United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
action seeks judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security's (“the Commissioner”)
decision denying Plaintiff Angela Bond's applications 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 Meniere's disease, trigeminal
neuralgia, pineal cyst, cervical spondylosis, and
fibromyalgia, but she retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform past work as a
cashier and receptionist.
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 her applications on December 29, 2015, alleging a
disability onset date of December 29, 2015. 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 November 28, 2017, issued a decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on February 15, 2018,
leaving the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's
final decision. Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative
remedies and judicial review is now appropriate under 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 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. Chaney v. Colvin,
812 F.3d 672, 676 (8th Cir. 2016). Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance, but is 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; 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).
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. §
423(d)(1)(A). Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred at Step Two in
finding her mental impairments were non-severe. She also
argues the ALJ erred at Step Four in finding her mental
impairments did not cause any work-related limitations and
that her subjective symptoms were not consistent with the
evidence as a whole.
The ALJ did not err in finding Plaintiff's mental
impairments were non-severe.
argues the ALJ erred in finding that her depression, anxiety,
and post-traumatic stress disorder were non-severe
impairments because they resulted in only mild limitations in
her activities of daily living, social functioning, and
concentration, persistence, or pace. Plaintiff notes the
standard for finding an impairment to be a severe impairment
is low, and she contends the ALJ's decision is not
supported by substantial evidence.
order to meet the Step Two “severity”
requirement, Plaintiff had the burden of showing she had (1)
a “medically determinable” impairment or
combination of impairments which (2) significantly limited
her physical or mental ability to perform basic work
activities without regard to age, education, or work
experience for the required twelve-month duration. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(c), 416.921(a); King v. Astrue,
564 F.3d 978, 979 n.2 (8th Cir. 2009). Although severity is
not an onerous requirement, it is not a toothless standard
either. Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 708 (8th Cir.
analyzed Plaintiff's depression using the psychiatric
review technique prescribed by the regulations for evaluating
mental impairments. This technique considers the
claimant's degree of limitation in four functional areas
known as the Category B criteria: (1) understanding,
remembering, or applying information; (2) interacting with
others; (3) concentration, persistence, or pace; and (4)
adopting or managing oneself. R. at 23-24; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1521(a) and 416.920a. The ALJ found
Plaintiff had only ...