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Taylor v. Colvin

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

January 6, 2017

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



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


         The Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to a determination whether the decision is “supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but…enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the conclusion.” Andrews v. Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted). “As long as substantial evidence in the record supports the Commissioner's decision, we may not reverse it because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome, or because we would have decided the case differently.” Cline v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). Though advantageous to the Commissioner, this standard also requires that the Court consider evidence that fairly detracts from the final decision. Anderson v. Astrue, 696 F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). 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).


         Plaintiff was born in 1971 and attended two years of college. R. at 15, 21, 36, 144. Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income on January 24, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of June 1, 1997. R. at 11, 144. He later amended his onset date to January 24, 2013. R. at 34-35, 160. Plaintiff's application was denied, and he requested a hearing. R. at 72-80, 87. On June 5, 2014, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Robert Lynch. R. at 29-71. On December 22, 2014, the ALJ issued his decision, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. R. at 11-23.

         In reaching his decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lymphedema; obesity; and neck, back, and left shoulder pain. R. at 13. The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to “lift and carry up to 10 pounds occasionally and less weight more frequently, to sit 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and to stand and/or walk 2 hours.” R. at 15. Plaintiff requires the ability, while sitting, to make a positional change every forty-five minutes, defined as the opportunity to stand for no more than three minutes, while at the workstation and without being off-task. Id. Plaintiff can frequently use his upper extremities to reach, handle, and finger; can occasionally crouch, kneel, stoop, and climb ramps and stairs; but cannot balance or crawl. Id. Plaintiff “cannot use his left lower extremity to operate foot controls, and he must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, extreme wetness, and extreme vibration, as well as any exposure to workplace hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery.” Id. Based upon the RFC and the Vocational Expert's (“VE”) testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could work as a credit card interviewer, copy examiner, and surveillance monitor. R. at 22.


         Plaintiff argues the ALJ's decision must be reversed because the ALJ's RFC was not properly formulated for two reasons. Doc. #7, at 14-27. First, the ALJ improperly discounted the opinions of Dr. Hoos and Dr. Miley for reasons that are not supported in the record. Second, the ALJ did not properly account for Plaintiff's self-reported limitations after discounting his testimony.

         A. Medical Opinions

         Plaintiff claims the ALJ erred in affording little weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating hematologist, Dr. Hoos, and erred in affording some, but not substantial weight, to the opinion of the consultative examiner, Dr. Miley. Doc. #7, at 13-14.

         (1) Dr. Hoos

         Generally, a treating physician's opinion is given more weight than other sources in a disability proceeding. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). A treating physician's opinion may be disregarded if it is unsupported by clinical or other data or is contrary to the weight of the remaining evidence in the record. See Anderson, 696 F.3d at 793-94; Pena v. Chater, 76 F.3d 906, 908 (8th Cir. 1996). Ultimately, the ALJ must “give good reasons” to explain the weight given the treating physician's opinion. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2); Anderson, 696 F.3d at 793.

         In September 2013 and April 2014, Dr. Hoos opined Plaintiff was unable to perform sedentary work. R. at 395-96, 483-84. Dr. Hoos found Plaintiff could occasionally lift or carry ten pounds; frequently lift or carry less than ten pounds; stand and/or walk less than two hours[1] in an eight-hour workday; sit less than two hours in an eight-hour workday; must alternate sitting and standing; had limited use of lower extremities with regarding to pushing and pulling; could occasionally stoop; could never kneel, [2] climb, balance, crouch, or ...

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