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Odorizzi v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

December 6, 2016

EUGENIA ODORIZZI, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE.

         This action seeks judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security's (“the Commissioner”) decision denying Plaintiff Eugenia Odorizzi's applications for Social Security disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, and Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381- 1383f. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff had severe impairments of carpal tunnel syndrome, peripheral vascular disease, and obesity, but retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as a cashier or warehouse checker.

         After carefully reviewing the record and the parties' arguments, the Court finds the ALJ's opinion is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. The Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

         Procedural and Factual Background

         The complete facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         Plaintiff filed her applications on March 8, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of March 8, 2011. The Commissioner denied the applications at the initial claim level, and Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. The ALJ held a hearing, and on August 12, 2014, issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 10, 2015, leaving the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies and judicial review is now appropriate under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).

         Standard of Review

         A federal court's review of the Commissioner's decision to deny disability benefits is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Chaney v. Colvin, 812 F.3d 672, 676 (8th Cir. 2016). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but is 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. Id. The court must “defer heavily” to the Commissioner's findings and conclusions. Wright v. Colvin, 789 F.3d 847, 852 (8th Cir. 2015). The court may reverse the Commissioner's decision only if it falls outside of the available zone of choice; a decision is not outside this zone simply because the evidence also points to an alternate outcome. Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011).

         Discussion

         The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process[1] 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. § 423(d)(1)(A). Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred at step four in formulating her RFC because he: (1) improperly discounted her credibility; (2) improperly discounted the well-supported opinion of her treating physician; and (3) failed to support the RFC with substantial evidence.

         These arguments are without merit.

         A. The ALJ properly analyzed Plaintiff's credibility.

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ's credibility analysis was not rooted in the Polaski factors and was not supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiff claims the ALJ only gave three reasons for discounting Plaintiff's credibility-her conservative treatment, her daily activities, and her failure to stop smoking-and that each reason is invalid.

         Credibility questions are “primarily for the ALJ to decide, not the courts.” Baldwin v. Barnhart, 349 F.3d 549, 558 (8th Cir. 2003). When the ALJ discounts a claimant's credibility, he must explain why he did so. Lowe v. Apfel, 226 F.3d 969, 971 (8th Cir. 2000). “If an ALJ explicitly discredits the claimant's testimony and gives good reasons for doing so, the Court should defer to the ALJ's credibility determination.” Gregg v. Barnhart, 354 F.3d 710, 713 (8th Cir. 2003). In evaluating a claimant's subjective complaints, the ALJ must consider the factors set forth in Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1984). These factors include the claimant's daily activities; the duration, frequency, and intensity of pain; the dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of medication; any precipitating and aggravating factors; any functional restrictions; the claimant's work history; and the absence of objective medical ...


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