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Findley v. Colvin

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

August 18, 2016

ALICIA FINDLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANNETTE A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security’s final decision denying Alicia Findley’s application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income (SSI) under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416, 423 et seq. Findley alleged disability due to high blood pressure, bulging discs in the spine, arthritis, scoliosis, degenerative disc in her neck, depression, anxiety, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hiatal hernia, and rotator cuff tendinosis in the left shoulder. (Tr. 216.) The parties have consented to the exercise of authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Doc. 7.] The Court has reviewed the parties’ briefs and the entire administrative record, including the hearing transcripts and the medical evidence. The Court heard oral argument in this matter on August 18, 2016. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will affirm the Commissioner’s final decision.

         I. Issues for Review

         Findley presents one issue for review. She contends that the administrative law judge (ALJ) erred in determining her residual functional capacity (RFC), because the ALJ failed to address her depression separately from her anxiety, failed to find that anxiety and depression were severe impairments, and improperly evaluated the medical opinion evidence. The Commissioner contends that the RFC is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and the ALJ’s decision should be affirmed.

         II. Standard of Review

         The standard of review is narrow. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). 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). The court determines whether evidence is substantial by considering evidence that detracts from the Commissioner’s decision as well as evidence that supports it. Cox v. Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006). The Court may not reverse just because substantial evidence exists that would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. Id. If, after reviewing the record as a whole, the Court finds it possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the Commissioner’s finding, the Commissioner’s decision must be affirmed. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). To determine whether the ALJ’s final decision 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, 527 (8th Cir. ...


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