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Boston-Sisney v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

June 2, 2017

CARMEN BOSTON-SISNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Carmen Boston-Sisney (“Plaintiff”) 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 Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff had severe impairments of mild degenerative disc disease, mild peripheral neuropathy, depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and a cognitive disorder, but retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as a cafeteria attendant, garment sorter, and folding machine operator.

         After carefully reviewing the record and the parties' arguments, the Court finds the ALJ's opinion is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. The Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

         Procedural and Factual Background

         The complete facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         Plaintiff filed her application on April 23, 2013, initially alleging a disability onset date of December 31, 2007, later amended to April 23, 2013. The Commissioner denied the application at the initial claim level, and Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. The ALJ held a hearing, and on April 10, 2015, issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 25, 2016, 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).

         Standard of Review

         A federal court's review of the Commissioner's decision to deny disability benefits is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Chaney v. Colvin, 812 F.3d 672, 676 (8th Cir. 2016). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but is 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).

         Discussion

         The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process[1] 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. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred by: (1) not supporting his finding that Plaintiff did not meet Listing 12.05C; and (2) discounting Plaintiff's credibility.

         I. The record as a whole supports a finding that Plaintiff does not meet Listing 12.05C.

         First, Plaintiff argues remand is required because the ALJ did not support his finding that Plaintiff did not meet Listing 12.05C with substantial evidence because the ALJ discounted the validity of Plaintiff's IQ score and considered her work history.

         At Step Three, the Plaintiff must show 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). Under Listing 12.05, a claimant must meet both the capsule definition of the listing and at least one of the four severity prongs. See Maresh v. Barnhart, 438 F.3d 897, 899 (8th Cir. 2006). Listing 12.05 requires a threshold showing that the claimant suffers from “significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive functioning initially manifested during the developmental period [i.e., before the age of twenty-two].” 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, § 12.05. Then, the claimant must show she has met the requirements of one of the severity prongs. Prong C ...


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