United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
DOUGLAS HARPOOL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's
denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income.
An Administrative Law Judge denied Plaintiff's claims and
the Appeals Counsel subsequently denied Plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's determination. Therefore,
Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies and the
matter is now ripe for judicial review. The Court reviews the
Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1383(c)(3) and 405(g).
Court's role in reviewing an ALJ's decision is to
determine whether the “findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole.”
Page v. Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1042-43 (8th Cir.
2007), citing, Haggard v. Apfel, 175 F.3d 591, 594
(8th Cir.1999). “Substantial evidence is relevant
evidence which a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to
support the Commissioner's conclusion.”
Id. “The fact that some evidence may support a
conclusion opposite from that reached by the Commissioner
does not alone permit our reversal of the Commissioner's
decision.” Id., citing, Kelley v.
Barnhart, 372 F.3d 958, 961 (8th Cir. 2004); and
Travis v. Astrue, 477 F.3d 1037, 1040 (8th Cir.
2007). If the record contains substantial evidence to support
the Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse
the decision simply because substantial evidence exists in
the record that would have supported a contrary outcome.
Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d 1019, 1022 (8th Cir.
2002). In other words, the Court cannot reverse simply
because it would have decided the case differently.
Id., citing, Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210,
1213 (8th Cir. 1993). Courts “defer heavily to the
findings and conclusions of the Social Security
Administration” and will disturb the Commissioner's
decision only if it falls outside the “zone of
choice.” Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556
(8th Cir. 2011) (internal citations omitted). Further, the
Court defers to the ALJ's determinations of the
credibility of witness testimony, as long as the ALJ's
determinations are supported by good reasons and substantial
evidence. Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 578
(8th Cir. 2006).
argues the ALJ erred in failing to properly weigh all medical
opinions of record and provide an RFC supported by
substantial evidence. Specifically, Plaintiff claims the ALJ
did not discuss or weigh the mental RFC assessment from State
agency consultant, Gretchen Brandhorst, Psy.D., or explain
the reasons for not including limitations regarding
the Court has thoroughly reviewed the administrative record
before the Court, including the medical records, hearing
testimony, and the ALJ's opinion. The Court finds that
the ALJ's determination is supported by substantial
evidence in the record as a whole and was within the
available “zone of choice.” The ALJ provided a
lengthy analysis of the medical opinion evidence and properly
addressed Plaintiff's mental and other limitations, in
light of the medical records, work history and hearing
testimony. The Court gives great deference to the ALJ's
determination as it falls within an acceptable “zone of
choice” of the finder of fact.
found Plaintiff has severe impairments of major depressive
disorder, borderline intellectual functioning and vision
loss. The ALJ's opinion discussed that in light of the
medical treatment history, testimony, and reports that
Plaintiff has not had any ongoing medical treatment for any
of his alleged disabilities. Plaintiff testified he had not
been prescribed medication for over eight years and denied
treatment for any of his conditions. This is despite his
complaints of depression and ADHD symptoms that he claims are
so severe he is unable to work. Further, with regard to
physical impairments, the record also lacks evidence of
medical treatment. The ALJ concluded the “extremely
limited medical treatment history generally undermines”
Plaintiff's complaints of “ongoing mental and
physical symptoms so limiting that he is unable to perform
any work activity.”
with regard to Dr. Brandhorst her report includes a detailed
section entitled “IV. Consultant's Notes” in
which she notes, among other things, Plaintiff quit his fast
food restaurant job “because he was moving;” he
was removed from participation in a drug abuse program for
non-attendance; and he appeared capable of handling his own
funds despite reports of low-motivation. Dr. Brandhorst
states Plaintiff did not appear to have difficulties based on
a disability, but rather may have difficulties based on a
result of low motivation. Dr. Brandhorst further noted
Plaintiff made claims of difficulty with eye-hand
coordination and inability to maintain or pay attention for
more than 10 minutes. However, Plaintiff also stated he plays
videos games for an hour at a time. The ALJ's RFC states
Plaintiff “is limited to a low stress environment,
where there are no strict production quotas and where he
would not be subject to the demands of fast-paced production
work…” The Court finds the ALJ's RFC
determination is consistent with the record before the Court.
review of the record shows the ALJ considered the entire
opinion of Dr. Brandhorst. Discrepancies in the citation to
Dr. Brandhorst's records, if any, do not amount to error
and the overall opinion of Dr. Brandhorst is reflected in the
ALJ's decision - that the Plaintiff can perform simple
routine tasks. The Court finds there is substantial evidence
in the record, including Dr. Brandhorst's opinion, to
affirm the ALJ's determination.
the Court will not disturb the ALJ's credibility
determination. In finding Plaintiff's allegations not
completely credible, the ALJ considered such things as
Plaintiff's reported limitations, the objective medical
evidence and medical opinions, Plaintiff's daily
activities, and Plaintiff's work history. The Court finds
the ALJ recognized the appropriate analytic framework,
considered the appropriate factors, and gave good reasons for
discrediting the claimant's testimony. See generally
Tucker v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 781, 783 (8th Cir.
2004) (“The ALJ is not required to discuss each
Polaski factor as long as the analytical framework
is recognized and considered.”). Accordingly, the Court
will defer to the ALJ's judgment. See Whitman v.
Colvin, 762 F.3d 701, 707 (8th Cir. 2014)
(“Questions of credibility are for the ALJ in the first
instance” and “[i]f an ALJ explicitly discredits
a claimant's testimony and gives a good reason for doing
so, we will normally defer to that judgment.”).
reasons set forth herein, the Court finds there is
substantial evidence on the record as a whole to support the
ALJ's determination. Accordingly, the Commissioner's
decision denying benefits is AFFIRMED.