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Igo v. Colvin

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 13, 2016

Curtis Igo, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant-Appellee

          Submitted: September 22, 2016

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Davenport

          Before LOKEN, GRUENDER, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

          GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

         Curtis Igo appeals the decision of the district court[1] affirming the administrative law judge's ("ALJ") denial of his application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423. Because the decision of the ALJ is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, we affirm.

         I. Background

         Igo claims that he is disabled as a result of osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease of the hips, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spines, sensory and motor neuropathies, chronic shoulder pain and osteoarthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Igo has an associate's degree in digital electronics and worked steadily throughout his life until 2010. In December 2010, he began working part-time as a receptionist at a senior center. On April 18, 2013, Igo filed his claim for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability since September 1, 2009. Igo's claim was denied initially, upon reconsideration, and after a hearing before the ALJ.

         The ALJ evaluated Igo's disability claim according to the five-step sequential evaluation process prescribed by the Social Security regulations. See Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 789-90 (8th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(f). At the first step of the analysis, the ALJ examines the claimant's work activity. If the claimant is performing "substantial gainful activity, " then he is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). Based on Igo's monthly earnings, the ALJ concluded that Igo had not performed substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of September 1, 2009. At the second step, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a severe impairment that "significantly limits [the claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). The ALJ found that Igo had multiple severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spines, osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease of the hips, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sensory neuropathy. The ALJ found that Igo's mental impairments were nonsevere.

         At the third step, the ALJ determines based on the medical evidence whether the severe impairments meet or equal the criteria of a "listed impairment, " which is presumed to be disabling. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). The ALJ concluded that Igo did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled the criteria of a listed impairment. The ALJ did not specify which of the listed impairments he considered.

         At the fourth step, the ALJ assesses the claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC") and considers whether the claimant can do his past relevant work based on his RFC. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545 (defining RFC as "the most [a claimant] can still do despite" his "physical or mental limitations"). After a lengthy recitation of the testimony and medical evidence that he considered, the ALJ concluded that Igo retained the RFC to perform sedentary work. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) ("Sedentary work involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like docket files, ledgers, and small tools."). Based on the RFC, the ALJ found that Igo was able to perform his past relevant work as a receptionist and, therefore, was not disabled under the Social Security Act. Thus, the ALJ did not reach the fifth step of the analysis.

         The Social Security Appeals Council denied Igo's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"). Igo then sought review in the district court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The district court affirmed the decision of the Commissioner. Igo now appeals, arguing that (1) the ALJ should have found that Igo meets or equals the criteria of Listing 1.02A, which is the listed impairment governing major dysfunction of a joint, and (2) the ALJ erred in assessing Igo's RFC.

         II. Discussion

         We review de novo the district court's decision affirming the ALJ's denial of benefits. Blackburn v. Colvin, 761 F.3d 853, 858 (8th Cir. 2014). In reviewing the ALJ's decision, we examine whether it is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether the ALJ made any legal errors. Id. "Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence" and is "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind would find adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion.'" Id. (quoting Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)). We may not reverse simply because we would have reached a different conclusion than the ALJ or because substantial evidence supports a contrary conclusion. Id.

         Igo first argues that the ALJ erred in failing to find that Igo's impairments met or equaled the criteria of Listing 1.02A and in failing to mention this listing in his decision.[2] However, even assuming that the ALJ erred by failing to mention Listing 1.02A, it is not necessarily reversible error. See Brown v. Colvin, No. 15-3001, 2016 WL 3361472, at *3 (8th Cir. June 17, 2016) ("The ALJ's failure to identify and analyze the appropriate listing, although error, may not by itself require reversal so long as the record otherwise supports the ALJ's overall conclusion."). Thus, we will uphold the ALJ's decision so long as "substantial evidence in the record supported the ALJ's determination" ...


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