United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ORDER AND OPINION AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S FINAL
DECISION DENYING BENEFITS
D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner of Social
Security's final decision denying her application for
supplemental security income. As set forth below, 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 1984, and has an associate's degree. R. at
24, 79-80, 168-71, 216. She previously worked as a store
clerk, cashier, delivery driver, and customer service
representative. R. at 99-100, 199, 216-17. In July 2013,
Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income, alleging
a disability onset date of June 1, 2008. R. at 15, 168-73.
Her application was denied, and she requested a hearing. R.
at 125-31. A hearing was held before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) in December 2014. R. at 74-105. In
January 2015, the ALJ issued his decision, finding Plaintiff
was not disabled. R. at 15-25. Plaintiff appealed the
decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her appeal. R.
found Plaintiff had the severe impairments of post-traumatic
stress disorder, adjustment disorder with depressed mood,
somatization disorder, borderline personality traits, asthma,
and obesity with gastroesophageal reflux disease. R. at 17.
The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following residual
functional capacity (“RFC”):
[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a)
except, due to her somatoform disorder, she cannot push or
pull levers with the upper or lower extremities; can
frequently reach in any direction, grip, grasp, finger, feel,
and turn her wrists; can occasionally bend, twist, turn,
stoop, squat, crouch, and climb stairs; cannot crawl, kneel,
climb ladders, operate motor vehicles in competitive
employment, use air or vibrating tools larger than hand-held,
tolerate unprotected exposure to heights or hazards such as
moving machinery, or tolerate heavy exposure to dust, smoke,
or fumes. Further, due to her somatoform disorder, she cannot
walk without a cane but can stand without an assistive
device. She is unable to exercise judgment to make complex
work-related decisions, cannot interact with the public, and
cannot respond appropriately to changes in complex
instructions or tasks. However, despite all her mental
impairments, she can perform relatively simple, routine work
in which interaction with supervisors and coworkers is brief
and superficial or is brief and directly work-related.
R. at 20. Based upon the RFC and the Vocational Expert's
(“VE”) testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff
could work as a final assembler, table worker, or sealer. R.
at 24-25. Plaintiff now appeals the ALJ's decision to
argues the ALJ's decision must be reversed because the
ALJ failed to properly consider the well-supported opinion of
Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, Dr. Bashir Ahmed. Doc.
#9, at 13-21. 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). However, 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). The treating
physician's opinion may also be disregarded if the
physician's “cursory checklist statement”
includes significant limitations absent from the
physician's treatment notes. Cline v. Colvin,
771 F.3d 1098, 1103-04 (8th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted).
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.
November 2014, Dr. Ahmed executed a Medical Source Statement
- Mental (“MSSM”). R. at 497-98. Dr. Ahmed opined
Plaintiff's conditions would cause her to leave work
early or be absent two days per month on average. R. at 497.
Dr. Ahmed concluded Plaintiff is mildly limited in her
ability to remember work-like procedures; mildly limited in
her ability to make simple work-related decisions; mildly
limited in her ability to understand, remember, and carry out
short and simple instructions; and moderately limited in her
ability to understand and remember detailed instructions. R.
at 497-98. Dr. Ahmed also opined Plaintiff is markedly
limited in her ability to carry out detailed instructions,
and maintain attention and concentration for extended periods
of time. R. at 498. He stated Plaintiff is moderately limited
in her ability to perform activities within a schedule,
maintain regular attendance, be punctual within customary
tolerances, sustain an ordinary routine without special
supervision, work in coordination with or proximity to
others, and complete a normal workday and workweek without
interruption from psychologically based symptoms.
Id. Dr. Ahmed concluded Plaintiff has mild
limitations with interacting with the general public and her
ability to ask simple questions and request assistance. R. at
498. Plaintiff, according to Dr. Ahmed, has moderate
limitations to accept instructions and respond appropriately
to criticism from supervisors, get along with coworkers or
peers, and maintain socially appropriate behavior.
Id. Finally, Dr. Ahmed opined Plaintiff is
moderately limited in her ability to respond appropriately to
changes in the work setting, be aware of normal hazards and
take appropriate precautions, and set realistic goals or make
plans independently of others. Id.
assigned “little weight” to Dr. Ahmed's
opinion. R. at 23. The ALJ stated Dr. Ahmed's
“opinion appears to be based on the claimant's
subjective complaints. In fact, Dr. Ahmed has consistently
reported that the claimant was alert, oriented and doing well
on her medications.” R. at 23. The ALJ also noted Dr.
Ahmed “provided only routine treatment and medications,
and did not report the extreme symptoms alleged by the
Court reviewed the record and finds substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's decision to discount Dr. Ahmed's
opinion. The Court also finds the ALJ provided good reasons
explaining the ...