United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE
action seeks judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security's (“the Commissioner”)
decision denying Plaintiff Candie Plummer'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 several severe impairments but retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
work as a toy assembler, small products assembler, and office
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.
and Factual Background
complete facts and arguments are presented in the
parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent
filed her applications on November 29, 2012, and she alleges
a disability onset date of August 10, 2012. 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 December 19, 2014, issued a decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on January 22, 2016,
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).
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).
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. §
423(d)(1)(A). Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred at Step Four by:
(1) failing to adopt a functional limitation suggested by a
one-time examining psychologist, Dr. Steven Adams, Psy. D.
(“Dr. Adams”), or at least provide a clear
rationale why he did not adopt this functional limitation;
and (2) failing to order a consultative psychological
examination recommended by Dr. Adams.
arguments are unavailing.
The ALJ did not err by not adopting the functional limitation
suggested by Dr. Adams, and the decision provides an adequate
Adams is a licensed clinical psychologist and consultative
examiner who evaluated Plaintiff on March 5, 2014. Dr. Adams
made several findings about Plaintiff's functional
capacity which the ALJ incorporated into his RFC
determination, including that Plaintiff was limited in her
ability to understand complex instructions and was not able
to interact in moderately demanding social situations. R. at
15-16, 506-07. The ALJ, however, did not fully embrace Dr.
Adams' final observation, which was that Plaintiff
“does not seem able to adapt to a typical work
environment.” R. at 507. Instead, the ALJ found
Plaintiff “is unable to respond appropriately to
changes in a routine work setting that involves complex
instructions and tasks.” R. at 16 (emphasis
added). Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by not finding she
is “unable to adopt to changes in a typical work
environment that involve simple tasks” and
incorporating this finding into his question to the
vocational expert. Pl.'s Br. 21 (Doc. 7).
threshold matter, the Court does not see how Dr. Adams'
observation justifies an RFC limitation that Plaintiff is
“unable to adopt to changes in a typical work
environment that involve simple tasks.” Dr. Adams
questioned Plaintiff's ability to adapt to a typical work
environment; he did not find her ...