United States District Court, W.D. Missouri.
RACHEL N. WILSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.
DOUGLAS HARPOOL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's
denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act
(“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 et
seq., and Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401 et seq. Plaintiff has exhausted her
administrative remedies and the matter is now ripe for
judicial review. After carefully reviewing the files and
records, the Court finds the decision of the Commissioner is
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole
and the decision is therefore AFFIRMED.
procedural history, facts, and issues of this case are
contained in the record and the parties' briefs, so they
are not repeated here. Plaintiff alleges she became disabled
at the age of 22 and alleges disability based on bipolar
disorder, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, a learning
disability, attention-deficit disorder, and a thyroid
problem. The ALJ found Plaintiff has severe impairments of
anxiety, bipolar disorder, learning disability and attention
deficit disorder. However, the ALJ found Plaintiff does not
have a severe impairment that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments. The ALJ determined
Plaintiff has the following RFC:
to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: she is limited
to the performance of simple, unskilled work tasks requiring
very limited reading and writing, and with no contact with
the general public and only occasional contact with
co-workers and supervisors.
on this RFC, the ALJ further determined Plaintiff could
perform work in an unskilled occupation such as laundry
worker, industrial cleaner, and hospital cleaner.
alleges the ALJ erred in assessing Plaintiff's
credibility; evaluating the medical opinions and other
evidence; and in formulating Plaintiff's RFC.
review of the Commissioner's decision is a limited
inquiry into whether substantial evidence supports the
findings of the Commissioner and whether the correct legal
standards were applied. See 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g), 1383(c)(1)(B)(ii)(3). Substantial evidence is less
than a preponderance of the evidence and requires enough
evidence to allow a reasonable person to find adequate
support for the Commissioner's conclusion. Richardson
v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Freeman v.
Apfel, 208 F.3d 687, 690 (8th Cir. 2000). This standard
requires a court to consider both the evidence that supports
the Commissioner's decision and the evidence that
detracts from it. Finch v. Astrue, 547 F.3d 933, 935
(8th Cir. 2008). That the reviewing court would come to a
different conclusion is not a sufficient basis for reversal.
Wiese v. Astrue, 552 F.3d 728, 730 (8th Cir. 2009).
Rather, “[i]f, after review, we find it possible to
draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of
those positions represents the Commissioner's findings,
we must affirm the denial of benefits.” Id.
(quoting Mapes v. Chater, 82 F.3d 259, 262 (8th Cir.
1996)). Courts “defer heavily to the findings and
conclusions of the Social Security Administration” and
will disturb the Commissioner's decision only if it falls
outside the “zone of choice.” Hurd v.
Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010); Casey v.
Astrue, 503 F.3d 687, 691 (8th Cir. 2007).
argues the ALJ committed the following errors: 1) failed to
properly evaluate the opinions of record; 2) the RFC is
unsupported by substantial evidence of the record as a whole;
and 3) erred in assessing Plaintiff's credibility.
the Court has thoroughly reviewed the administrative record
before the Court, including the medical records, hearing
testimony, and the ALJ's opinion. The Court finds that
the ALJ's determination is supported by substantial
evidence in the record as a whole and was within the
available “zone of choice.” The ALJ provided a
lengthy analysis of the medical opinion evidence and properly
addressed Plaintiff's mental and other limitations, in
light of the medical records, work history and hearing
testimony. The Court gives great deference to the ALJ's
determination as it falls within an acceptable “zone of
choice” of the finder of fact.
the Court will not disturb the ALJ's credibility
determination. In finding Plaintiff's allegations not
completely credible, the ALJ considered such things as
Plaintiff's reported limitations, the objective medical
evidence and medical opinions and Plaintiff's daily
activities. The Court noted Plaintiff's treatment notes
indicate that Plaintiff was overall stable and doing great.
Further, Plaintiff was able to do well despite a conservative
treatment plan. The record further reflects that her treating
physician believed Plaintiff was able to care for herself,
despite still living with her parents, and was doing some
babysitting. The Court finds the ALJ recognized the
appropriate analytic framework, considered the appropriate
factors, and gave good reasons for discrediting the
claimant's testimony. See generally Tucker v.
Barnhart, 363 F.3d 781, 783 (8th Cir. 2004) (“The
ALJ is not required to discuss each Polaski factor
as long as the analytical framework is recognized and
considered.”). Accordingly, the Court will defer to the
ALJ's judgment. See Whitman v. Colvin, 762 F.3d
701, 707 (8th Cir. 2014) (“Questions of credibility are
for the ALJ in the first instance” and “[i]f an
ALJ explicitly discredits a claimant's testimony and
gives a good reason for doing so, we will normally defer to
Plaintiff alleges the ALJ had a “factual
misunderstanding of the record as a whole” because the
ALJ stated: “However, she did not indicate she received
any special education services.” However, the paragraph
in the ALJ's determination that contains this statement
begins with “claimant testified.” The Court
interprets the ALJ's comment in this specific paragraph
to mean Plaintiff did not testify at the hearing about
specifically receiving special education services. The
transcript reflects that Plaintiff testified she took
“LD” classes at Lewis & Clark during the
summer, but there is no elaboration of what her classes were
during that time. Regardless, the Court finds if the ALJ did
in fact err in his reference to Plaintiff's history of
special education classes, which this Court does not believe
occurred, such “error” did not alter the
ALJ's determination based on substantial evidence in the
record as a whole. See Byes v. Astrue, 687 F.3d 913,
917 (8th Cir. 2012) (To show an error was not harmless,
plaintiff must prove the ALJ would have made a different
determination if the error had not occurred.); citing,
Van Vickle v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 825, 830 (8th Cir.