United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Kristie Joplin seeks judicial review of the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security's (“the
Commissioner's”) denial of her 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 severe physical impairments of a fracture
of the thoracic spine post-surgery, sciatica, lumbago, and a
chronic hepatitis C infection, but she retained the residual
functional capacity to perform work as a cashier, information
clerk, and small products assembler.
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.
and Procedural Background
medical record is summarized in the parties' briefs and
is repeated here only to the extent necessary.
filed her application on January 3, 2012. The Commissioner
denied Plaintiff's application at the initial claim
level, and Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. The ALJ
held a video hearing, and on January 16, 2014, issued his
decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on March
18, 2015, leaving the ALJ's decision as the
Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff has exhausted
all of her administrative remedies and judicial review is now
appropriate under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).
federal court's review of the Commissioner'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.
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process 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. §
contends the ALJ committed reversible error by failing to:
(1) find she possessed a severe mental impairment at step
two; (2) find her disabled under Listing 5.08 for a digestive
disorder at step three; and (3) give her treating
physician's opinion controlling weight. These arguments
are without merit.
The ALJ did not err in finding Plaintiff did not suffer from
a severe mental impairment.
argues that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's finding that she does not suffer from a severe
mental impairment. The Court finds substantial evidence
supports this finding.
order to meet the step two “severity”
requirement, Plaintiff had to show she had (1) a
“medically determinable” impairment or
combination of impairments which (2) significantly limits her
physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities
without regard to age, education, or work experience, for the
required twelve-month duration. 20 C.F.R. §§
416.920(c), 416.921(a) (2013); King v. Astrue, 564
F.3d 978, 979 n.2 (8th Cir. 2009). ...