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Wasinger v. Berryhill

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

May 23, 2017

DIANE WASINGER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION DENYING BENEFITS

          ORTRIE D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Pending is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying her application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental social security income. The Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The 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 Cir. 2010).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born in 1962, and has a bachelor's degree in pharmacy. R. at 513-14. She previously worked as a pharmacist. R. at 500, 513. In April 2010, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental social security income, alleging an onset date of March 23, 2009. R. at 17. Her initial application was denied, but this Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Case No. 12-cv-06110-ODS, Doc. #13.

         Upon remand, a second hearing was held before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) in January 2014. R. at 509-38. In March 2014, the ALJ issued her decision, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. R. at 490-508. Plaintiff appealed the decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her appeal. R. at 481. The ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe impairments of anxiety, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression. R. at 492. The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

[P]erform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: limited to simple, routine, repetitive work tasks, involving no fast-paced production requirements and only simple, work-related decisions, with few, if any workplace changes. She can tolerate no public interaction, and she is limited to occasional supervision. She can work around coworkers throughout the day, but she is limited to occasional interaction with coworkers.

         R. at 496. Based upon the RFC and the Vocational Expert's (“VE”) testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could work as an industrial cleaner, order filler, garment sorter, or retail marker. R. at 501. Plaintiff now appeals the ALJ's decision to this Court.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff argues the RFC is not supported by medical evidence in the record, the ALJ erroneously rejected medical opinions in the record, and the ALJ improperly assessed Plaintiff's credibility.

         (A) Plaintiff's RFC

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in giving “little” weight to “each and every medical opinion of record, ” and therefore, the RFC is not supported by medical evidence. While “a claimant's RFC is a medical question…in evaluating a claimant's RFC, an ALJ is not limited to considering medical evidence exclusively.” Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 619 (8th Cir. 2007). The ALJ must base the RFC on “all relevant evidence, including the medical records, observations of treating physicians and others, and an individual's own description of his limitations.” McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000). One's RFC is the “most you can still do despite your limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). Further, the ALJ is not required to rely on opinion evidence in determining Plaintiff's RFC. Martise v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 909, 927 (8th Cir. 2011).

         The ALJ properly considered the medical evidence in formulating Plaintiff's RFC. The ALJ gave “little” or “some” weight to medical opinions in the record, but the RFC incorporates limitations consistent with evidence in the record. As the Court explains below, the ALJ did not err in weighing medical opinions of Plaintiff's treating physician and psychiatrist. Plaintiff's RFC is drawn from medical sources despite the weight given each opinion, and the RFC assessment is “ultimately an ...


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