United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
TAMMY D. BLACKBURN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
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 her 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 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 1965, and attended high school through the
eleventh grade. R. at 36-37, 155. Plaintiff's prior work
history includes sewing panels into caskets, serving as an
assistant manager, working on assembly lines, and driving a
forklift. R. at 40-45. In 2013, Plaintiff applied for
disability and disability insurance benefits, alleging a
disability onset date of July 11, 2012. R. at 14, 155-57.
Plaintiff's application was denied, and she requested a
hearing. R. at 88-93, 97-98. A hearing was held before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) in August 2014.
R. at 31-75. On December 23, 2014, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff was not disabled. R. at 14-25. Plaintiff appealed
the decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her appeal.
R. at 1-3.
reaching his decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: L4-S1 degenerative disc disease
status post L4-S1 fusion, C5-6 degenerative disc disease,
bilateral ankle tendonitis, migraines, residuals of right
ulnar nerve transportation, and residuals of bilateral carpal
tunnel syndrome. R. at 16. The ALJ determined Plaintiff had
the following residual functional capacity
[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except
that she must have a sit/stand option at the worksite with
the ability to change positions frequently, defined as not
more often than every hour for one minute and then can return
to the same position or a different position; she can climb
stairs and ramps occasionally; she can never climb ladders or
scaffolds, kneel, or crouch; she can stoop and crawl
occasionally; pushing and pulling with arms and reaching in
all directions is limited to frequent; pushing and pulling
with legs is limited to occasional; handling/gross
manipulation and fingering/fine manipulation is limited to
frequent; she can never lift overhead; and she must avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme cold, vibration, and noise
above level 3.
R. at 18. Based upon the RFC and the Vocational Expert's
(“VE”) testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff
could perform past relevant work as cashier supervisor, and
could also work as a cashier wrapper. R. at 23-24. Plaintiff
now appeals the ALJ's decision to this Court.
argues the ALJ's decision must be reversed because (1)
the ALJ failed to accord adequate weight to Plaintiff's
treating physician's opinion, (2) the ALJ erred in
failing to consider Plaintiff's absenteeism, and (3) the
ALJ erroneously discredited Plaintiff's subjective
Treating Physician's Opinion
claims the ALJ erred in affording little weight to the
opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Dennis
Robinson. 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 2014, Dr. Robinson executed a form entitled
“Residual Functional Capacity.” R. at 591-93. He
opined Plaintiff could frequently lift and carry ten pounds;
stand and/or walk with usual breaks for three hours in an
eight-hour workday; sit with usual breaks for three hours in
an eight-hour workday; should never climb, balance, stoop,
kneel, crouch, or crawl; has unlimited ability to see, speak,
and hear; can occasionally reach, handle, finger, feel, push,
or pull; cannot be around dangerous equipment or vibrations;
will need to take unscheduled breaks between fifteen and
twenty minutes in length every thirty ...