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Threet v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

September 6, 2019

GARIN D. THREET, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          GREG KAYS, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Garin D. Threet (“Plaintiff”) petitions for judicial review of an adverse decision by Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”). Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 and 1381-1383f. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff's allegations of disabling symptoms were not supported by the medical record and determined Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform other work as a deli slicer, automotive detailer, and hand packager. Thus, the ALJ found he was not disabled.

         After 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.

         Procedural and Factual Background

         The complete facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         Plaintiff filed his applications on June 4, 2015, alleging he became disabled on January 1, 2013. 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 9, 2017, found Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review on July 20, 2018. Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies and judicial review is now appropriate under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

         Standard of Review

         A 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 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 points to an alternate outcome. Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011).

         Discussion

         The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process[1] 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 Four by discrediting his subjective complaints, giving great weight to the opinions of Rick Thomas, Ph.D., and Stephen Scher, Ph.D., and giving little weight to the joint opinion of David G. Lawson, M.Ed., and Nina L. Epperson, M.S. He also argues the ALJ failed to meet his burden at Step Five of proving Plaintiff was capable of other work.

         I. The RFC is supported by substantial evidence.

         An RFC is the most a claimant can do despite the combined effect of all credible limitations. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). The claimant has the burden to prove the RFC at Step Four of the sequential evaluation process. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). An ALJ develops the RFC based on all relevant evidence of record, including the claimant's subjective statements about his limitations, as well as medical opinion evidence. Mabry v. Colvin, 815 F.3d 386, 390 (8th Cir. 2015).

         A. The ALJ did not err in discrediting Plaintiff's ...


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