United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ORDER AND OPINION AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S FINAL
DECISION DENYING BENEFITS
D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE.
is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner of Social
Security's final decision denying his application for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. The Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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
was born in 1980 and has a high school education. R. at 22,
111, 148, 292. He applied for disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income on in August 2011, alleging
a disability onset date of June 1, 2005. R. at 14-15, 42-43,
138, 292-96, 326-32. Plaintiff's application was denied,
and he requested a hearing. On November 20, 2012, a hearing
was held before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). R. at 106-130. On December 22, 2014, the
ALJ issued his decision, concluding Plaintiff became disabled
on November 11, 2011, but was not disabled before that date.
R. at 138-51. The ALJ determined Plaintiff was not disabled
prior to December 31, 2010, the date last insured.
Id. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the
Appeals Council, which remanded the matter. R. at 158-60. On
September 25, 2014, another hearing was conducted. R. at
40-99. On January 20, 2015, the ALJ issued his decision,
finding Plaintiff was not disabled. R. at 14-32.
reaching his decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: “degenerative disc
disease of the cervical and lumbar spine and mental disorders
variously diagnosed as depression, panic disorder, post
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder, and
adjustment disorder.” R. at 17. The ALJ determined
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to lift forty pounds occasionally and
twenty-five pounds frequently. R. at 21. Plaintiff has no
limitation with regard to standing, walking, or sitting.
Id. He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but
can never climb ladders and scaffolds. Id. Plaintiff
can stoop frequently, and can occasionally kneel, crouch, and
crawl. Id. He can frequently push and pull with his
arms and legs, and reach in all directions. Id.
Plaintiff must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold
and vibrations. Id. Plaintiff can understand,
remember, and carry out simple instructions and non-detailed
tasks; he can perform repetitive work; and can respond
appropriately to supervisors and coworkers in a task-oriented
setting where contact with others including the public is
infrequent. Id. Based upon the RFC and the
Vocational Expert's (“VE”) testimony, the ALJ
concluded Plaintiff could work as a pillow filler and layup
worker. R. at 31. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision
to the Appeals Council, which dismissed his appeal in March
2016. R. at 1-3.
argues the ALJ's decision must be reversed because the
ALJ's RFC was not properly formulated for three reasons.
Doc. #7, at 24-34. First, the ALJ did not properly weigh the
medical opinion evidence. Second, the ALJ failed to properly
consider Plaintiff's pain when assessing the RFC. Third,
the ALJ should have ordered a consultative examination.
Treating Physician's Opinion
claims the ALJ erred in affording little weight to the
opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Ball.
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.
August 2011, Dr. Ball submitted a Medical Source Statement -
Physical. R. at 611-12. Dr. Ball opined Plaintiff could lift
and/or carry five pounds frequently, and lift and carry ten
pounds occasionally. R. at 611. Dr. Ball found Plaintiff
could only stand and/or walk continuously for less than
fifteen minutes, and could stand and/or walk a maximum of two
hours in an eight-hour day. Id. With regard to
Plaintiff's ability to sit, Dr. Ball stated Plaintiff was
limited to sitting continuously for thirty minutes, and was
limited to sitting a total of two hours in an eight-hour day.
Id. Plaintiff's ability to push and/or pull was
limited. Id. Dr. Ball determined Plaintiff should
never climb, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, but could
frequently balance, reach, handle, and finger. R. at 612.
Plaintiff must also avoid certain environmental factors.
March 2013, Dr. Ball executed a Medical Source Statement -
Mental. R. at 759-60. Therein, Dr. Ball opined Plaintiff was
moderately limited with regard to the ability to (1)
understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions;
(2) maintain attention and concentration for extended
periods; and (3) sustain an ordinary routine without special
supervision. R. at 759. Dr. Ball also stated Plaintiff was
markedly limited in his ability to (1) perform activities
within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be
punctual within customary tolerances; and (2) complete a
normal workday without interruption from psychologically
based symptoms. R. at 759-60.
assigned little weight to Dr. Ball's opinion pertaining
to Plaintiff's physical and medical limitations because
the evidence did not support the significant limitations set
forth by Dr. Ball. R. at 28. With regard to the physical
limitations set forth by Dr. Ball, the ALJ found Dr.
Ball's opinion was inconsistent with Plaintiff's
daily activities, the lack of significant treatment during
the relevant time, and objective medical evidence.
Id. With regard to the mental limitations set forth
by Dr. Ball, the ALJ noted Dr. Ball was not a mental health
specialist. Id. Additionally, the ALJ observed Dr.
Ball occasionally prescribed medication to treat anxiety.
Id. Further, Dr. Ball's notes do not reflect a
mental health examination; they contain Plaintiff's
subjective reports of some anxiety. Id. The ALJ also
afforded little weight to Dr. Ball's opinion regarding
Plaintiff's mental health limitations because his opinion