United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
JAMES B. BRIEGEL, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
James B. Briegel (“Plaintiff”) petitions for
review of an adverse decision by Defendant, the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”).
Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
found Plaintiff had the severe impairment of chronic
pancreatitis, but retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform his past relevant work as a
computer security specialist.
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 his application on March 7, 2013, alleging a disability
onset date of January 9, 2013. 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
November 6, 2014, issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not
disabled. The Appeals Council reviewed the ALJ's decision
and corrected the date last insured from January 31, 2014 to
December 31, 2014. While the Appeals Council found this left
an unadjudicated period from January 31, 2014 to December 31,
2014, it determined this made no change to the ALJ's
decision to deny benefits, affirming all other aspects of the
ALJ's decision. Plaintiff has exhausted all
administrative remedies and judicial review is now
appropriate under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
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. Andrews v.
Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015).
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. 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, and 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
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. §
argues the ALJ erred in: (1) formulating the RFC; (2)
weighing the medical opinions; (3) discounting
Plaintiff's credibility; and (3) failing to make explicit
findings of the demands of Plaintiff's past relevant
work. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, the
Court finds these arguments are without merit.
The ALJ did not err in formulating the RFC.
makes several arguments relating to the ALJ's formulation
of his RFC: (1) the ALJ failed to assess the RFC on a
function-by-function basis; (2) the RFC does not include all
of Plaintiff's mental limitations; and (3) the ALJ
mischaracterized a third-party statement from Plaintiff's
Plaintiff argues under SSR 96-8p, the ALJ is required to
conduct a function-by-function assessment before expressing
the RFC in terms of exertional level. See SSR 96-8p,
1996 WL 374184 (July 2, 1996). SSR 96-8p requires an ALJ to
consider all relevant evidence, and then explain how the
evidence supports his conclusions in a narrative description.
It does not require the ALJ to discuss every possible
functional limitation. See Depover v. Barnhart, 349
F.3d 563, 567 (8th Cir. 2003) (holding no violation of SSR
96-8p where ALJ made explicit findings in the RFC assessment,
despite not making explicit findings with respect to sitting,
standing, and walking). A review of the ALJ's decision
shows the ALJ ...