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Major v. Berryhill

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

September 6, 2017

GREG A. MAJOR, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Pending is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying his application for disability insurance benefits. For the following reasons, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.


         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).


         Plaintiff was born in 1971, has a GED, and completed some college. R. at 31-32. He previously worked as a field service manager for cable and satellite television companies, and as a jailer in a private jail. R. at 33-34. Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits, alleging a disability onset date of September 16, 2013. R. at 13, 32. Plaintiff's application was denied, and he requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). R. at 13. A hearing was held in August 2015. R. at 28-45. In September 2015, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. R. at 13-21.

         In rendering her decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; hypertension; syncopal episodes of an unknown/undetermined etiology; and obstructive sleep apnea. R. at 15. The ALJ determined Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:

[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR § 404.1567(a). Specifically, claimant is able to lift, carry, push, or pull negligible weights, such as files or documents, weighing up to 5 pounds frequently and up to and including 10 pounds occasionally. He is able to sit for 6 hours out of 8 hours; and claimant can stand or walk in combination for 5 hours out of 8 hours but for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Claimant should never climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds or stairs. He can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. Claimant should never be exposed to vibration or to extreme cold. He should never drive or be exposed to dangerous machinery, unprotected heights, or open bodies of water, including bathtubs and swimming pools.

R. at 16. Based upon the RFC and the vocational expert's (“VE”) testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could work as a document scanner, electronics assembler, and packager. R. at 20-21. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied his appeal. R. at 1-4. Plaintiff now appeals to this Court.


         Plaintiff argues the ALJ's decision must be reversed because (1) Plaintiff's RFC was not supported by substantial evidence in the record; and (2) the ALJ failed to find Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a listed impairment.

         A. RFC

         In his first point, Plaintiff argues the RFC is not supported by substantial evidence because it does not reflect the opinions of examining physicians and Plaintiff's subjective complaints. One's RFC is the “most you can still do despite your limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). The ALJ must base the RFC on “all of the 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). Because Plaintiff's RFC is a medical question, “an ALJ's assessment of it must be supported by some medical evidence of [Plaintiff's] ability to function in the workplace.” Hensley v. Colvin, 829 f.3d 926, 932 (8th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). “However, there is no requirement that an RFC finding be supported by a specific medical opinion.” Id. (citations omitted).

         In determining Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's symptoms consistent with the objective medical evidence; the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of Plaintiff's symptoms; Plaintiff's function report and hearing testimony; medical opinions from several physicians; and Plaintiff's work history. R. at 16-19. Among other things, the ALJ found “nothing in the record to show that [Plaintiff] cannot perform work within the limitations set forth in [the RFC], ” and “the preponderance of evidence in this case shows that [Plaintiff] is not precluded from all work.” R. at 19. Plaintiff argues the RFC did not account for Plaintiff's ...

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