United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE
Annie Jo Emery seeks judicial review of the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security's (“the
Commissioner's”) denial of her application for
Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. The
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff
had severe impairments of degenerative disk disease,
depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, but
she retained the residual functional capacity to perform
light work with restrictions as a collator operator,
electrical assembler, and price maker.
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 June 11, 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 November 27, 2013, issued her
decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on March 8,
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 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: (1) failing
to determine the effects of purportedly living in a highly
structured setting upon Plaintiff's activities of daily
living; and (2) giving more weight to the opinion of the
consultative psychologist than to the opinions of her
counselors or primary care physician. These arguments are
Plaintiff did not live in a “highly structured setting,
” thus the ALJ properly considered her activities of
found that Plaintiff did not meet Listing 12.06 for a disabling
anxiety disorder because the medical evidence and her
activities of daily living showed her symptoms were not
sufficiently severe. R. at 12. Plaintiff contends the ALJ
erred in considering her activities of daily living because
she lived in a highly structured, supportive setting, thus
her activities of daily living did not accurately depict her
ability to function independently in a workplace. Plaintiff
contends that given the level of structure and support in her
home situation, the ALJ should have focused on her ability to
function outside of her home.
argument is unavailing, however, because Plaintiff did not
live in a “highly structured and supportive
setting” as envisioned by the ...