United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
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 applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. For the following reasons, 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 1963, and has a high school education and a home
healthcare certificate. R. at 34, 170. She previously worked
as a cashier, convenience-store manager, and home health
aide. R. at 24, 36, 46-47, 176. Plaintiff applied for
disability and disability insurance benefits as well as
supplemental security income, alleging a disability onset
date of August 1, 2013. R. at 14. Plaintiff's
applications were denied, and she requested a hearing before
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). R. at 9-10,
81-85. A hearing was held in August 2015. R. at 30-60. In
September 2015, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. R.
rendering his decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: obesity, diabetes, and
cardiomyopathy. R. at 17. The ALJ determined Plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) in that the claimant can lift 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk for
2 hours out of an 8 hour work day for 30 minutes at a time;
sit for up to 6 hours out of an 8 hour work day with normal
breaks; and push and pull the same weights; can occasionally
climb, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; can frequently
balance and reach in all directions; and should avoid
concentrated exposure to temperature extremes and workplace
hazards, such as unprotected heights and hazardous machinery.
R. at 18. At the hearing, the ALJ proposed two hypotheticals
to a Vocational Expert (“VE”) that were
consistent with this RFC. R. at 51, 55. Based upon the RFC
and the VE's testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could
work as a motel clerk and gas station attendant. R. at 25.
Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals
Council, which denied her appeal. R. at 1-4. Plaintiff now
appeals to this Court.
argues the ALJ's decision must be reversed because (1)
the ALJ's hypothetical was not supported by substantial
evidence in that the ALJ failed to provide good reasons for
giving little weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's
treating physician's opinion, and (2) the ALJ failed to
properly evaluate Plaintiff's credibility.
Dr. Longnecker's Opinion
argues the ALJ failed to provide good reasons for giving
little weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating
physician, Dr. Christopher Longnecker. 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). 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.
Longnecker treated Plaintiff on five separate occasions. R.
at 244, 247, 301, 365, 369. In January 2014, Dr. Longnecker
performed a cardiac catheterization and an echocardiogram. R.
at 244-48. At that time, Plaintiff was limited to activities
consistent with “post heart catheterization
precautions” including not lifting items greater than
fifteen pounds for one week, remaining sedentary for two to
three days, and “refraining from putting a 90 degree
bend in the groin area” for two to three days. R. at
260. In February 2014, Plaintiff saw Dr. Longnecker and
“deni[ed] any current problems during [the]