United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff's appeal brought under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) seeking review of Defendant Social Security
Administration's (“SSA”) denial of disability
benefits as rendered in a decision by an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). For the reasons below, the
decision of the ALJ is AFFIRMED.
Court's review of the ALJ's decision to deny
disability benefits is limited to determining if the decision
“complies with the relevant legal requirements and is
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole.” Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922, 929
(8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ford v. Astrue, 518 F.3d
979, 981 (8th Cir. 2008)). “Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance of the evidence, but is ‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind would find adequate to
support the [ALJ's] conclusion.'” Grable v.
Colvin, 770 F.3d 1196, 1201 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)).
In determining whether existing evidence is substantial, the
Court takes into account “evidence that detracts from
the [ALJ's] decision as well as evidence that supports
it.” Cline v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th
Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). “If the ALJ's
decision is supported by substantial evidence, [the Court]
may not reverse even if substantial evidence would support
the opposite outcome or [the Court] would have decided
differently.” Smith v. Colvin, 756 F.3d 621,
625 (8th Cir. 2014) (citing Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d
962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)). The Court does not “re-weigh
the evidence presented to the ALJ.” Guilliams v.
Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing
Baldwin v. Barnhart, 349 F.3d 549, 555 (8th Cir.
2003)). The Court must “defer heavily to the findings
and conclusions of the [ALJ].” Hurd v. Astrue,
621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
of overview, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffers from
the following severe impairments: obesity; chronic back pain;
osteoarthritis; diabetes; neuropathy; obstructive sleep
apnea; and asthma. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's
hypertension and history of pancreatitis are non-severe.
However, the ALJ found that none of Plaintiff's
impairments, whether considered alone or in combination, meet
or medically equal the criteria of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Pt. 404. Subpt. P, App. 1
(“Listing”). Additionally, the ALJ found that
despite his limitations, Plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work
with the following limitations: Plaintiff can occasionally
stoop; cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; must avoid
concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants, extreme
temperatures, and high levels of humidity. Although the ALJ
found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant
work, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled, and
that considering Plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform.
appeal, Plaintiff argues the ALJ did not properly rule on
Plaintiff's post-hearing objection that was submitted
after the hearing but before the ALJ rendered his decision.
The nature of Plaintiff's objection is that the
vocational expert's testimony as to the jobs Plaintiff
could perform was based on data housed in the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”), which Plaintiff
argues is outdated and obsolete. Pursuant to the HALLEX
I-2-6-74, the ALJ must rule on any objections a party brings,
and “the ALJ may address the objection(s) on the record
during the hearing, in narrative form as a separate exhibit,
or in the body of his or her decision.” Plaintiff first
argues the ALJ's decision does not explicitly provide a
ruling on Plaintiff's specific objection; however,
substantial evidence exists in the record to demonstrate that
the ALJ considered and ruled on Plaintiff's objection
because the ALJ addressed Plaintiff's objection in the
body of his decision. See (Doc. 9-3 at 12)
(“The undersigned overrules the claimant's
objections to the vocational expert testimony and
qualifications . . . finds that the vocational expert is
qualified . . . finds that the vocational expert's
testimony and cited sources used in combination with his
professional training are accepted in accordance with SSR
00-4p.”). See also Offield v. Colvin:
Plaintiff's counsel acknowledged in a post-hearing
memorandum that the ALJ had already overruled the objection,
and plaintiff's attorney renewed the objection in that
post-hearing brief. The ALJ thereafter issued her opinion
relying on the testimony of the vocational expert. There can
be no other conclusion but that the ALJ considered the
plaintiff's challenge and rejected it. The fact that such
an obvious conclusion was not put in writing in the ALJ's
opinion, when the law in this circuit does not require that
the ALJ discuss every piece of evidence submitted, is not a
reasonable ground for remand.
2016 WL 223716, at *17 (W.D. Mo. Jan. 19, 2016). See also
Brault v. Social Sec. Admin., Com'r, 683 F.3d 443,
448 (2nd Cir. 2012) (“Assuming the ALJ had to consider
Brault's objection to the VE's testimony, we are
satisfied that he did so. There is no requirement that the
ALJ discuss his specific analysis of it.”).
Plaintiff's objection attacks the vocational expert's
testimony because the testimony was supported by data
provided by the DOT. Despite Plaintiff's argument, the
Code of Federal Regulations provides that the DOT is a
reliable source of job information.
When we determine that unskilled, sedentary, light, and
medium jobs exist in the national economy (in significant
numbers either in the region where you live or in several
regions of the country), we will take administrative notice
of reliable job information available from various
governmental and other publications . . . [including]
Dictionary of Occupational Titles, published by the
Department of Labor.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1566(d)(1). See also Peters v.
Berryhill, 2018 WL 1858159, at *4 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 18,
2018) (“Plaintiff offers various SSA studies and
reports suggesting that those DOT job titled might be
obsolete  [h]owever, the Court “must apply the law as
written”) (citation omitted); Prodes v.
Astrue, 2011 WL 903044, at *10 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 15, 2011)
(although the plaintiff presented a letter from the
Department of Labor stating the DOT was obsolete, the
vocational expert's reliance on the DOT was not in
error); Purdy v. Berryhill, 887 F.3d 7, 17 n. 10
(1st Cir. 2018) (“[t]he DOT, which has not been updated
since 1991, has been criticized by some as obsolete . . .
[n]evertheless, the Social Security Administration continues
to treat the DOT as the primary source of job data and takes
administrative notice of its contents”) (internal
citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly,
there is substantial evidence in the record to support the
ALJ's consideration and decision to overrule
carefully reviewed the record before the Court and the
parties' submissions, the Court concludes that
substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the
ALJ's decision. IT IS THEREFORE, ...