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Martin v. Berryhill

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

August 28, 2017

SHELBY MARTIN, 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 Shelby Martin (“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 the severe impairments of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, but retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as a dishwasher, linen room attendant, and mail clerk.

         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 March 4, 2014, initially alleging a disability onset date of October 19, 2011. Plaintiff later amended her onset date to March 4, 2014. 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 May 29, 2015, issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on July 13, 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

         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).

         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. 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.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to support the RFC with substantial evidence; (2) improperly discounting Plaintiff's credibility; and (3) failing to sustain his burden at step five. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, the Court finds these arguments are without merit.

         I. The RFC is supported by substantial evidence.

         First, Plaintiff argues the RFC is not supported by substantial evidence. She cites three errors: (1) limiting her to “simple routine work” does not fully account for Plaintiff's limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace; (2) the ALJ improperly weighed the medical opinion evidence on the record; and (3) the ALJ improperly weighed third-party statements.

         A. The ALJ properly accounted for Plaintiff's ...


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