United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Marilyn Kay Gorman (“Gorman”) petitions for
review of an adverse decision by Defendant, the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”).
Plaintiff applied 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 that
Gorman was not severely disabled under the Act.
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.
and Factual Background
complete facts and arguments are presented in the
parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent
filed her application on April 11, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of January 29, 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 August 18, 2015, issued a decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied
Gorman's request for review on August 11, 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. §
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process 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. §
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.
argues the ALJ erred by: (1) finding Gorman's mental
impairments are not severe; and (2) finding Gorman's
physical impairments are not severe. After reviewing the
record and the applicable law, the Court finds these
arguments are without merit.
Substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion that
Gorman's mental impairments are not severe.
argues that the ALJ erred by finding her mental impairments
are not severe. She believes that because she was diagnosed
with mental impairments, her impairments are severe. She also
claims that her treatment history with Jaime Zengotita, M.D.
(“Dr. Zengotita”)-her family physician-supports
finding she has a severe impairment.
evaluates whether the claimant's impairments are severe
at the second step of the sequential evaluation process. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). A severe impairment
significantly limits a claimant's ability to do
work-related activities. See Kirby v. Astrue, 500
F.3d 705, 707-08 (8th Cir. 2007). The impairment must also be
expected to result in death or have lasted-or be expected to
last-for a continuous period of at least 12 months. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1509. The severe impairment standard is not
onerous, but it is not toothless either. Kirby, 500
F.3d at 708. It is the claimant's burden to establish
severity. Id. at 707. To establish a severe mental
impairment, the claimant must furnish objective medical and
other evidence proving that her mental impairments resulted
in either repeated episodes of decompensation or extended
duration, or in more than a mild limitation of daily living,
social functioning, ...