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Kelly Chris Jones v. Michael J. Astrue

September 25, 2012

KELLY CHRIS JONES,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeffrey L. VIKEN United States District Judge

ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Kelly Chris Jones appeals the denial of his application for disability benefits by the Social Security Administration. (Docket 1). Mr. Jones moves the court to reverse the Commissioner's determination he is not disabled and to award benefits immediately. (Docket 28). The Commissioner opposes the complaint, as well as the motion to reverse, and moves the court to affirm the determination. (Docket 31). The court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Based on the analysis in this order, the case is remanded for further proceedings.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The court adopts the parties' Joint Statement of Material Facts ("JSMF") and incorporates it by reference. (Docket 22). Mr. Jones also filed a document purporting to be a joint statement of disputed material facts but which is unsigned by the government. (Docket 24). The court will make determinations regarding those disputed facts as necessary.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Commissioner's findings must be upheld if supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See also Choate v. Barnhart, 457 F.3d 865, 869 (8th Cir. 2006). The court must review the Commissioner's decision to determine if an error of law was committed. See Smith v. Sullivan, 982 F.2d 308, 311 (8th Cir. 1992).

"Substantial evidence is 'less than a preponderance, but is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion.' " Cox v. Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000)). Substantial evidence is that quantum of relevant evidence a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. See Choate, 457 F.3d at 869 (citing Ellis v. Barnhart, 392 F.3d 988, 993 (8th Cir. 2005)). The review of a decision to deny disability benefits is " 'more than an examination of the record for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the Commissioner's decision; . . . [the court must] also take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from that decision.' " Reed v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001)).

It is not the role of the court to re-weigh the evidence and, even if this court would have decided the case differently, it cannot reverse the Commissioner's decision if that decision is supported by good reason and is based on substantial evidence. See Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005). A reviewing court may not reverse the Commissioner's decision " 'merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision.' " Reed, 399 F.3d at 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Shannon v. Chater, 54 F.3d 484, 486 (8th Cir. 1995)). Issues of law are reviewed de novo with deference given to the Commissioner's construction of the Social Security Act. See Smith, 982 F.2d at 311.

DISCUSSION

Mr. Jones asserts the administrative law judge (ALJ) and the Appeals Council erred when determining he was not disabled prior to June 1, 2008. (Docket 29). Specifically, Mr. Jones asserts the ALJ and the Appeals Council failed to properly identify the severe impairments from which Mr. Jones was suffering prior to June 1, 2008. Mr. Jones further contends the ALJ erred in finding his complaints not credible. Additionally, Mr. Jones argues the residual functional capacity (RFC) formulated by the ALJ was unsupported by the evidence in the record and that the Appeals Council failed to properly consider the opinion of his treating physician with regard to the onset date of his disability.

1. Severe Impairments

At step two of the process for determining whether an individual is

suffering from a disability, the ALJ sets forth the severe impairment(s) from which the claimant is suffering. See 20 C.F.R. ยง 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Mr. Jones alleged in his application for benefits he suffered from the severe impairments of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, restrictive airway disease, HTN, congestive heart failure, and diastolic heart failure. (AR 23). In determining what severe ...


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