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Masciovecchio v. Berryhill

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

August 30, 2017

MARK STEVEN MASCIOVECCHIO, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Mark Masciovecchio (“Plaintiff”) petitions for review of an adverse decision by Defendant, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”). Plaintiff applied for Social Security disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff had the severe impairments of bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder, but retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as an equipment washer, salvage laborer, and hand packager.

         After carefully reviewing the record and the parties' arguments, the Court finds the ALJ's opinion is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. The Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

         Procedural and Factual Background

         The complete facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         Plaintiff filed his application on January 21, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of March 1, 2013. The Commissioner denied the application at the initial claim level, and Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. The ALJ held a hearing, and on July 31, 2015, issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on July 28, 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).

         Standard of Review

         The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process[1] 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. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         A 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. Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011). 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. McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000). The court must “defer heavily” to the Commissioner's findings and conclusions. Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010). The court may reverse the Commissioner's decision only if it falls outside of the available zone of choice, and a decision is not outside this zone simply because the court might have decided the case differently were it the initial finder of fact. Buckner, 646 F.3d at 556.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ made three legal errors that require remand: (1) failing to provide good reasons for discounting his treating psychiatrist's credibility; (2) improperly discounting his credibility; and (3) failing to support the RFC with sufficient medical evidence. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, the Court finds these arguments are without merit.

         I. The ALJ gave good reasons for discounting Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist's opinion.

         First, Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred by giving no weight to his treating psychiatrist, Mike Young, M.D. (“Dr. Young”). He argues the ALJ's reasoning for discounting Dr. Young's opinion, that it was not supported by the evidence in the record and conflicted with his own treatment notes, is a reason to give Dr. Young's opinion “non-controlling weight, ” rather than “non-substantial weight.”

         The amount of weight given a treating medical source opinion depends upon support for the opinion found in the record; its consistency with the record; and whether it rests upon conclusory statements. Papesh v. Colvin, 786 F.3d 1126, 1132 (8th Cir. 2015). An ALJ must give controlling weight to a treating medical source opinion if it is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques, and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence. Id. The opinion may be given “limited weight if it provides conclusory statements only, or is inconsistent with the record.” Id. (citations omitted). But, the ALJ “may discount or even disregard the opinion . . . where other medical assessments are supported by better or more ...


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