United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE.
Jamie Benckeser (“Plaintiff”) 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, and
Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. The Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) found Plaintiff had severe impairments of
bipolar disorder, ADHD, history of intravenous
methamphetamine abuse, and asthma, but retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as a
counter supply worker, meat checker, and trimmer.
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 applications on September 16, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of June 1, 2014. The Commissioner
denied the applications at the initial claim level, and
Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. The ALJ held a
hearing, and on March 16, 2016, found 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) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).
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 made three errors requiring remand of this
case: (1) leaving unresolved an alleged conflict between the
Vocational Expert's (“VE”) testimony and the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”); (2)
failing to support the RFC with substantial evidence; and (3)
failing to assess the RFC on a function-by-function basis.
After reviewing the record and the applicable law, the Court
finds the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial
A significant number of jobs exist in the national economy
that Plaintiff can perform.
first argues the ALJ erred because he did not resolve a
conflict between the VE's testimony and the DOT as to the
meat checker job.
Security Ruling (“SSR”) 00-4p requires the ALJ to
“ask about any possible conflict” between VE
evidence and “information provided in the DOT.”
If there is an “apparent unresolved conflict”
between VE testimony and the DOT, the ALJ must “elicit
a reasonable explanation for the conflict” and
“resolve the conflict by determining if the explanation
given provides a basis for relying on the [VE]
testimony.” 2000 WL 1898704, at *2-4 (Dec. 4, 2000).
“If there is an unrecognized, unresolved, and
unexplained conflict between the VE's testimony and the
DOT, the VE's testimony cannot ...