United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division
JEFFREY L. VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE
December 28, 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Lynn Bowerman filed a
complaint appealing the final decision of Nancy A. Berryhill,
acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,
finding her not disabled. (Docket 1). Defendant denies
plaintiff is entitled to benefits. (Docket 8). The court
issued a briefing schedule requiring the parties to file a
joint statement of material facts (“JSMF”).
(Docket 10). The parties filed a JSMF. (Docket 14). The
parties also filed a joint statement of disputed material
facts (“JSDMF”). (Docket 15). For the reasons
stated below, plaintiff's motion to reverse the decision
of the Commissioner (Docket 16) is granted.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
parties' JSMF (Docket 14) and JSDMF (Docket 15) are
incorporated by reference. Further recitation of salient
facts is incorporated in the discussion section of this
October 1, 2012, plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits alleging an onset of disability
date of July 13, 2012. (Docket 14 at p. 1). On June 17, 2014,
the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) issued a
decision finding plaintiff was not disabled. Id. at
p. 2; see also Administrative Record at pp. 10-21
(hereinafter “AR at p. __”). On October 23, 2015,
the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review
and affirmed the ALJ's decision. (Docket 14 at p. 2). The
ALJ's decision constitutes the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. It is
from this decision which plaintiff timely appeals.
issue before the court is whether the ALJ's decision of
June 17, 2014, that plaintiff was not “under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any
time from July 13, 2012, the alleged onset date, through
December 31, 2012, the date last insured[, ]” is
supported by the substantial evidence in the record as a
whole. (AR at p. 20) (bold omitted); see also Howard v.
Massanari, 255 F.3d 577, 580 (8th Cir. 2001) (“By
statute, the findings of the Commissioner of Social Security
as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall
be conclusive.”) (internal quotation marks and brackets
omitted) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)).
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); Howard, 255 F.3d at
580. 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).
review of a decision to deny 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.
not the role of the court to re-weigh the evidence and, even
if this court would decide 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. 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
(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.
Social Security Administration established a five-step
sequential evaluation process for determining whether an
individual is disabled and entitled to SSI benefits under
Title XVI. 20 CFR § 416.920(a). If the ALJ determines a
claimant is not disabled at any step of the process, the
evaluation does not proceed to the next step as the claimant
is not disabled. Id. The five-step sequential
evaluation process is:
(1) whether the claimant is presently engaged in a
“substantial gainful activity”; (2) whether the
claimant has a severe impairment-one that significantly
limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to
perform basic work activities; (3) whether the claimant has
an impairment that meets or equals a presumptively disabling
impairment listed in the regulations (if so, the claimant is
disabled without regard to age, education, and work
experience); (4) whether the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform . . . past relevant work; and
(5) if the claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to prove there are other jobs in
the national economy the claimant can perform.
Baker v. Apfel, 159 F.3d 1140, 1143-44 (8th Cir.
1998). See also Boyd v. Sullivan, 960 F.2d 733, 735
(8th Cir. 1992) (the criteria under 20 CFR § 416.920 are
the same under 20 CFR § 404.1520 for disability
insurance benefits). The ALJ applied the five-step sequential
evaluation required by the Social Security Administration
regulations. (AR at pp. 10-21).
one, the ALJ determined plaintiff “did not engage in
substantial gainful activity during the period from her
alleged onset date of July 13, 2012[, ] through her date last
insured of ...