United States District Court, W.D. Missouri.
DOUGLAS HARPOOL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's
denial of her application for disability 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. The Court reviews the Commissioner's
final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c)(3)
procedural history, facts, and issues of this case are
contained in the record and the parties' briefs, so they
are not repeated here. The ALJ found Plaintiff suffered from
severe impairments of disorder of degenerative disc disease
of the lumbar spine, chronic diarrhea, depression, and
anxiety. After finding Plaintiff's impairments did not
meet or equal a listed impairment, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff retained the following residual functional capacity
to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a)
except she should only occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl, balance, bend, and climb ramps or stairs; she should
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she should avoid
all exposure to excessive vibration, unprotected heights, and
hazardous machinery; she should be limited to unskilled work
in a low stress job with only occasional decision making
required, only occasional changes in the work setting, and
only occasional judgments required on the job; she should
have only occasional interaction with the public, coworkers,
and supervisors; and she should have close access to a
argues on appeal that the ALJ erred in assessing
Plaintiff's RFC, including his interpretation of the
medical evidence, the applicable laws and Plaintiff's
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). Further, the
Court defers to the ALJ's determinations of the
credibility of witness testimony, as long as the ALJ's
determinations are supported by good reasons and substantial
evidence. Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 578 (8th
full and careful review of the record and briefs, the Court
finds the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial
evidence in the record as a whole.
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 physical and mental 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. Further, the Court finds
the ALJ applied the appropriate legal framework in analyzing
the record and evidence before him.
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, Plaintiff's daily
activities, and Plaintiff's work history. 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
reasons set forth herein, the Court finds there is
substantial evidence on the record as a whole to support the
ALJ's determination. Accordingly, the ...