United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Travis C. Spangler (“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”)
determined Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform other work as a final
assembler or lens inserter and was not disabled.
carefully reviewing the record and the parties'
arguments, the Court finds the ALJ's decision is
supported by substantial evidence. 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 April 6, 2016, alleging a disability
onset date of December 21, 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
October 30, 2017, found Plaintiff was not disabled. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review
on February 12, 2018. 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. §
claims substantial evidence does not exist to find that
Plaintiff's substance abuse was a contributing factor
material to the determination of disability. He also alleges
the physical and mental limitations in his RFC are not
supported by substantial evidence.
Substantial evidence supports the ALJ's determination
that Plaintiff's substance disorder was
a contributing factor material to the determination of
argues the ALJ failed to properly analyze whether his
substance abuse was a contributing factor material to the
determination of disability.
“alcohol or drug abuse is a ‘contributing factor
material to the Commissioner's determination' of
disability, the claimant is not entitled to benefits.”
Vester v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 886, 888 (8th Cir.
2005) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(C)). To make that
determination, the “ALJ must first determine if a
claimant's symptoms, regardless of cause, constitute
disability.” Kluesner v. Astrue, 607 F.3d 533,
537 (8th Cir. 2010). Only if the ALJ finds the claimant is
disabled and evidence of substance abuse, then does the ALJ
move to the next step, which is to determine whether the
disability would exist in the absence of the substance abuse.
Id. In other words, ...