United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
CHRISTOPHER L. WINSLETT, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANNETTE A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Christopher L. Winslett's
appeal regarding the denial of disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income under the Social Security
Act. The Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of
this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The parties have
consented to the exercise of authority by the United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Doc.
9] The Court has reviewed the parties' briefs and the
entire administrative record, including the transcript and
medical evidence. Based on the following, the Court will
affirm the Commissioner's decision.
Winslett, proceeding pro se, presents several issues for
review. First, Winslett asserts that the Missouri
Department of Family Services and a Vocational Rehabilitation
expert confirm that he is unable to work. Second, he asserts
that the vocational expert at his administrative hearing
testified that he would be unable to work. Third, he contends
that information was improperly expunged from the
administrative record. Finally, he states that there was a
false statement regarding when he stopped working in the
Social Security Act defines disability as an “inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1)(A),
standard of review is narrow. Pearsall v. Massanari,
274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). This Court reviews the
decision of the ALJ to determine whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find
adequate support for the ALJ's decision. Smith v.
Shalala, 31 F.3d 715, 717 (8th Cir. 1994). The Court
determines whether evidence is substantial by considering
evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision
as well as evidence that supports it. Cox v.
Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006). The Court
may not reverse just because substantial evidence exists that
would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would
have decided the case differently. Id. If, after
reviewing the record as a whole, the Court finds it possible
to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one
of those positions represents the Commissioner's finding,
the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed.
Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir.
Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision so long as
it conforms to the law and is supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Collins ex rel.
Williams v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 726, 729 (8th Cir. 2003).
“In this substantial-evidence determination, the entire
administrative record is considered but the evidence is not
reweighed.” Byes v. Astrue, 687 F.3d. 913, 915
(8th Cir. 2012).
Contents of the Administrative Record
directs the Court to two issues regarding the information
contained in the administrative record. First, he states that
the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) improperly
expunged his medical records from the administrative record.
[Docs. 18, 19] In her written opinion, the ALJ noted that she
expunged 5 pages of records from the administrative record,
because the information contained in those pages was related
to another individual. (Tr. 21) The Commissioner contends
that these records were unrelated to Winslett and were
properly removed from the record. Winslett has not provided
any support for his claim that the records removed by the ALJ
were his medical records. It is not uncommon for the Social
Security Administration to correct the inadvertent disclosure
of another person's records in a social security action
and the agency should do so as soon as it is discovered.
See e.g. McKinney v. Colvin, No. CIV-12-1120 LAM,
2013 WL 12328838 at *1, n. 1 (D. New Mexico Dec. 12, 2013)
(transcript removed from court docket because it referred to
the personal and private information of an individual other
than Plaintiff). The removal of records from a claimant's
file that do not pertain to the claimant does not constitute
grounds for reversal on appeal.
Winslett submits additional medical records with his filings
stating that these medical records were “expunged to
deny my claim also.” [Doc. 19 at 2-89] Winslett asserts
that he is resubmitting all records and documents which
support the approval of his claim to federal court. The
Commissioner contends that these records are already included
in the administrative transcript filed by the Commissioner.
The Court has reviewed the records submitted by Winslett and
all of them were included in the administrative transcript
submitted by the Commissioner. [Doc. 12] Therefore, the
documents submitted by Winslett have been considered by the
Court and are a part of the official administrative record.
ALJ's Disability Determination
Social Security Administration (“SSA”) uses a
five-step analysis to determine whether a claimant seeking
disability benefits is in fact disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(1), 416.920(a)(1). First, the
claimant must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i).
The ALJ determined that Winslett met the insured requirements
of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017 and had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity
(“SGA”) since September 27, 2014, ...