Fravel v. Astrue
ORDER - plaintiff's claim is DENIED, and the ALJ's decision is AFFIRMED. Signed on 7/8/11 by Chief District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. (Enss, Rhonda)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
GAYLA J. FRAVEL,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
Commissioner of Social Security,
Case No. 10-3480-CV-S-FJG-SSA
This is a proceeding under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 to
434, in which plaintiff requested review of the Commissioner’s decision denying her
application for disability benefits. Plaintiff’s claims were initially denied. On January 15,
2009, following a hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) found plaintiff was not
disabled as defined by the Social Security Act. The ALJ also denied benefits. On
September 30, 2010, 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 brief in support of her
complaint. The facts and arguments are presented in the parties’ briefs and will not be
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. 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. Finch v. Astrue, 547 F.3d 933, 935 (8th Cir.
2008). This determination requires review of the entire record, including evidence that
detracts from and supports the Commissioner’s decision. Singh v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 448,
451 (8th Cir. 2000). 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)).
Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance. It means such evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. Finch, 547 F.3d 933, 935. The substantial evidence
standard, however, presupposes a zone of choice within which the decision-maker can
go either way, without interference by the courts. Clarke v. Bowen, 843 F.2d 271, 272
(8th Cir. 1988). “An administrative decision is not subject to reversal merely because
substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision.” Id. at 272-73.
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, 675 (8th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted).
An individual claiming disability benefits has the burden of proving he or she is
unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity 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 the claimant 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 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c)(2).
Plaintiff must also show that she was disabled as defined by the Act before her
insured status expired on December 31, 2006 (the date through which her earnings
records show she had acquired sufficient quarters of coverage to remain insured).
Tilley v. Astrue, 580 F.3d 675, 676 (8th Cir. 2009); see 42 U.S.C. § 416(i) (defining the
terms “disability” and “period of disability”); § 423(a) (describing who is entitled to
disability insurance benefits). Plaintiff claims that her disability began on March 1, 2005,
and thus the relevant time for the Court to determine whether she was under a disability
is between March 1, 2005 and December 31, 2006.
The Court has reviewed the parties’ briefs and the record. Like the ALJ, the
Court acknowledges plaintiff had the severe impairment of cranial cervical dystonia and
that she did not engage in substantial gainful activity from March 1, 2005 and December
31, 2006.. Plaintiff did not, however, have an impairment or combination of impairments
listed in or medically equal to one contained in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1,
Listing of Impairments. In addition, the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s subjective allegations
of disabling limitations were not supported by the evidence of record. 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 record supports the ALJ’s finding that Plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity to perform sedentary work, and that jobs existed in significant
numbers in the national economy that she could have performed. Finally, the ALJ’s
finding that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined by the Act, at any time from
the alleged onset date of March 1, 2005, through December 31, 2006, the date she was
last insured, 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: July 8, 2011
Kansas City, Missouri
/s/ Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr.
Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr.
Chief United States District Judge
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