (Tr. 11-26.) Buckner requested a review of the ALJ's decision from the Appeals Council. (Tr. 5.) On October 10, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Buckner's request for review. (Tr. 1-3.) The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).

Buckner filed this appeal on December 4, 2013. [Doc. 1.] The Commissioner filed an Answer and Administrative Transcript on February 13, 2014. [Docs. 14, 15.] Buckner filed a Brief in Support of his Complaint on April 21, 2014. [Doc. 20.] The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer on July 11, 2014. [Doc. 25.]

II. Standard of Review

The Social Security Act defines disability as an "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 has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1)(A).

The SSA uses a five-step evaluation process to determine whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(1). "If a claimant fails to meet the criteria at any step in the evaluation of disability, the process ends and the claimant is determined to be not disabled." Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 590-91 (8th Cir. 2004). First, the claimant must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). Second, the claimant must establish that he or she has an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limits his or her ability to perform basic work activities and meets the durational requirement of a continuous period of disability for 12 months. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(ii). Third, the SSA determines whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in the appendix to the applicable regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(iii). Fourth, the claimant must establish that the impairment prevents him or her from doing past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish that the claimant maintains the residual functional capacity to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. Singh v. Apfel, F.3d 448, 451 (8th Cir. 2000). If the claimant satisfies all of the criteria under the five-step evaluation, the ALJ will find the claimant to be disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).

This court reviews decisions of the ALJ to determine whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find adequate support for the ALJ's decision. Smith v. Shalala, 31 F.3d 715, 717 (8th Cir. 1994). Therefore, even if this Court finds that there is a preponderance of evidence against the weight of the ALJ's decision, this Court will affirm the decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. Clark v. Heckler, 733 F.2d 65, 68 (8th Cir. 1984). An administrative decision is not subject to reversal simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion. Gwathney v. Chater, 1043, 1045 (8th Cir. 1997).

To determine whether the ALJ's final deccision is supported by substantial evidence, the Court is required to review the administrative record as a whole to consider:

(1) The findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the claimant;
(3) The medical evidence given by the claimant's treating physician;
(4) The subjective complaints of pain and description of the claimant's physical activity and impairment;
(5) The corroboration by third parties of the claimant's physical impairment;
(6) The testimony of vocational experts based upon prior hypothetical questions which fairly set forth the claimant's physical impairment; and
(7) The testimony of consulting physicians.

Brand v. Sec'y of Dept. of Health, Educ. & Welfare, 623 F.2d 523, ...

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