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Iwan v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 10, 2018

KIMBERLY L. IWAN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LINDA R. READE JUDGE.

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

         II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY ................................................... 1

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

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

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

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

         A. Listing 14.09D ........................................................................... 6

         B. Credibility Determination ............................................................ 10

         C. Dr. Mathew's Opinions .............................................................. 14

         V. SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEF ................................................................... 17

         VI. CONCLUSION ................................................................................. 19

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The matter before the court is Plaintiff Kimberly L. Iwan's Objections (docket no. 25) to United States Magistrate Judge Kelly K.E. Mahoney's Report and Recommendation (docket no. 17), which recommends that the court affirm Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) final decision to deny disability benefits to Iwan.

         II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On September 20, 2017, Iwan filed a Complaint (docket no. 3), seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Iwan's applications for Title II disability insurance benefits and Title XVI supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits. On November 22, 2017, the Commissioner filed an Answer (docket no. 8). On February 25, 2018, Iwan filed the Plaintiff's Brief (docket no. 13). On March 22, 2018, the Commissioner filed the Defendant's Brief (docket no. 14). On April 4, 2018, Iwan filed a Reply Brief (docket no. 15). On April 5, 2018, the matter was referred to Judge Mahoney for issuance of a report and recommendation. On July 12, 2018, Judge Mahoney issued the Report and Recommendation. On July 19, 2018, Iwan filed a Supplemental Brief (docket no. 22). On July 26, 2018, Iwan filed the Objections. On August 2, 2018, the Commissioner filed a Response to the Objections (docket no. 28). On August 23, 2018, the Commissioner filed a Response to the Supplemental Brief (docket no. 29). On August 30, 2018, Iwan filed a Reply Brief (docket no. 30). 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 disability insurance benefits is subject to judicial review. See 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.” Id. The Commissioner's factual findings shall be conclusive “if supported by substantial evidence.” Id. 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 Id. § 1383(c)(3). “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 benefits without being subject to reversal on appeal.”

Culbertson v. Shalala, 30 F.3d 934, 939 (8th Cir. 1994) (quoting Turley v. Sullivan, 939 F.2d 524, 528 (8th Cir. 1991)). The court “will not disturb the denial of benefits so long as the ALJ's decision falls within the available zone of choice.” Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Bradley v. Astrue, 528 F.3d 1113, 1115 (8th Cir. 2008)). “An ALJ's decision is not outside the zone of choice simply because [the court] might have reached a different conclusion had [the court] been the initial finder of fact.” Id. (quoting Bradley, 528 F.3d at 1115). Therefore, “even if inconsistent conclusions may be drawn from the evidence, the [Commissioner's] decision will be upheld if it is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.” Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005); see also Igo v. Colvin, 839 F.3d 724, 728 (8th Cir. 2016) (providing that a court “may not reverse simply because [it] would have reached a different conclusion than the [Commissioner] or because substantial evidence supports a contrary conclusion”).

         B. Review of Report and Recommendation

         The standard of review to be applied by the court to a report and recommendation of a magistrate judge is established by statute:

A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the ...

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