United States District Court, D. Nebraska
LYLE E. STROM, Senior Judge
This matter is before the Court for judicial review of a final decision of defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner” or “defendant”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). The matter has been fully briefed by the parties in accordance with the Court’s September 2, 2015 order (Filing No. 12). See Filing Nos. 14 and 15. After review of the record, the parties’ briefs, and applicable law, the Court finds as follows.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On April 20, 2012, the plaintiff, Kim Marlene Hetrick (“plaintiff”), sought a period of disability and disability insurance benefits by filing a Title II application in accordance with 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 (Filing No. 14 at 1). Plaintiff claims disability due to “back pain, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, bilateral tennis elbow, and problems sleeping due to pain.” (Id.) Plaintiff also claims to suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”). (Id. at 2). Plaintiff alleges her disability began on April 1, 2011. (Id. at 1).
On June 8, 2012, plaintiff’s initial application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits was denied (Filing No. 10-3 at 2-10). Her application was denied again on reconsideration on August 1, 2012. (Id. at 11-20). On March 10, 2014, after an administrative hearing, plaintiff’s application was once again denied by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Filing No. 10-2 at 12-23). Although the plaintiff sought review of the ALJ’s denial, the Appeals Council denied her request for any additional review. (Id. at 2-6). Thus, the ALJ’s decision became “the final agency decision.” (Filing No. 14 at 2; see also Filing No. 10-2 at 2-6 (explaining ALJ’s “decision is the final decision of the Commissioner” and explaining the process for filing a civil action in federal court)).
On June 25, 2015, plaintiff filed a civil action in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner’s denial of her Title II application (Filing No. 1). Plaintiff asks the Court to find “that [she] is entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits . . . or [to] [r]emand the case for a further hearing.” (Id. at 2). Plaintiff contends the ALJ’s decision to deny her benefits was erroneous based on four issues. See Filing No. 14 (arguing the ALJ: (1) failed “to find [that] [p]laintiff’s COPD [is] a severe impairment;” (2) that the residual functional capacity determination is “not supported by substantial evidence;” (3) that the ALJ’s “credibility determination is not supported by substantial evidence;” and (4) that the “Step 5 determination is not supported by substantial evidence.”). The defendant counters by arguing that plaintiff “had a fair hearing and full administrative consideration . . . [and] [s]ubstantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the Commissioner’s decision.” (Filing No. 15 at 19).
District courts have authority to review the Social Security Administration’s final decision denying an applicant’s Title II request for Social Security disability insurance benefits. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The statute provides courts guidance as to the decisions courts can render and the deference that ought to be given upon review:
The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing. The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .
Courts within the Eighth Circuit “defer heavily to the findings and conclusions of the Social Security Administration.” Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing Howard v. Massanari, 255 F.3d 577, 581 (8th Cir. 2001)). An ALJ’s “decision must be affirmed ‘if it is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.’” Barrows v. Colvin, No. C 13-4087-MWB, 2015 WL 1510159, at *7 (N.D. Iowa, March 31, 2015) (quoting Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 577 (8th Cir. 2006)) (internal citations omitted). “Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support a decision.” Juszczyk v. Astrue, 542 F.3d 626, 631 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007)). “If substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision, [a court] will not reverse the decision merely because substantial evidence would have also supported a contrary outcome, or because [the court] would have decided differently.” Barrows, 2015 WL 1510159, at *7 (quoting Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 964 (8th Cir. 2010)) (internal citations omitted). “[A] reviewing court should not consider a claim de novo, nor abdicate its function to carefully analyze the entire record.” Nevland v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 853, 857 (8th Cir. 2000).
The Court finds that the ALJ’s decision denying plaintiff’s Title II application should be affirmed. Plaintiff assigns four errors as issues before ...