Serini, Jr. v. Colvin
ORDER affirming in part and reversing in part decision of Commissioner re 3 SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT. Signed on 11/7/2017 by District Judge Roseann Ketchmark. (Stout, Courtney)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CHARLES G. SERINI, JR.,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security1,
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s appeal seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying disability benefits. The
decision of the Commissioner is affirmed in part and reversed in part.
Standard of Review
The Court’s review of the Commissioner’s decision to deny disability benefits is limited
to determining if the decision “complies with the relevant legal requirements and is supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole.”
Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922, 929
(8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ford v. Astrue, 518 F.3d 979, 981 (8th Cir. 2008)); see also
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but is
‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind would find adequate to support the
Grable v. Colvin, 770 F.3d 1196, 1201 (8th Cir. 2014)
(quoting Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)). In determining whether existing
evidence is substantial, the Court takes into account evidence that both supports and detracts
from the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) findings. Cline v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 1098, 1102
(8th Cir. 2014) (quotation marks omitted). “If the ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial
evidence, [the Court] may not reverse even if substantial evidence would support the opposite
outcome or [the Court] would have decided differently.” Smith v. Colvin, 756 F.3d 621, 625
(8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Davis, 239 F.3d at 966). The Court does not re-weigh the evidence
presented to the ALJ.
Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005)
(citing Baldwin v. Barnhart, 349 F.3d 549, 555 (8th Cir. 2003)).
The Court should “defer
Nancy A. Berryhill became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security on January 23, 2017,
however for consistency purposes, the case style in this legal action remains as originally filed.
heavily to the findings and conclusions of the [Commissioner].” Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734,
738 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
By way of overview, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff suffered from the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease of the knees and shoulders,
coronary artery disease, hypertension, and obesity.
However, the ALJ found that none of
Plaintiff’s impairments, whether considered alone or in combination, meet or medically equal the
criteria of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Pt. 404. Subpt. P, App. 1 (“Listing”).
Additionally, the ALJ found that, despite his limitations, Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work with the following limitations: Plaintiff requires a
sit/stand option allowing Plaintiff to sit or stand alternatively at will provided he is not off-task
by more than 10% of the workday; Plaintiff can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; Plaintiff can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and
reach overhead bilaterally; Plaintiff is limited to simple work, defined in Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”) as specific vocational preparation levels one and two, with routine
and repetitive tasks. Although the ALJ found Plaintiff to be unable to perform any past relevant
work, considering Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ concluded
there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the Plaintiff can
On appeal, Plaintiff’s strongest argument in support of reversing the ALJ’s conclusion is
whether a conflict exists between the vocational expert (“VE”)’s testimony and the ALJ’s RFC
determination that Plaintiff could perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
The ALJ’s RFC determination limited Plaintiff to occasional overhead reaching. The
ALJ relayed these limitations to the VE, and the VE determined Plaintiff could maintain
employment as a garment sorter DOT #222.687-014, folding machine operator DOT #208.685014, and a lens matcher DOT #713.687-030. The jobs the VE provided required “frequent
overall reaching” as described in the DOT. Therefore, a conflict appears to exist between the
ALJ’s RFC determination and the jobs the VE opined Plaintiff could perform. See Moore v.
Colvin, 769 F.3d 987, 989-90 (8th Cir. 2014) (when there is an “apparent unresolved conflict”
between the VE and the DOT, the ALJ must “elicit a reasonable explanation for the conflict” and
“resolve the conflict by determining if the explanation given [by the expert] provides a basis for
relying on the [VE] testimony rather than on the DOT information”). The Court notes that,
based on the job descriptions of the jobs provided by the VE in the DOT, someone who can only
reach overhead occasionally may be capable of maintaining employment in a position where
there is frequent overall reaching; however, this conflict should be explained in the record on
remand by the VE.
Having carefully reviewed this record before the Court and the parties’ submissions on
appeal, the Court AFFIRMS in part and REVERSES in part the Commissioner’s decision.
Accordingly, this matter is remanded for the ALJ to address and resolve the conflict between the
ALJ’s RFC determination and the VE’s testimony.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ Roseann A. Ketchmark
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DATED: November 7, 2017
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?