United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
GARY A. FENNER, District Judge.
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Steven Claspille'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. # 15). Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or "Defendant"), opposes. (Doc. # 21). For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
On December 19, 2011, Plaintiff made an application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Act, alleging disability beginning February 25, 2011. (Administrative Court Transcript ("Tr.") at 11). Plaintiff's application was initially denied on March 28, 2012. (Id. ). On May 28, 2013, following a hearing, an administrative law judge (the "ALJ") found that Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined in the Act. (Id. at 11, 21).
In his decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe impairments of diabetes mellitus with resulting neuropathy and obesity. (Id. at 13). 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. at 15). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform "sedentary work" as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). (Id. ). The ALJ stated:
[Plaintiff] can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but he is unable to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. [Plaintiff] can occasionally stoop, kneel, and crouch; however, he is unable to balance or crawl. [Plaintiff] must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery. He would further need to avoid concentrated exposure to vibration, extreme heat, extreme cold, and humidity.
(Id. ). With the assistance of vocational expert testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments would not preclude him from performing work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, including work as an order clerk or addresser. (Id. at 20). Consequently, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. ).
Thereafter, the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration 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 he 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 ...