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Grider v. Berryhill

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

December 8, 2017

RACHEL GRIDER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Rachel Grider (“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 severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine and cervical spine, carpal tunnel syndrome, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder, but retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as a dowel inspector, household appliance patcher, and a lens inserter.

         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 her application on October 23, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of February 16, 2012. 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 December 23, 2015, issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review, leaving the ALJ's decision as the 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. 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 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 argues the ALJ erred by not including manipulative limitations in her RFC and improperly discounted her subjective complaints. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, the Court finds these arguments are without merit.

         I. The ALJ did not err in formulating the RFC.

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred by failing to include manipulative limitations in her RFC relating to her severe impairment of carpal tunnel syndrome.

         The RFC is an assessment of a claimant's ability to perform sustained work-related activities in a work setting eight hours a day, five days a week. Ross v. Apfel, 218 F.3d 844, 849 (8th Cir. 2000). It is the claimant's burden to establish limitations contained in the RFC. Buford v. Colvin, 824 F.3d 793, 796 (8th Cir. 2016). The ALJ determines a claimant's RFC based on all relevant evidence, including medical records, observations of treating physicians and others, and the claimant's own descriptions of her limitations. Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 591 (8th Cir. 2004). In addition to considering all of the evidence, the ALJ must build “an accurate and logical bridge” between the evidence and his or her decision. Sarchet v. Chater, 78 F.3d 305, 307 (7th Cir. 1996) (Posner, J.); St. Clair v. Colvin, No. 2:12-04250-DGK-SSA, 2013 WL ...


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