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Welsh v. Colvin

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 2, 2014

Richard Welsh, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant - Appellee

Submitted April 17, 2014

Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Cedar Rapids.

For Richard Welsh, Plaintiff - Appellant: Mary K. Hoefer, Hoefer Law Firm, Iowa City, IA; Thomas A. Krause, Schott Mauss & Associates, P.C., Des Moines, IA.

For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant - Appellee: Teresa Baumann, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa, Cedar Rapids, IA; Diana Erickson, Assistant Regional Counsel, Social Security Administration, Kristi Schmidt, Deputy Chief Counsel, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel Region VII, Kansas City, MO.

Before LOKEN and MURPHY, Circuit Judges, and PERRY,[*] District Judge.

OPINION

Page 927

LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

Richard Welsh applied for Social Security disability and supplemental security income benefits. Following an administrative hearing, the ALJ denied the application, concluding that Welsh's severe impairments precluded return to his past relevant work, but he retained the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as a surveillance systems monitor and a call out operator. The district court remanded for further proceedings because the ALJ failed to resolve inconsistencies between the testimony of a vocational expert (" VE" ) and work descriptions of those jobs in the Department of Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles (" DOT" ).

On remand, a second ALJ more thoroughly questioned the VE regarding her opinion that Welsh could perform sedentary work as a surveillance systems monitor and call out operator, and that jobs Welsh could perform exist in significant numbers in the national or regional economies. Crediting the VE's testimony that her opinion was consistent with the occupational information about those jobs in the DOT, the ALJ in a thorough written decision denied Welsh's claim for benefits. The Commissioner's Appeals Council denied an administrative appeal. In this action, Welsh seeks judicial review of the adverse agency decision. The district court[1] affirmed the denial of benefits in a thorough opinion. Welsh appeals. We review the district court's decision upholding the denial of benefits de novo but, like the district court, we must uphold the ALJ's decision if it is supported by substantial evidence on the administrative record as a whole. Renfrow v. Astrue, 496 F.3d 918, 920 (8th Cir. 2007). Applying this standard of review, we affirm.

I.

After the second administrative hearing, which primarily addressed the issue on which the district court remanded, the ALJ again concluded that Welsh had multiple serious impairments that did not meet the criteria of a listed impairment -- rotator cuff tears, a right knee meniscus tear, carpel tunnel disease, right traumatic brachial plexopathy, depression, anxiety, obesity, COPD, and a history of polysubstance abuse. The ALJ next found that Welsh -

has the residual functional capacity [RFC] to perform sedentary work as defined in [the regulations] except: he can only lift five pounds with either upper extremity. Moreover, he cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and may only occasionally climb ramps or stairs. The claimant can occasionally

Page 928

balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. However, he may not reach overhead bilaterally, and while he is left-hand dominant, he may only occasionally finger with his right hand. Moreover, he cannot be required to drive, and he must avoid concentrated exposure to extremes of cold and hazards. Finally, he is limited to simple, ...

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