Bennett v. Astrue

Filing 13

ORDER by Judge David P. Rush affirming the decision of the Commissioner (Elayer, Glenda)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI WESTERN DIVISION PHILLIP W. BENNETT, Plaintiff, v. CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,1 Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No. 12-991-CV-DPR MEMORANDUM AND ORDER An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to Plaintiff Phillip W. Bennett in a decision dated December 28, 2010 (Tr. 18-29). The Appeals Counsel denied review. Thus, the ALJ’s decision became the Commissioner of Social Security’s final decision denying Social Security Disability benefits. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is AFFIRMED. LEGAL STANDARDS Judicial review of a denial of disability benefits is limited to whether there is substantial evidence on the record as a whole to support the Social Security Administration’s decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Minor v. Astrue, 574 F.3d 625, 627 (8th Cir. 2009). Substantial evidence is “‘such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.’” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. V. NLRB, 1 Carolyn W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security on February 14, 2013. Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(d), Carolyn W. Colvin is substituted for Michael J. Astrue as defendant in this action. 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). “Substantial evidence on the record as a whole,” however, requires a more exacting analysis, which also takes into account “whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight.” Minor, 574 F.3d at 627 (quoting Wilson v. Sullivan, 886 F.2d 172, 175 (8th Cir. 1989)). Thus, where it is possible to draw two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence, and one conclusion represents the ALJ’s findings, a court must affirm the decision. See Robinson v. Sullivan, 956 F.2d 836, 838 (8th Cir. 1992) (citing Cruse v. Bowen, 867 F.2d 1183, 1184 (8th Cir. 1989)). In other words, a court should not disturb an ALJ’s denial of benefits if the decision “falls within the available zone of choice.” Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011). A decision may fall within the “zone of choice” even where the court “might have reached a different conclusion had [the court] been the initial finder of fact.” Id. (quoting Bradley v. Astrue, 528 F.3d 1113, 1115 (8th Cir. 2008)). A reviewing court is directed to “defer heavily to the findings and conclusions” of the Social Security Administration. Howard v. Massanari, 255 F.3d 577, 581 (8th Cir. 2001). ANALYSIS The operative facts and arguments are thoroughly presented in the parties’ briefs and will not be duplicated here. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in making her credibility determination and RFC calculation. Plaintiff contends the ALJ’s opinion was unsupported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole (Doc. 5). The Court has thoroughly reviewed the claimant’s medical records, opinion evidence, hearing testimony, and the ALJ’s opinion, and finds that the ALJ’s determinations are based upon substantial evidence on the record as a whole. The ALJ properly considered the evidence in the record regarding the claimant’s impairments; sufficiently supported her credibility determination by citing to inconsistencies 2 between the claimant’s subjective complaints and the medical and other evidence in the record; properly considered medical opinion testimony and based the claimant’s RFC on medical evidence of record; and properly relied on the testimony of the vocational expert. Taken together, the ALJ’s determinations fall within the acceptable “zone of choice” of the finder of fact, to which the court gives great deference. Accordingly, the Court will not disturb the ALJ’s denial of benefits. Therefore, based on all the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is AFFIRMED. IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: July 25, 2013 /s/ David P. Rush DAVID P. RUSH United States Magistrate Judge 3

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