United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER AND OPINION AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S FINAL
DECISION DENYING BENEFITS
D. SMITH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SENIOR JUDGE
is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner of Social
Security's final decision denying her applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. For the following reasons, the Commissioner's
decision is affirmed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
limited to a determination of whether the decision is
“supported by substantial evidence on the record as a
whole. Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance
but…enough that a reasonable mind would find it
adequate to support the conclusion.” Andrews v.
Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015) (citations
omitted). “As long as substantial evidence in the
record supports the Commissioner's decision, we may not
reverse it because substantial evidence exists in the record
that would have supported a contrary outcome, or because we
would have decided the case differently.” Cline v.
Colvin, 771 F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th Cir. 2014) (citation
omitted). Though advantageous to the Commissioner, this
standard also requires the Court consider evidence that
fairly detracts from the final decision. Anderson v.
Astrue, 696 F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2015) (citation
omitted). Substantial evidence means “more than a mere
scintilla” of evidence; it is relevant evidence a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Gragg v. Astrue, 615 F.3d 932, 938 (8th
was born in 1977 and has a high school education. R. at
39-40, 179, 181. She previously worked as a cashier and hair
stylist. R. at 41-42, 214, 225-26, 257, 265. In December
2016, Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income and
disability insurance benefits, alleging a disability onset
date of October 21, 2015. R. at 16, 179-88, 193-94. In July
2017, her applications were denied. R. at 104-08, 111-15. She
requested a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). R. 171-75.
hearing was held in July 2018. R. at 34-56. Thereafter, the
ALJ issued a decision, finding Plaintiff is not disabled. R.
at 16-28. She concluded Plaintiff's severe impairments
are lumbar and cervical spondylosis, obesity, and chronic
bronchitis. R. at 18. The ALJ found Plaintiff has the
following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):
She could lift and carry 10 pounds frequently. She could
stand or walk for 2 hours and sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday. She could not perform work requiring the operation
of foot controls, or the climbing of ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds, or crawling. She requires the ability to alternate
sitting and standing while at the workstation on task every
hour for a few minutes, but not an extended period of time.
She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel,
and crouch. She can frequently balance on uneven surfaces.
She cannot perform overhead work. The claimant must avoid
more than occasional exposure to pulmonary irritants, extreme
heat, unprotected heights, and hazardous machinery.
R. at 21. Based on the RFC and the vocational expert's
(“VE”) testimony at the hearing, the ALJ
concluded Plaintiff can work as a lens inserter, wire
wrapper, and production checker. R. at 27. Plaintiff
unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the Appeals Council.
R. at 1-3. She now appeals to this Court.
Commissioner's Decision at Issue
asks the Court to reverse the Commissioner's decisions
regarding her applications for disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income. Doc. #3; Doc. #9. Defendant
contends only his decision denying Plaintiff's
application for supplemental security income is at issue in
this appeal. Doc. #10, at 1. Although she could have
responded to the Commissioner's argument, Plaintiff has
not done so, and the time for doing so has passed. L.R.
9.1(d)(3)(c). Regardless, Plaintiff's counsel, during the
hearing before the ALJ, conceded the hearing was related only
to Plaintiff's application for supplemental security
income benefits. R. at 38.
found Plaintiff failed to demonstrate she was disabled on or
before September 30, 2014, the date she was last insured. R.
at 16. Therefore, Plaintiff did not meet the requirements for
disability insurance benefits. Id. The ALJ also
noted Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date “well
past” the date she was last insured, and her prior
application for benefits was denied on October 20, 2015,
after she was last insured. Id. The ALJ determined
there was “no basis to reopen the prior application and
administrative finality applies through October 20,
2015.” Id. For these reasons, the ALJ affirmed
the initial determination that Plaintiff was ineligible for
disability insurance benefits and dismissed Plaintiff's
request for a hearing on those benefits. Id.
(citation omitted). When affirming the ALJ's decision,
the Appeals Council found the ALJ
“dismissed…your request for hearing regarding
whether you were disabled on or before September 30, 2014,
the date you were last insured for purposes of disability
insurance benefits….” R. at 1. The Appeals
Council concluded there was no reason to review the ALJ's
dismissal of a request for a hearing is binding, unless it is
vacated by an administrative law judge or the Appeals
Council.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.959. Neither the ALJ nor
the Appeals Council vacated the denial of Plaintiff's
request for a hearing on her disability insurance benefits
application. Hence, the Commissioner's decision on
Plaintiff's disability insurance benefits application is
not before this Court. Only the Commissioner's decision
on her supplemental security income application is at issue.
argues the RFC formulated by the ALJ was not based on the
substantial evidence on the record, and thus, this matter
must be reversed. One's RFC is the “most you can
still do despite your limitations.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1). The ALJ must base the RFC on “all of
the relevant evidence, including the medical records,
observations of treating physicians and others, and an
individual's own description of his limitations.”
McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir.
2000). Because the RFC is a medical question, “an
ALJ's assessment of it must be supported by some medical
evidence of [Plaintiff's] ability to function in the
workplace.” Hensley ...