United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CHIEF JUDGE.
Melinda Ellsworth seeks judicial review of the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security's (“the
Commissioner's”) denial of her application for
Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. The
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff
had severe impairments of depression, anxiety, and
personality disorder, but she retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light,
unskilled work as an injection mold tender and production
carefully reviewing the record and the parties'
arguments, the Court holds the ALJ's decision is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
The Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
and Procedural Background
medical record is summarized in the parties' briefs and
is repeated here only to the extent necessary.
filed her application on October 31, 2012. The Commissioner
denied Plaintiff's application at the initial claim
level, and Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. The ALJ
held a hearing on October 31, 2013, and on February 21, 2014,
issued his decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
June 22, 2015, leaving the ALJ's decision as the
Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff has exhausted
all of her administrative remedies and judicial review is now
appropriate under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).
federal court's review of the Commissioner's decision
to deny benefits is limited to determining whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Buckner v.
Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough evidence
that a reasonable mind would find it sufficient to support
the Commissioner's decision. Id. In making this
assessment, the court considers evidence that detracts from
the Commissioner's decision, as well as evidence that
supports it. McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863
(8th Cir. 2000). The court must “defer heavily”
to the Commissioner's findings and conclusions. Hurd
v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010). The court
may reverse the Commissioner's decision only if it falls
outside of the available “zone of choice, ” and a
decision is not outside this zone simply because the court
might have decided the case differently were it the initial
finder of fact. Buckner, 646 F.3d at 556.
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process to determine whether a claimant is
disabled, that is, unable to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable
impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §
contends the ALJ committed reversible error by failing to:
(1) provide good reasons for discounting her treating
psychiatrist's opinion; and (2) include sufficient
limitations in the RFC based on the state agency
consultant's opinion, or to explain his reasons for
omitting these limitations from his RFC.
arguments are without merit.
The ALJ did not err in weighing Dr. Ceniceros'
began seeing her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Salvador
Ceniceros, M.D. (“Dr. Ceniceros”), in September
2012, the month before she filed for benefits. Plaintiff saw
him ten times between September 2012 and June 2013. R. at
223-30. Shortly before her hearing, on September 27, 2013,
Dr. Ceniceros completed a Medical Source Statement-Mental
(“MSS-M”) finding that Plaintiff was markedly
limited in eight categories of mental functioning and
moderately limited in twelve other categories of mental
functioning. R. at 259-62. A few weeks after the
administrative hearing, on ...