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Cumella v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

March 26, 2013

SHELLEY CUMELLA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security AWARD OF BENEFITS Administration, Defendant

For Shelley Cumella, Plaintiff: Margo Tschetter Julius, LEAD ATTORNEY, Julius & Simpson, L.L.P., Rapid City, SD.

For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Jan Leslie Holmgren, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office (Sioux Falls, SD), Sioux Falls, SD; Robert Gusinsky, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office (Rapid City, SD), Rapid City Office, Rapid City, SD.

For Office of General Counsel Social Security Administration, Interested Party: Office of General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Denver, CO.

OPINION

Page 1121

JEFFREY L. VIKEN, CHIEF JUDGE.

ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING FOR CALCULATION AND AWARD OF BENEFITS

INTRODUCTION

On November 15, 2009, plaintiff Shelley Cumella applied for disability insurance benefits (" DIB" ). (Administrative Record, pp. 142-44).[1]

Page 1122

Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of September 25, 2002. Id. After denial of her application, an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) held an evidentiary hearing on July 6, 2010. Id. at pp. 33-61. On November 22, 2010, the ALJ concluded Ms. Cumella was not disabled and denied her benefits.[2] Id. at pp. 17-32). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. Id. at pp. 1-3. The decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.[3] Id. at p. 1.

Plaintiff timely filed her complaint appealing from the ALJ's decision. (Docket 1). Defendant denies plaintiff is entitled to benefits. (Docket 7). The court issued a briefing schedule requiring the parties to file a joint statement of material facts (" JSMF" ). (Docket 9). If there were any disputed facts, the parties were required to attach a separate joint statement of disputed facts. Id. The parties filed their JSMF. (Docket 12). Plaintiff then filed a motion for an order reversing the decision of the Commissioner. (Docket 14). For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's motion to reverse the Commissioner's decision (Docket 14) is granted.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The parties' JSMF (Docket 12) is incorporated by reference. Further recitation of salient facts is included in the discussion section of this order.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Commissioner's findings must be upheld if they are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Choate v. Barnhart, 457 F.3d 865, 869 (8th Cir. 2006). The court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine if an error of law was committed. 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) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. Choate, 457 F.3d at 869 (quoting 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. Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. ...


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