Pearman v. Astrue

Filing 16

ORDER that plaintiff's claim is DENIED, and the ALJ's decision is AFFIRMED. Signed on 07/22/10 by Chief District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. (Enss, Rhonda)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI WESTERN DIVISION BARBARA PEARMAN, Plaintiff, v. MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) No. 09-679-CV-W-FJG ) ) ) ) ) ) ORDER This is a proceeding under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 401 et seq., and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 1381 et seq., in which plaintiff requested review of the Commissioner's decision denying her application for disability benefits and supplemental security income (SSI). Plaintiff's claims were initially denied, and on July 26, 2007, following a hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) found plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act, and denied all benefits. On July 29, 2009, the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration denied plaintiff's request for review. Thus, the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff's appeal is before the Court on plaintiff's motion for judgment. The facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs and will not be repeated here. Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 405(g), provides for judicial review of a "final decision" of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration under Title II. Section 1631(c)(3) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 1383(c)(3), provides for judicial review to the same extent as the Commissioner's final determination under section 205. Judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. 405(g) is limited to whether there exists substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the decision of the Commissioner. Siemers v. Shalala, 47 F.3d 299, 301 (8th Cir. 1995). This determination requires review of the entire record, including both evidence in support of, and in opposition to, the Commissioner's decision. Fountain v. Railroad Retirement Bd., 88 F.3d 528, 530 (8th Cir. 1996). The Court's role, however, is not to reweigh the evidence or try the issues de novo. Craig v. Chater, 943 F. Supp. 1184, 1188 (W.D. Mo. 1996) (citing McClees v. Shalala, 2 F.3d 301, 302 (8th Cir. 1994)). When supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's findings are conclusive and must be affirmed. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Substantial evidence is more that a mere scintilla but less than preponderance. It means such evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Johnson v. Chater, 108 F.3d 178, 179 (8th Cir. 1997), citations omitted. The substantial evidence standard, however, presupposes a zone of choice within which the decision makers can go either way, without interference by the courts. Clarke v. Bowen, 843 F.2d 271, 272-73 (8th Cir. 1988). "[A]n administration decision is not subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision." Id. Hence, "if it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the agency's finding, we must affirm the decision." Roe v. Chater, 92 F.3d 672, 672 (8th Cir. 1996) (quoting Robinson v. Sullivan, 956 F.2d 836, 838 (8th Cir. 1992)). An individual claiming disability benefits has the burden of proving he or she is 2 unable to return to the type of work in which he or she was formerly engaged due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. 423(d) (1) (A). If the claimant succeeds, the burden of production shifts to the commissioner to establish that plaintiff can perform some other type of substantial gainful activity in the national economy. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1069, n. 5 (8th Cir. 2000); see also, 68 Fed. Reg. 51,153 - 51,163 (August 26, 2003); 20 C.F.R. 404.1560(c)(2). The Court has reviewed the parties' briefs and the record. Like the ALJ, the Court acknowledges plaintiff suffers from a painful and persistent back condition; however, the Eighth Circuit has held that the absence of an objective medical basis to support the degree of a claimant's subjective complaints is an important factor in evaluating the credibility of the claimant's testimony and complaints. Russell v. Sullivan, 950 F.2d 542, 545 (8th Cir. 1991). The ALJ's finding that Pearman can perform unskilled, light and sedentary work is supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that plaintiff's claim is DENIED, and the ALJ's decision is AFFIRMED. IT IS SO ORDERED. Date: 07/22/10 Kansas City, Missouri S/ FERNANDO J. GAITAN, JR. Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. Chief United States District Judge 3

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