United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
E. RICHARD WEBBER, Sr., District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge David D. Noce [ECF No. 27], pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).
I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff Dale Govro brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), requesting judicial review of the decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner), finding he is not "disabled" and denying his applications for supplemental security income. This matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In his Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge David D. Noce concluded there was substantial evidence supporting the Commissioner's findings, and therefore recommended the decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. See, e.g., Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d 1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002) (role of the reviewing court with respect to administrative adjudications by the Commissioner of Social Security is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision was supported by "substantial evidence").
Plaintiff timely filed Objections [ECF No. 28] to the Report and Recommendation. "[W]hen a party objects to the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge concerning a dispositive matter, [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.'" U.S. v. Lothridge, 324 F.3d 599, 600 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)). Thus, the Court conducts a de novo review of the matters raised in Plaintiff's Objections.
In his Objections to the Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff argues the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) failed to properly assess the opinions of two medical professionals. First, Plaintiff claims the ALJ made an improper credibility determination regarding the opinion of Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Roberta Stock, RN, APMHCNS. Second, Plaintiff contends the ALJ failed to consider a mental limitation diagnosed by psychiatrist Gautam Rohatgi, D.O.
The Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to determining whether the decision was supported by "substantial evidence in the record as a whole." Krogmeier, 294 F.3d at 1022. In assessing the record as a whole, courts "consider evidence that detracts from the decision, as well as evidence that supports it." Gates v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 1080, 1082 (8th Cir. 2010). "Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion." Id. Thus, so long as there is substantial evidence supporting the decision, the reviewing court may not reverse even if there is also substantial evidence that would support a contrary outcome. Id .; see also Bland v. Bowen, 861 F.2d 533, 535 (8th Cir. 1988) ("The concept of substantial evidence 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 [Comissioner] may decide to grant or deny benefits without being subject to reversal on appeal.").
In determining whether an applicant is "disabled" for purposes of the Social Security Act, the Commissioner applies a five-step sequential analysis. Steps One through Three require the claimant to prove (1) he is not currently engaged in substantial gainful activity, (2) he suffers from a severe impairment, and (3) his disability meets or equals a listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(iii). If the claimant does not suffer from a listed impairment or its equivalent, the Commissioner's analysis proceeds to Steps Four and Five. Step Four requires the Commissioner to consider whether the claimant retains the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform his Past Relevant Work (PRW). 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). The claimant bears the burden of demonstrating he is no longer able to return to his PRW. Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 942 (8th Cir. 2009). If the Commissioner determines the claimant cannot return to the PRW, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at Step Five to show the claimant retains the RFC to perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Id.; 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). Plaintiff's Objections primarily concern Step Four of this analysis.
A. Clinical Nurse Specialist Robert Stock
Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in giving little weight to the opinions of CNS Stock. Specifically, Plaintiff contends (1) the ALJ failed to consider CNS Stock's opinion in the manner prescribed by Social Security Ruling (SSR) 06-3p, (2) the ALJ erroneously discredited CNS Stock's opinions on the basis she failed to mention Plaintiff's noncompliance with medications, and (3) the ALJ erroneously perceived an inconsistency between CNS Stock's opinions and the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores she assigned to Plaintiff.
1. Social Security Ruling 06-3p
In his decision, the ALJ noted, while CNS Stock is not an "acceptable medical source, " her opinions would still be considered. SSR 06-3p; Tr. 18. Plaintiff argues the ALJ failed to consider CNS Stock's opinions as prescribed by SSR 06-3p, which provides, inter alia, ...