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Woodland v. Colvin

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

September 13, 2016

BENNIE WOODLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANNETTE A. BAKER 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 Bennie Woodland's application for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423 et seq. Woodland alleged disability due to acanthamoeba keratitis[1]. (Tr. 208.) 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. 8.] For the reasons set forth below, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's final decision.

         I. Background

         On December 28, 2011, Woodland applied for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability since November 2, 2011[2]. (Tr. 163-176.) The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied Woodland's claim and he filed a timely request for hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 94-105, 119-20.) The SSA granted Woodland's request for review and an administrative hearing was held on November 25, 2013. (Tr. 29-64.) Woodland, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert testified at the hearing. On December 23, 2013, the ALJ found that Woodland was not disabled as defined in the Society Security Act. (Tr. 17-24.) Woodland requested a review of the ALJ's decision from the Appeals Council. (Tr. 9.) On April 10, 2015, the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration denied Woodland's request for review. (Tr. 1-4.) The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).

         Woodland filed this appeal on June 12, 2015. [Doc 1.] The Commissioner filed an Answer and the certified Administrative Transcript on August 24, 2015. [Docs. 11, 12.] Woodland filed a Brief in Support of the Complaint on January 21, 2016. [Doc. 21.] The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer on March 23, 2016. [Doc. 24.]

         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 physicians;
(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 ...

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