United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
SUSAN D. PIERCE, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff Susan D. Pierce
(“Plaintiff”)'s appeal seeking judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying her disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The
decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision to deny
disability benefits 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).
of overview, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from
the following severe impairments: disorder of the cervical
spine, attention deficit disorder, learning disability not
otherwise specified, major depressive disorder, bipolar mood
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder with
agoraphobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, borderline
personality disorder, alcohol dependence, and Xanax
dependence. The ALJ also acknowledged that Plaintiff has been
diagnosed with impairments that are not severe and three
rule-out mental health diagnoses. However, the ALJ found that
none of Plaintiff's impairments, whether considered alone
or in combination, met or medically equaled the criteria of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpt.
P, App. 1 (“Listing”). Despite Plaintiff's
limitations, the ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
light work with several exceptions and limitations. Based on
Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ found Plaintiff was capable of
performing her past relevant work as a cleaner/housekeeper.
Alternatively, the ALJ found that there are other jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff can perform. Therefore, the ALJ found Plaintiff was
not disabled as defined in the Act from March 26, 2013
through the date of the ALJ's decision.
appeal, Plaintiff alleges errors related to whether the ALJ:
(1) properly found Plaintiff did not meet the adaptive
functioning requirement of Listing 12.05(C), (2) properly
weighed the opinion of Nurse Practitioner Barbara Kuzara, and
(3) properly formulated Plaintiff's RFC.
the requirements of Listing 12.05(C), a claimant must
demonstrate, among other things, “significantly
subaverage general intellectual functioning with deficits in
adaptive functioning initially manifested . . . before age
22.” Scott v. Berryhill, 855 F.3d 853, 856
(8th Cir. 2017) (citing 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1,
§ 12.05(C)) (internal quotations omitted). Substantial
evidence (including evidence that Plaintiff takes care of
three children by assisting them with getting ready for
school, preparing meals, and putting them to bed; does the
laundry and cleans the house; has a driver's license and
shops for food; is able to pay bills; sometimes attends
doctor's appointments alone; and has no problem with
bathing, feedings, and toileting) supports the ALJ's
finding that Plaintiff did not demonstrate adaptive function
deficits. See Scott, 855 F.3d at 856-857 (finding
that an individual who did not complete high school, had a
history of attending special education classes, read poorly,
could not balance a checkbook, could not manage finances or
complete forms without assistance, but who was able to
maintain unskilled and semi-skilled work for multiple years,
generally lived independently, communicated well, had a
driver's license, could cook meals, do laundry, and
follow instructions, did not show deficits in adaptive
functioning). Because the ALJ's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, the Court cannot reverse even though
there is some evidence (Plaintiff dropped out of high school;
was enrolled in special education classes; had trouble with
reading, writing and math; had never maintained a savings
account and could not manage a checkbook or count change; and
did not handle stress well) that may support the opposite
conclusion. Additionally, the Court finds that the ALJ
properly weighed the opinion of Nurse Practitioner Barbara
Kuzaraand properly formulated Plaintiff's
carefully reviewed the record before the Court and the
parties' submissions on appeal, the Court concludes that
substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the
THEREFORE, ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner is
 Nancy A. Berryhill became acting
commissioner of Social Security on January 23, 2017; however,
for consistency purposes, the case style in this action