United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANNETTE A. BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Sherry Duncan’s appeal
regarding the denial of supplemental security income
(“SSI”) 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. 8.] 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
presents one issue for review. She contends that the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) determination is not
supported by substantial evidence in the record, because the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) failed to fully
develop the record. The Commissioner asserts that the
ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial evidence in
the record as a whole and should be affirmed.
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).
asserts that the ALJ failed to fully develop the record in
this case resulting in a residual functional capacity
determination that is not supported by substantial evidence
and an erroneous finding of no disability.
Duty to Fully Develop the Record
ALJ has a duty to fully develop the record. Smith v.
Barnhart, 435 F.3d 926, 930 (8th Cir. 2006). In some
cases, this duty requires the ALJ to obtain additional
medical evidence, such as a consultative examination of the
claimant, before rendering a decision. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.919a(b). “There is no bright line test for
determining when the [Commissioner] has failed to develop the
record. The determination in each case must be made on a case
by case basis.” Battles v. Shalala, 36 F.3d
43, 45 (8th Cir. 1994). A claimant for social security
disability benefits has the responsibility to provide medical
evidence demonstrating the existence of an impairment and its
severity during the period of disability and how the
impairment affects the claimant’s functioning. 20
C.F.R. § 416.912. “Failing to develop the record
is reversible error when it does not contain enough evidence
to determine the impact of a claimant’s impairment on
his ability to work.” Byes, 687 F.3d at 916.
“Reversal due to failure to develop the record is only
warranted where such failure is unfair or prejudicial.”
Twyford v. Commissioner, 929 F.3d 512, 517 n. 3 (8th
Cir. 2019) (citing Shannon v. Chater, 54 F.3d 484,
488 (8th Cir. 1995)).
ALJ’s duty to develop the record extends even to cases
where an attorney represented the claimant at the
administrative hearing. Snead v. Barnhart, 360 F.3d
834, 838 (8th Cir. 2004). “The ALJ possesses no
interest in denying benefits and must act neutrally in
developing the record.” Snead, 360 F.3d at
838. The Commissioner and the claimant’s attorney both
share the goal of ensuring that deserving claimants who apply
for benefits receive justice. Battles v. Shalala, 36
F.3d 43, 44 (8th Cir. 1994). The ALJ’s duty is not
never-ending and an ALJ is not required to disprove every
possible impairment. McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605,
612 (8th Cir. 2011).
application for benefits, Duncan indicates that she is unable
to work due to degenerative disc disease, several bulging
discs, wrist problems, and depression. Her alleged onset date