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Lee v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Iowa, Davenport Division

June 25, 2014

SUSAN ANGELA LEE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

Page 973

For Susan Angela Lee, Plaintiff: Blake Parker, LEAD ATTORNEY, BLAKE PARKER LAW OFFICE, Clinton, IA.

For Commissioner of Social Security, Commissioner Carolyn W Colvin, Defendant: William C Purdy, U S Attorney's Office, Des Moines, IA.

Page 974

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT W. PRATT, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff, Susan Angela Lee, filed a Complaint in this Court on January 16, 2014, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision to deny her claim for Social Security benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § § 401 et seq. and 1381 et seq. This Court may review a final decision by the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

Plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits April 6, 2010 Tr. at 140-46 & 147-150. Plaintiff, whose date of birth is December 15, 1959, (Tr. at 140) was 52 years old (Tr. at 38) at the time of the hearing on August 1, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge John E. Sandbothe (ALJ). Tr. at 34-59. The ALJ issued a Notice Of Decision -- Unfavorable on September 11, Tr. at 8-23. The Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision on December 19, Tr. at 1-4. Thereafter, Plaintiff commenced this action.

In her application for Title II benefits, Plaintiff stated she became unable to work because of her disabling condition on December 31, 2007. Tr. at 140. At the first step of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset of disability date. Tr. at 13. At the second step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: history of polysubstance abuse and dependence; dysthymia; depression; PTSD; ADHD; learning disorder; borderline intellectual functioning; antisocial personality disorder; borderline personality disorder with dependent features; calcified tendonitis of the left shoulder and degenerative changes of the cervical spine. The ALJ found that none of the severe impairments were severe enough to meet or equal a listed impairment. Tr. at 14. At the fourth step, that ALJ found:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) such that she could lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; occasionally balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl and climb; no overhead reaching with the left arm; simple routine repetitive work; no contact with the public and no more than a regular pace.

Tr. at 15. The ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform her past relevant work. Tr. at 18. At the fifth step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is able to do a significant number of jobs examples of which include assembler of small products, marker, and laundry folder. The ALJ found that Plaintiff

Page 975

is not disabled nor entitled to the benefits for which she applied. Tr. at 23.

DISCUSSION

We will affirm the ALJ's decision " [i]f the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole," an inquiry that requires us to consider evidence in the record that detracts from the ALJ's decision. Wagner v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 842, 848 (8th Cir. 2007). " Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the decision." Reutter ex rel. Reutter v. Barnhart, 372 F.3d 946, 950 (8th Cir. 2004).
We will not reverse the ALJ's " denial of benefits so long as the ALJ's decision falls within the 'available zone of choice.'" Bradley v. Astrue, 528 F.3d 1113, 1115 (8th Cir. 2007)). The decision of the ALJ " is not outside the 'zone of choice' simply because we might have reached a different conclusion had we been the initial finder of fact." Id. (quoting Nicola, 480 F.3d at 886). Rather, " [i]f, after reviewing the record, the court finds it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the ALJ's findings, the court must affirm the ALJ's decision." Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 789 (8th Cir. 200 5).

Owen v. Astrue, 551 F.3d 792, 798 (8th Cir. 2008.) In short, a reviewing court should neither consider a claim de novo, nor abdicate its function to carefully analyze the entire record. Wilcutts v. Apfel, 143 F.3d 1134, 1136-37 (8th Cir. 1998) ...


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