United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
William Haddan petitions for review of an adverse decision by
Defendant, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”). Plaintiff applied for
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. The
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff
had multiple severe impairments, including opiate-induced
hyperalgesia, degenerative disc disease with small disc
protrusion, sciatica, insomnia, anxiety, and depression, but
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform work as a document preparer or addresser.
explained below, the Court finds the ALJ's opinion is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
The Commissioner's decision is therefore AFFIRMED.
and Factual Background
complete facts and arguments are presented in the
parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent
filed the pending application on August 23, 2013, alleging a
disability onset date of December 15, 2011. The Commissioner
denied the applications at the initial claim level, and
Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. On December 11,
2014, the ALJ held a hearing and on May 20, 2015, the ALJ
issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
July 1, 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).
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. Andrews v.
Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance, but 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).
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process 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. §
argues that the ALJ erred by: (1) improperly discounting the
opinion of a consulting examiner and failing to base his RFC
on substantial evidence; and (2) finding Plaintiff's
subjective complaints not wholly credible. These arguments
are without merit.
Plaintiff's RFC was based on substantial evidence on the
record as a whole.
first argues that, because the ALJ discounted the opinion of
Dr. Joshua Smith, D.O. (“Dr. Smith”), his RFC was
not based on substantial evidence.
claimant's RFC is the most she can still do despite her
physical or mental limitations. Leckenby v. Astrue,
487 F.3d 626, 631 n.5 (8th Cir. 2007). In formulating a
claimant's RFC, the ALJ must consider all the
relevant, credible record evidence, including a
claimant's medical records, observations from treating
and examining physicians, and a claimant's subjective
statements. See Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 619
(8th Cir. 2007). “Although an ALJ is not required to
rely solely upon medical evidence in formulating a
claimant's RFC, there must be some underlying his
assessment.” Id. (citing Hutsell v.
Massanari, 259 F.3d 707, 712 (8th Cir. 2001)). An ALJ
may discount medical evidence where it is inconsistent with
the medical evidence as a whole and relies on the incredible
subjective complaints of a claimant. See Burrell v.
Berryhill, No. 1:15CV190RLW, 2017 WL 1058137, at *8-9
(E.D. Mo. Mar. 20, 2017) (discounting treating
physician's opinion where it was inconsistent with the
treatment record and relied on claimant's subjective
complaints) (citing Teague v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 611,
615-16 (8th Cir. 2011) (discounting treating physicians'
opinions where the form cited no clinical test results,
treatment notes were inconsistent with ...