Brasel v. Colvin
ORDER AFFIRMING the Commissioner's decision denying benefits. Signed on 9/19/16 by District Judge M. Douglas Harpool. (View, Pat)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security,
Case No. 15-cv-00628-MDH
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s appeal of the Commissioner’s denial of her application for
disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq.
Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies and the matter is now ripe for judicial
The Court reviews the Commissioner’s final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§
1383(c)(3) and 405(g).
The procedural history, facts, and issues of this case are contained in the record and the
parties’ briefs, so they are not repeated here. The ALJ found Plaintiff suffered from severe
impairments of disorder of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, chronic diarrhea,
depression, and anxiety. After finding Plaintiff’s impairments did not meet or equal a listed
impairment, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the following residual functional capacity
to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except she should
only occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, balance, bend, and climb ramps or
stairs; she should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she should avoid all
exposure to excessive vibration, unprotected heights, and hazardous machinery;
she should be limited to unskilled work in a low stress job with only occasional
decision making required, only occasional changes in the work setting, and only
occasional judgments required on the job; she should have only occasional
interaction with the public, coworkers, and supervisors; and she should have close
access to a restroom.
Plaintiff argues on appeal that the ALJ erred in assessing Plaintiff’s RFC, including his
interpretation of the medical evidence, the applicable laws and Plaintiff’s credibility
Judicial review of the Commissioner’s decision is a limited inquiry into whether
substantial evidence supports the findings of the Commissioner and whether the correct legal
standards were applied. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(1)(B)(ii)(3). Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance of the evidence and requires enough evidence to allow a reasonable
person to find adequate support for the Commissioner’s conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Freeman v. Apfel, 208 F.3d 687, 690 (8th Cir. 2000). This standard
requires a court to consider both the evidence that supports the Commissioner’s decision and the
evidence that detracts from it. Finch v. Astrue, 547 F.3d 933, 935 (8th Cir. 2008). That the
reviewing court would come to a different conclusion is not a sufficient basis for reversal. Wiese
v. Astrue, 552 F.3d 728, 730 (8th Cir. 2009). Rather, “[i]f, after review, we find it possible to
draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the
Commissioner’s findings, we must affirm the denial of benefits.” Id. (quoting Mapes v. Chater,
82 F.3d 259, 262 (8th Cir. 1996)). Courts “defer heavily to the findings and conclusions of the
Social Security Administration” and will disturb the Commissioner’s decision only if it falls
outside the “zone of choice.” Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010); Casey v.
Astrue, 503 F.3d 687, 691 (8th Cir. 2007). Further, the Court defers to the ALJ’s determinations
of the credibility of witness testimony, as long as the ALJ’s determinations are supported by
good reasons and substantial evidence. Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 578 (8th Cir. 2006).
After full and careful review of the record and briefs, the Court finds the ALJ’s findings
are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
First, the Court has thoroughly reviewed the administrative record before the Court,
including the medical records, hearing testimony, and the ALJ’s opinion. The Court finds that
the ALJ’s determination is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and was
within the available “zone of choice.” The ALJ provided a lengthy analysis of the medical
opinion evidence and properly addressed Plaintiff’s physical and mental limitations, in light of
the medical records, work history and hearing testimony. The Court gives great deference to the
ALJ’s determination as it falls within an acceptable “zone of choice” of the finder of fact.
Further, the Court finds the ALJ applied the appropriate legal framework in analyzing the record
and evidence before him.
Second, the Court will not disturb the ALJ’s credibility determination.
Plaintiff’s allegations not completely credible, the ALJ considered such things as Plaintiff’s
reported limitations, the objective medical evidence and medical opinions, Plaintiff’s daily
activities, and Plaintiff’s work history. The Court finds the ALJ recognized the appropriate
analytic framework, considered the appropriate factors, and gave good reasons for discrediting
the claimant’s testimony. See generally Tucker v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 781, 783 (8th Cir. 2004)
(“The ALJ is not required to discuss each Polaski factor as long as the analytical framework is
recognized and considered.”). Accordingly, the Court will defer to the ALJ’s judgment. See
Whitman v. Colvin, 762 F.3d 701, 707 (8th Cir. 2014) (“Questions of credibility are for the ALJ
in the first instance” and “[i]f an ALJ explicitly discredits a claimant’s testimony and gives a
good reason for doing so, we will normally defer to that judgment.”).
For the reasons set forth herein, the Court finds there is substantial evidence on the record
as a whole to support the ALJ’s determination. Accordingly, the Commissioner’s decision
denying benefits is AFFIRMED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: September 19, 2016
/s/ Douglas Harpool
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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