Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Studer v. Berryhill

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

March 21, 2017

DOROTHY D. STUDER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, 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 Dorothy Studer's application for Social Security disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff had severe impairments of a brain tumor (post-surgery), headaches, obesity, and depression, but she retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as a cashier, sub-assembler, and small parts production assembler.

         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 application for disability insurance benefits on January 6, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of December 23, 2009. The Commissioner denied the application at the initial claim level, and Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. An ALJ held a hearing and found Plaintiff was not disabled on October 24, 2012. The Appeals Council then remanded the decision for a new hearing.

         Following a new hearing, a different ALJ also concluded Plaintiff was not disabled on February 25, 2015. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on January 8, 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).

         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 makes five claims here. She contends the ALJ erred at Step Four because he: (1) failed to obtain additional medical opinion evidence from an examining or treating physician to properly determine her RFC; (2) failed to consider her obesity in combination with her other impairments; and (3) gave weight to a non-examining medical expert who testified at the hearing. She also argues (4) the ALJ erred at Step Five in relying on the vocational expert's (“VE”) testimony that she could work as a cashier. Finally, she contends (5) the Appeals Council erred by not discussing new evidence submitted after the ALJ rendered his decision.

         These arguments are all without merit.

         A. The ALJ properly supported the RFC determination.

         Plaintiff argues that because the ALJ rejected the opinions from two of her treating physicians, Dr. Brent Peterson, M.D., and Dr. Darren Lovick, M.D., he insufficiently developed the record. She contends that by rejecting their opinions, the ALJ triggered a duty to re-contact the doctors ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.