United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
GARY A. FENNER, District Judge.
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Sherry Nail's ("Plaintiff") Social Security Brief, requesting this Court reverse the Administrative decision that Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined under Title II of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. (Doc. # 7). Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or "Defendant"), opposes. (Doc. # 12). For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
On October 28, 2009, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Act. (Administrative Court Transcript ("Tr.") at 256). Plaintiff alleged a disability beginning on September 25, 2009. (Id. ). Plaintiff's application was initially denied on February 4, 2010. (Id. at 74). On September 12, 2011, following a hearing, an administrative law judge (the "ALJ") found that Plaintiff was under a "disability" as defined in the Act. (Id. at 90). On August 12, 2012, the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration vacated and remanded the ALJ's decision because there was an error of law and because it was not based upon substantial evidence. (Id. at 93).
On remand, following another hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a "disability" as defined in the Act. (Id. at 117). In her decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe impairments of obesity, degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine with significant disc space narrowing, degenerative joint disease of the left knee, possible right shoulder impingement syndrome, and bursitis of the left hip. (Id. at 110). However, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id. ). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (the "RFC") to:
lift 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, stand/walk for up to 4 hours in an 8-hour workday, and sit for up to 6 hours in an 8-hour day. She will need to alternate between sitting and standing at least every 30 minutes. She can occasionally climb ramps or stairs but never climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. She can occasionally balance, stoop, and crouch, but she can never kneel or crawl. Additionally, she is unable to do any overhead reaching with the right upper extremity and she can only occasionally push and pull with the right upper
extremity. She needs to avoid exposure to extreme cold and unprotected heights. (Id. at 111-12). With the assistance of vocational expert testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments would not preclude her from performing work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, including work as a mail router, price marker, or electrical assembler. (Id. at 117). Consequently, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. ).
On March 25, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Id. at 1). Thus, the ALJ's decision stands as the "final decision" of the Commissioner, subject to judicial review on appeal herein.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
The standard of appellate review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to a determination of whether the decision is supported by "substantial evidence on the record as a whole." Finch v. Astrue, 547 F.3d 933, 935 (8th Cir. 2008). "Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support a decision.'" Juszczyk v. Astrue, 542 F.3d 626, 631 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007)). Evidence that both supports and detracts from the Commissioner's decision should be considered, and an administrative decision is not subject to reversal simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion. See Finch, 547 F.3d at 935.
A reviewing court should disturb an ALJ's decision only if it falls outside the available "zone of choice, " and a decision is not outside that zone of choice simply because the court may have reached a different conclusion had the court been the fact finder in the first instance. Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011); see McNamara v. Astrue, 590 F.3d 607, 610 (8th Cir. 2010) (if substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision, the court "may not reverse, even if inconsistent conclusions may be drawn from the evidence, and [the court] may have reached a different outcome"). The Eighth Circuit has repeatedly held that a court should "defer heavily to the findings and conclusions of the Social Security Administration." Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010); Howard v. Massanari, 255 F.3d 577, 581 (8th Cir. 2001).
To establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff must show that she is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than ...