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Irwin v. Berryhill

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

August 30, 2017

RAY EDWARD IRWIN, II, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE

         This action seeks judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security's (“the Commissioner”) decision denying Plaintiff Ray Irwin's application for Social Security disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff had severe impairments of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), but retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform past work as a car porter, or alternately, to work as an industrial cleaner, order filler, and machine finisher.

         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 his application for disability insurance benefits on March 5, 2015, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2010. The Commissioner denied the application at the initial claim level, and Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. An ALJ held a hearing and on February 3, 2016, ruled that Plaintiff was not disabled.

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on March 24, 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. § 405(g).

         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 makes three arguments. He contends the ALJ erred at Step Four because he: (1) failed to weigh a doctor's medical opinion and (2) erred in finding he could perform past relevant work. He also argues the ALJ erred at Step Five in finding that (3) he could work as an industrial cleaner, order filler, or machine finisher.

         These arguments are unavailing.

         A. The ALJ considered Dr. ...


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