United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON REPORT AND
LEONARD T. STRAND, CHIEF JUDGE.
case is before me on a Report and Recommendation (R&R)
filed by the Honorable Mark A. Roberts, United States
Magistrate Judge. See Doc. No. 19. Judge Roberts
recommends that I affirm in part and reverse in part the
decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (the
Commissioner) denying Stuart Lee Klingbeil's applications
for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the
Social Security Act (the Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et
seq., and for supplemental security income (SSI) under Title
XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. Neither
party has objected to the R&R. The deadline for such
objections has expired.
Judicial Review of the Commissioner's
Commissioner's decision must be affirmed “if it is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a
whole.” Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 577
(8th Cir. 2006); see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
(“The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security
as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall
be conclusive . . .”). “Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Lewis v. Barnhart, 353 F.3d 642, 645 (8th Cir.
2003). The Eighth Circuit explains the standard as
“something less than the weight of the evidence and
[that] 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.
determining whether the Commissioner's decision meets
this standard, the court considers “all of the evidence
that was before the ALJ, but it [does] not re-weigh the
evidence.” Vester v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 886,
889 (8th Cir. 2005). The court considers both evidence that
supports the Commissioner's decision and evidence that
detracts from it. Kluesner v. Astrue, 607 F.3d 533,
536 (8th Cir. 2010). The court must “search the record
for evidence contradicting the [Commissioner's] decision
and give that evidence appropriate weight when determining
whether the overall evidence in support is
substantial.” Baldwin v. Barnhart, 349 F.3d
549, 555 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing Cline v. Sullivan,
939 F.2d 560, 564 (8th Cir. 1991)).
evaluating the evidence in an appeal of a denial of benefits,
the court must apply a balancing test to assess any
contradictory evidence. Sobania v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 879 F.2d 441, 444 (8th Cir. 1989).
The court, however, does not “reweigh the evidence
presented to the ALJ, ” Baldwin, 349 F.3d at
555 (citing Bates v. Chater, 54 F.3d 529, 532 (8th
Cir. 1995)), or “review the factual record de
novo.” Roe v. Chater, 92 F.3d 672, 675 (8th
Cir. 1996) (citing Naber v. Shalala, 22 F.3d 186,
188 (8th Cir. 1994)). Instead, if, after reviewing the
evidence, the court finds it “possible to draw two
inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those
positions represents the Commissioner's findings, [the
court] must affirm the [Commissioner's] denial of
benefits.” Kluesner, 607 F.3d at 536 (quoting
Finch v. Astrue, 547 F.3d 933, 935 (8th Cir. 2008)).
This is true even in cases where the court “might have
weighed the evidence differently.” Culbertson,
30 F.3d at 939 (quoting Browning v. Sullivan, 958
F.2d 817, 822 (8th Cir. 1992)). The court may not reverse the
Commissioner's decision “merely because substantial
evidence would have supported an opposite decision.”
Baker v. Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir.
1984); see Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 789 (8th
Cir. 2005) (“[A]n administrative decision is not
subject to reversal simply because some evidence may support
the opposite conclusion.”).
Review of Report and Recommendation
district judge must review a magistrate judge's R&R
under the following standards:
Within fourteen days after being served with a copy, any
party may serve and file written objections to such proposed
findings and recommendations as provided by rules of court. 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
findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The
judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the
matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
72(b). Thus, when a party objects to any portion of an
R&R, the district judge must undertake a de novo review
of that portion. Any portions of an R&R to which no
objections have been made must be reviewed under at least a
“clearly erroneous” standard. See, e.g.,
Grinder v. Gammon, 73 F.3d 793, 795 (8th Cir. 1996)
(noting that when no objections are filed “[the
district court judge] would only have to review the findings
of the magistrate judge for clear error”). As the
Supreme Court has explained, “[a] finding is
‘clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence
to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is
left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has
been committed.” Anderson v. City of Bessemer
City, 470 U.S. 564, 573-74 (1985) (quoting United
States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)).
However, a district judge may elect to review an R&R
under a more-exacting standard even if no objections are
Any party that desires plenary consideration by the Article
III judge of any issue need only ask. Moreover, while the
statute does not require the judge to review an issue de
novo if no objections are filed, it does not preclude
further review by the district judge, sua sponte or at the
request of a party, under a de novo or any other
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).
applied for DIB and SSI on June 2, 2015, alleging disability
due to a stroke, a heart murmur, high blood pressure and
“no balance.” Doc. No. 19 at 1-2 (citing AR
241-56, 266, 270). After a hearing, an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) applied the familiar five-step evaluation and
found that Klingbeil was not disabled as defined in the Act.
Klingbeil argues the ALJ (1) improperly weighed the opinions
of his treating physician, Dr. Meis, (2) improperly evaluated
Klingbeil's credibility and (3) relied on a hypothetical
question to the vocational expert (VE) that was not supported
by the record. Id. at 8; see also Doc. No.
13. Judge Roberts addressed each argument separately.
Analysis of the ...