United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division
JEFFREY L. VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE
Melissa T., n/k/a Melissa C., filed a complaint appealing the
final decision of Nancy A. Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration, finding her not
disabled. (Docket 1). The Commissioner denies Melissa C. 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). The parties
filed their JSMF. (Docket 10). For the reasons stated below,
Melissa C.'s motion to reverse the decision of the
Commissioner (Docket 13) is denied.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
parties' JSMF (Docket 10) is incorporated by reference.
Further recitation of salient facts is incorporated in the
discussion section of this order.
9, 2014, Melissa C. filed an application for disability and
disability insurance benefits. Id. ¶ 1. Melissa
C. alleges an onset of disability date of August 23, 2013.
Id. On May 24, 2016, the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) issued a decision finding Melissa C. was
not disabled. Id. ¶ 3; see also
Administrative Record at pp. 19-29 (hereinafter “AR at
p. ”). The Appeals Council denied Melissa C.'s
request for review and affirmed the ALJ's decision.
(Docket 10 ¶ 3). The ALJ's decision constitutes the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration. It is from this decision which Melissa C.
issue before the court is whether the ALJ's decision of
May 24, 2016, that Melissa C. “has not been under a
disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act from
August 23, 2013, through [May 24, 2016]” is supported
by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. (AR at p.
19); 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 DI benefits under
Title II. 20 CFR § 404.1520(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). The ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation
required by the Social Security Administration regulations.
(AR at pp. 19-29).