United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division
WOLLMANN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
January 29, 2018, claimant Gary Dole filed a complaint
appearing the final decision of Nancy A. Berryhill, the
acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,
finding him not disabled. (Doc. 1). Defendant denies claimant
is entitled to benefits. (Doc. 7). The court issued a
briefing schedule requiring the parties to file a joint
statement of materials facts (“JSMF”). (Doc. 9).
For the reasons stated below, claimant's motion to
reverse the decision of the Commissioner (Doc. 13) is denied.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
parties' JSMF (Docket 10) is incorporated by reference.
Further recitation of the salient facts is incorporated in
the discussion section of this order.
March 15, 2015, Mr. Dole filed an application for Social
Security disability benefits alleging an onset of disability
date of April 1, 2014. (Doc. 10 at ¶ 1). The claims were
denied initially and on reconsideration, and Mr. Dole filed a
written request for a hearing. (Id.). An evidentiary
hearing was held on December 2, 2016. (Id. at ¶
2). On February 15, 2017, the ALJ issued a written decision
denying benefits. (Id. at ¶ 3; see
also AR p. 13-23). Mr. Dole subsequently sought appellate
review; his request was denied, making the decision of the
ALJ final. (Id. at ¶ 3). It is from this
decision that Mr. Dole timely appeals.
issue before this court is whether the ALJ's decision of
February 15, 2017, that Mr. Dole was not “under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from April
1, 2014, through [February 15, 2017]” is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. (AR at p. 23);
see also Howard v. Massanari, 255 F.3d 577, 580 (8th
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, 901
(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 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. 15-23). At step three of the
evaluation, the ALJ found that Mr. Dole does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically exceeds the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. At
step four, the ALJ found Mr. Dole is unable to perform past
work; however, at step five, the ALJ found there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that Mr. Dole can perform. Thus, the ALJ found that Mr. Dole
is not disabled. (AR at p. 23).
Dole identifies the following issues: (1) whether Mr. Dole
meets Social Security listing 104A; (2) whether treating
Doctor Trevor Anderson's opinions regarding Mr.
Dole's condition should have been accepted; (3) whether
Mr. Dole's credibility should have been accepted; and (4)
whether the case should be reversed and remanded for
calculation of benefits. The court will discuss each issue in
one, the ALJ determined claimant “had not [been]
engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 1, 2014,
the alleged onset date” of disability. (AR at p. 15).
two, the ALJ must decide whether the claimant has a medically
determinable impairment that is severe or a combination of
impairments that are severe. 20 CFR § 404.1520(c). A
medically determinable impairment can only be established by
an acceptable medical source. 20 CFR § 404.1513(a).
Accepted medical sources include, among others, licensed
physicians. Id. “It is the claimant's
burden to establish that [his] impairment or combination of
impairments are severe.” Kirby v. Astrue, 500
F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007).
regulations describe “severe impairment” in the
negative. “An impairment or combination of impairments
is not severe if it does not significantly limit your
physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” 20 CFR § 404.1521(a). An impairment
is not severe, however, if it “amounts to only a slight
abnormality that would not significantly limit the
claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” Kirby, 500 F.3d at 707.
severe impairment is one which significantly limits a
claimant's physical or mental ...