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Rueckert v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, ST. Joseph Division

November 18, 2014

MICHAEL RUECKERT, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER AND OPINION AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION DENYING BENEFITS

ORTRIE D. SMITH, Senior District Judge.

Pending is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying his application for disability benefits. The Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff was born in October 1973, completed high school and has prior work experience as a truck driver, palletizer and industrial cleaner. He alleged he became disabled on July 6, 2011. The ALJ determined Plaintiff's severe impairments included "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), anxiety, history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and personality disorder not otherwise specified." R. at 13. The ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to:

[P]erform medium work...; he could lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally, 25 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk eight hours total in an eight-hour workday; and sit eight hours total in an eight-hour workday. He must avoid extremes of heat or cold and concentrated exposure to airborne irritants. Mentally, the claimant is capable of repetitive work that does not involve detailed instructions or tasks. He must avoid crowds and interaction with the public. The claimant could have occasional interaction with coworkers.

R. at 16. Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as a palletizer and he also could perform work as an industrial cleaner, landscape specialist and kitchen helper. R. at 22-23.

II. DISCUSSION

In this proceeding, Plaintiff contends the ALJ committed two errors. First, Plaintiff alleges the RFC is not supported by substantial evidence in the record. Second, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ failed to do a proper credibility analysis.

"[R]eview of the Secretary's decision [is limited] to a determination whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Substantial evidence is evidence when reasonable minds would accept as adequate to support the Secretary's conclusion. [The Court] will not reverse a decision simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion." Mitchell v. Shalala, 25 F.3d 712, 714 (8th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). Though advantageous to the Commissioner, this standard also requires that the Court consider evidence that fairly detracts from the final decision. Forsythe v. Sullivan, 926 F.2d 774, 775 (8th Cir. 1991) (citing Hutsell v. Sullivan, 892 F.2d 747, 749 (8th Cir. 1989)). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla" of evidence; rather, it is relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Gragg v. Astrue, 615 F.3d 932, 938 (8th Cir. 2010).

A.

Plaintiff maintains the RFC is not supported by substantial evidence in the Record. The ALJ determines Plaintiff's RFC "based on all relevant evidence, including medical records, observations of treating physicians and others, and claimant's own descriptions of his limitations." Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2011). It is not true that the RFC can be proved only with medical evidence. McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000).

1.

Plaintiff alleges the RFC is not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ did not sufficiently develop the record regarding his physical limitations. Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing his disability. Roth v. Shalala, 45 F.3d 279, 282 (8th Cir. 1995). "While an ALJ should recontact a treating or consulting physician if a critical issue is undeveloped, the ALJ is required to order medical examinations and tests only if the medical records presented him do not give sufficient medical evidence to determine whether the claimant is disabled." Martise, 641 F.3d 909, 926-27 (citations and quotations omitted). The ALJ is not required to rely on opinion evidence in determining Plaintiff's RFC. Id. at 927. Here, the ALJ was not required to further develop the record, because "there is no indication that the ALJ felt unable to make the assessment he did and his conclusion is supported by substantial evidence." Tellez v. Barnhart, 403 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 2005).

Plaintiff argues his physical limitations include COPD, sleep issues and appetite issues. Plaintiff further argues the ALJ relied on one pulmonary function test to determine Plaintiff's physical limitations. But this is not an accurate description of the ALJ's analysis. The ALJ relied on other evidence in addition to the pulmonary function test. For example, the ALJ pointed to Plaintiff's appeals disability report and treatment notes from Northwest Health Services in discussing Plaintiff's sleep issues and COPD. Ex. 7E, Ex. 5F. Also, the ALJ repeatedly relies on Exhibit 7F, and Plaintiff's appetite issues are discussed therein. In determining Plaintiff's physical limitations, the ALJ noted Plaintiff was diagnosed with a mild form of COPD, Plaintiff's inhaler effectively managed ...


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