United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff's appeal seeking judicial review
of a final decision of the Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying disability
benefits. The decision of the Commissioner is
affirmed in part and reversed in part.
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) (citation
of overview, Plaintiff has the following severe impairments:
rheumatoid arthritis, left biceps tendonitis, emphysema,
migraine-type headaches, hypertension, and nicotine abuse.
The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff has the following
non-severe impairments: hepatitis C, major depressive
disorder, and anxiety. However, the ALJ found that none of
the Plaintiff's impairments, whether considered alone or
in combination, meet or medically equal the criteria of one
of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Pt. 404. Subpt. P, App. 1
(“Listing”). Additionally, the ALJ found that
despite his limitations, Plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full
range of sedentary work with limitations. The ALJ found the
Plaintiff is able to perform past relevant work as an account
appeal, the issues raised by Plaintiff in support of
reversing the ALJ's decision are: (1) whether the ALJ
correctly determined Plaintiff's depression and anxiety
were not severe impairments, (2) whether the ALJ's
credibility analysis was proper, and (3) whether the ALJ
properly found that Plaintiff is able to perform past
relevant work as an account executive.
review of the parties' briefs and the record, the Court
finds that the ALJ properly found Plaintiff's depression
and anxiety were not severe impairments and the ALJ's
credibility analysis was proper. However, the Court finds the
ALJ erred by failing to address the conflict between the
vocational expert's testimony and the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”).
ALJ's RFC determination limited Plaintiff to no reaching
overhead with the left upper arm. The ALJ relayed these
limitations to the vocational expert (VE), and the vocational
expert indicated that a person with these limitations could
perform Plaintiff's past relevant work as an account
executive (DOT 164.167-010). The job of account executive
requires occasional reaching. DOT 164.167-010 (G.P.O).
a conflict appears to exist between the ALJ's RFC
determination and the jobs the vocational expert opined
Plaintiff could perform. See Moore v. Colvin, 769
F.3d 987, 989-990 (8th Cir. 2014) (when there is an
“apparent unresolved conflict” between the
vocational expert and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles,
the ALJ must “elicit a reasonable explanation for the
conflict” and “resolve the conflict by
determining if the explanation given [by the expert] provides
a basis for relying on the [VE] testimony rather than on the
DOT information”), (an ALJ is “not absolved of
this duty merely because the VE responds ‘yes' when
asked if her testimony is consistent with the DOT”).
The Court notes that, based on the job description of an
account executive in the DOT, it is reasonable to consider
that someone who cannot reach above the shoulder with the
upper left extremity is capable of maintaining employment as
an account executive; however, this should be clarified in
the record on remand by the vocational expert. Accordingly,
this matter is remanded for the ALJ to address and resolve
carefully reviewed the record before the Court and the
parties' submissions on appeal, the Court AFFIRMS
in part and REVERSES in part the Commissioner's