United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff Russell Stamper's appeal of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and
Supplemental Security Income under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act (“Act”). After careful
review, the Commissioner's decision will be AFFIRMED.
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
limited to determining if the decision “complies with
the relevant legal requirements and is supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole.”
Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922, 929 (8th Cir.
2010) (quoting Ford v. Astrue, 518 F.3d 979, 981
(8th Cir. 2008)); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
“Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of
the evidence, but is ‘such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind would find adequate to support the
[Commissioner's] conclusion.'” Grable v.
Colvin, 770 F.3d 1196, 1201 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)).
In determining whether existing evidence is substantial, the
Court takes into account evidence that both supports and
detracts from the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) findings. Cline v. Colvin, 771
F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th Cir. 2014) (quotation marks omitted).
“If the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, [the Court] may not reverse even if substantial
evidence would support the opposite outcome or [the Court]
would have decided differently.” Smith v.
Colvin, 756 F.3d 621, 625 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Davis, 239 F.3d at 966). The Court does not re-weigh
the evidence presented to the ALJ. Guilliams v.
Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing
Baldwin v. Barnhart, 349 F.3d 549, 555 (8th Cir.
2003)). The Court should “defer heavily to the findings
and conclusions of the [Commissioner].” Hurd v.
Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation
of overview, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from
the following severe impairments: obesity; chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”);
hypertension; obstructive sleep apnea; and degenerative joint
disease (“DJD”) of the knees. The ALJ also
determined that Plaintiff's bipolar disorder and
depression were non-severe impairments. The ALJ then found
that none of Plaintiff's impairments, whether considered
alone or in combination, meet or medically equals the
criteria of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Considering Plaintiff's
impairments, the ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
medium work, but with additional limitations that reduce the
capacity for medium work. Based on this RFC, the ALJ found
Plaintiff capable of performing past relevant work as a
supervisor and contractor, as actually performed. Therefore,
Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act from January
1, 2009, through the date of the ALJ's decision.
appeal, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred by (1) failing to
properly consider whether Plaintiff could return to his past
work at step four, and (2) failing to properly evaluate
Plaintiff's mental impairments at step two.
the first argument, where a composite job is involved,
“[s]uch situations will be evaluated according to the
particular facts of each individual case, ” and, in
such instances, the services of a vocational expert may be
necessary. S.S.R. 82-61. Here, the vocational expert
testified that Plaintiff could perform past work as a
supervisor and contractor and that she was aware those jobs
as performed were composite jobs which also involved
bricklaying duties. (Tr. 28, 58-65, 74.) Furthermore,
Plaintiff himself reported those bricklaying duties were
performed at the light exertional level. (Tr. 191-97.) Thus,
contrary to Plaintiff's argument, the ALJ did not err in
finding that Plaintiff could perform past relevant work as a
supervisor and contractor, as actually performed, at step
Plaintiff's second argument, if an ALJ finds that a
claimant's limitations in the first three categories of
mental functioning are “none” or
“mild” and the claimant has had no episodes of
decompensation of extended duration, the ALJ will generally
find that the mental impairment is not severe. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520a(d)(1) and 416.920a(d)(1).
Here, the ALJ noted that the record indicated that Plaintiff
had been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, and a
history of polysubstance abuse. (Tr. 19, 257-60, 353-61,
363-65, 369-71, 377-80.) Despite these diagnoses, however,
the ALJ observed that the objective medical evidence and
Plaintiff's limited mental health treatment did not
reflect a significant loss of abstraction or intellectual
ability, or an inability to learn new information, remember
information, interact with verbal and nonverbal
communication, control his movements, or control his
behavior. (Tr. 20.) Consistent with the ALJ's findings
that Plaintiff had only mild limitations in activities of
daily living, social functioning, and maintaining
concentration, persistence, and pace, along with no episodes
of decompensation, was the opinion of Stephen Scher, Ph.D.,
the State agency psychological consultant who reviewed
Plaintiff's file and concluded that the record failed to
show that he suffered from a severe mental impairment. (Tr.
20-21, 79-81, 92.) Accordingly, the Court finds no error by
the ALJ in evaluating Plaintiff's mental impairments at
carefully reviewed the record and the parties'
submissions, for the reasons set forth above, as well as in
the Commissioner's brief, the Court concludes that