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Julin v. Colvin

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 24, 2016

Laura Julin, Plaintiff- Appellant,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee.

          Submitted: October 20, 2015

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

          Before MURPHY, COLLOTON, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

          COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

         Laura Julin appeals the judgment of the district court[1] upholding the Social Security Commissioner's denial of her application for supplemental security income. We affirm.


         In December 2009, Julin applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423, and for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382. She claimed a disability onset date of February 15, 2004. Julin based her claims of disability on depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Julin alleged that these conditions caused her difficulties with maintaining focus, energy, concentration, social interactions, and a regular schedule.

         The Social Security Administration denied Julin's claims initially and on reconsideration, so Julin requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). After a hearing in July 2011, the ALJ found that Julin was not disabled and affirmed the denial of Julin's applications. On administrative appeal, the Appeals Council remanded the case. The Council instructed the ALJ to evaluate further the opinions of Julin's treating physician, Dr. Welsh, and Julin's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). The Council provided that, if necessary, the ALJ should acquire additional medical evidence.

         After a hearing in July 2013 and review of all the evidence, the ALJ again denied Julin's application. Applying the five-step sequential evaluation process used to evaluate whether a claimant is disabled, see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; see also Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987), the ALJ determined at step one that Julin had not engaged in "substantial gainful activity" since February 15, 2004. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that although Julin suffered from severe impairments-depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a history of marijuana abuse-the impairments did not meet or equal the severity of any listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

         The ALJ then determined Julin's residual functional capacity for purposes of steps four and five. The ALJ found that while Julin had the capacity "to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, " she had several nonexertional limitations. The ALJ stated that Julin's residual functional capacity was "limited to tasks that can be learned in thirty days or less involving no more than simple work-related decisions with few work place changes; no more than occasional, brief, and superficial interaction with the public, co-workers, and supervisors; and no work at production rate pace."

         The ALJ submitted Julin's RFC in the form of a hypothetical question to a vocational expert. The expert believed that Julin could not return to any of her past positions of employment but was capable of performing other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. The ALJ therefore concluded that Julin was not disabled and denied the application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income.

         Julin appealed, and the Appeals Council denied Julin's request for review. Julin then sought review in the district court, appealing only the denial of supplemental security income based on an alleged onset date of December 21, 2009. The district court upheld the ALJ's decision. Julin appeals, arguing that the record does not support the ALJ's conclusion.


         We review de novo the district court's judgment upholding the denial of social security benefits. Carlson v. Astrue, 604 F.3d 589, 592 (8th Cir. 2010). We will affirm the district court's decision if, based on the record as a whole, substantial evidence supports the ALJ's determination. Id. "Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the ALJ's decision." Id. (quoting Gonzales v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 890, 894 (8th Cir. 2006)). We consider evidence that supports the Commissioner's conclusion, as well as evidence that detracts from it, and we review any legal conclusions de novo. Id.

         Julin makes three principal arguments on appeal: that no medical evidence supported the ALJ's determination of residual functional capacity; that the ALJ erred in weighing the medical opinions in the record; and that the ALJ improperly found that Julin lacked credibility. The three issues are interrelated. The ALJ's decision to discount Julin's credibility influenced the ALJ's weighing of medical opinions that were based in part on Julin's reports, and the ALJ's evaluation of the medical opinions informs whether medical evidence supported the ...

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