United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE
Monica Gleason petitions for review of an adverse decision by
Defendant, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”). Plaintiff applied for
supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. The administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) found Plaintiff had multiple severe
impairments, including bipolar disorder, substance use
disorder, anemia, disorder of the left leg and ankle, and
vision impairment, but retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as a document
preparer, polisher, or pager.
explained below, the Court finds the ALJ's opinion is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
The Commissioner's decision is therefore AFFIRMED.
and Factual Background
complete facts and arguments are presented in the
parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent
filed the pending application on June 29, 2012, alleging a
disability onset date of November 1, 1998. The Commissioner
denied the application at the initial claim level, and
Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. On December 10,
2013, the ALJ held a hearing at which Plaintiff amended her
disability onset date to June 29, 2012. On January 24, 2014,
the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
on March 31, 2015, leaving the ALJ's decision as the
Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff has exhausted
all 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. Andrews v.
Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015). 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. Id. The court must “defer
heavily” to the Commissioner's findings and
conclusions. Wright v. Colvin, 789 F.3d 847, 852
(8th Cir. 2015). The court may reverse the Commissioner's
decision only if it falls outside of the available zone of
choice; a decision is not outside this zone simply because
the evidence also points to an alternate outcome. Buckner
v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011).
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. §
argues that the ALJ improperly: (1) failed to fully and
fairly develop the record, resulting in an erroneous finding
that Plaintiff did not meet Listing 12.04; and (2) weighed
the medical evidence, resulting in a flawed RFC
determination. These arguments are without merit.
The ALJ properly found that Plaintiff did not meet Listing
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to fully and fairly
develop the record, resulting in a finding that Plaintiff
failed to meet Listing 12.04. Pl.'s Br. 17 (Doc. 9). The
Commissioner contends that Plaintiff failed to meet her
burden of demonstrating that her medical impairments met or
exceeded Listing 12.04. Def.'s Br. 7-16 (Doc. 10).
Three, a plaintiff must show that her impairment or
combination of impairments meet or equal all of the specified
criteria in a listing. See Johnson v. Barnhart, 390
F.3d 1067, 1070 (8th Cir. 2004). Listing 12.04 addresses
affective disorders “[c]haracterized by a disturbance
of mood, [and] accompanied by a full or partial manic or
depressive syndrome.” 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app.
1, § 12.04. Plaintiff must meet the requirements of both
paragraphs A and B to meet Listing 12.04. The ALJ found
Plaintiff satisfied paragraph A, and only paragraph B is at
issue here. Paragraph B requires that the affective disorder
result in at least two of the following: marked restriction
of activities of daily living; ...