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Davis v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

September 10, 2018

JOHN J. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Linda R. Reade, Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................... 1

         II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY ................................................... 2

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW .................................................................... 2

         A. Review of Final Decision .............................................................. 2

         B. Review of Report and Recommendation ............................................ 4

         IV. OBJECTIONS ................................................................................... 6

         A. Credibility Determination ............................................................. 6

         B. New Evidence Provided to the Appeals Council ................................. 10

         1. Factual background .......................................................... 10

         2. Applicable law ................................................................. 10

         3. Davis's objection ............................................................. 12

         C. RFC Assessment ....................................................................... 13

         V. SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEF ................................................................... 16

         VI. CONCLUSION ................................................................................. 17

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The matter before the court is Plaintiff John J. Davis's Objections (docket no. 22) to United States Chief Magistrate Judge C.J. Williams's Report and Recommendation (docket no. 20), which recommends that the court affirm Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) final decision to deny disability benefits to Davis.

         II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 24, 2017, Davis filed a Complaint (docket no. 3), seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Davis's applications for Title II disability insurance benefits and Title XVI supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits. On October 11, 2017, the Commissioner filed an Answer (docket no. 8). On January 10, 2018, Davis filed the Plaintiff's Brief (docket no. 14). On January 31, 2018, the Commissioner filed the Defendant's Brief (docket no. 15). On February 21, 2018, the matter was referred to Judge Williams for issuance of a report and recommendation. On July 27, 2018, Judge Williams issued the Report and Recommendation. On August 10, 2018, Davis filed the Objections. On August 14, 2018, Davis filed a Supplemental Brief (docket no. 25). On August 17, 2018, the Commissioner filed a Response to the Objections (docket no. 26). On August 29, 2018, the Commissioner filed a Response to the Supplemental Brief (docket no. 27).[1] On September 4, 2018, Davis filed a Reply Brief (docket no. 28). The matter is fully submitted and ready for decision.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Review of Final Decision

         The Commissioner's final determination not to award SSI benefits is subject to judicial review to the same extent as provided in 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the court has the power to “enter . . . a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner . . . with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Commissioner's factual findings shall be conclusive “if supported by substantial evidence.” Id. “The court ‘must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.'” Bernard v. Colvin, 774 F.3d 482, 486 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 577 (8th Cir. 2006)). “Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support a decision.” Fentress v. Berryhill, 854 F.3d 1016, 1019-20 (8th Cir. 2017) (quoting Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007)).

         In determining whether the Commissioner's decision meets this standard, the court considers “all of the evidence that was before the [administrative law judge (“ALJ”)], but [it] do[es] not re-weigh the evidence.” Vester v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 886, 889 (8th Cir. 2005). The court considers “both evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision, as well as evidence that supports it.” Fentress, 854 F.3d at 1020; see also Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007) (providing that review of the Commissioner's decision “extends beyond examining the record to find substantial evidence in support of the [Commissioner's] decision” and noting that the court must also “consider evidence in the record that fairly detracts from that decision”). The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals explained this standard as follows:

This standard is “something less than the weight of the evidence and it allows for the possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions, thus it embodies a zone of choice within which the [Commissioner] may decide to grant or deny ...

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