United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
the Court is Plaintiff's Complaint seeking review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's
application for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act (the “Act”). ((See
42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)). Upon review,
the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
limited to determining if the decision “complies with
the relevant legal requirements and is supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole.”
Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922, 929 (8th Cir.
2010) (quoting Ford v. Astrue, 518 F.3d 979, 981
(8th Cir. 2008)). “Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance of the evidence, but is ‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind would find adequate to support
the [Commissioner's] conclusion.'” Grable
v. Colvin, 770 F.3d 1196, 1201 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)).
In determining whether existing evidence is substantial, the
Court takes into account evidence that both supports and
detracts from the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) findings. Cline v. Colvin, 771
F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th Cir. 2014) (quotation marks omitted).
“If the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, [the Court] may not reverse even if substantial
evidence would support the opposite outcome or [the Court]
would have decided differently.” Smith v.
Colvin, 756 F.3d 621, 625 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Davis, 239 F.3d at 966). The Court does not re-weigh
the evidence presented to the ALJ. Guilliams v.
Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing
Baldwin v. Barnhart, 349 F.3d 549, 555 (8th Cir.
2003)). The Court should “defer heavily to the findings
and conclusions of the [Commissioner].” Hurd v.
Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation
of overview, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffers from
the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease;
loss of visual acuity; Raynaud's disease; and
Buerger's disease. However, the ALJ found that none of
Plaintiff's impairments, whether considered alone or in
combination, meets or medically equals the criteria of one of
the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. Considering Plaintiff's limitations, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work with
several additional limitations. The Plaintiff can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; must avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme cold and vibration; can do no work
requiring detailed vision; and cannot be exposed to dangerous
moving machinery or unprotected heights. The ALJ found that
while Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work,
there are jobs in significant numbers in the national economy
that Plaintiff can perform, such as housekeeping
“cleaner” and usher. As a result, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined under the Act from
May 3, 2012, the alleged onset date, through the date of the
Plaintiff's appeal of the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff
raises the following issues: (1) whether the ALJ properly
weighed the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician,
Dr. Ronald Evans; (2) whether the ALJ properly determined the
Plaintiff's RFC; and (3) whether the ALJ properly
assessed Plaintiff's credibility. Based on how the issues
interrelate, the Court addresses them in reverse order.
it was proper for the ALJ to discredit Plaintiff's
credibility, despite Plaintiff's complaints of severe
limitations, because the record indicates Plaintiff is able
to perform daily activities including: cleaning, shopping,
cooking, paying bills, utilizing public transportation, and
maintaining appropriate grooming and hygiene habits. See
Medhaug v. Astrue, 578 F.3d 805, 817 (8th Cir. 2009).
the ALJ did not err by discounting the treating
physician's opinion because the physician's opinion
was based heavily on Plaintiff's subjective complaints.
Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 967 (8th Cir. 2010)
(an ALJ is entitled to discount a treating physician's
opinion when the treating physician's opinion relied on
the plaintiff's subjective complaints which were properly
discredited). Additionally, the treating physician's
opinion is conclusory because the opinion is in checkbox
format, cites no medical evidence, and is without explanation
or elaboration. Id. at 964.
in assessing Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ properly considered
and weighed the available medical evidence and
Plaintiff's statements. See Wildman, at 596 F.3d
at 969 (an ALJ must assess a claimant's RFC based on all
relevant evidence). As discussed above, the ALJ properly
discounted the treating physician's opinion. The ALJ then
assigned partial weight to the consultative examiner's
opinion finding that Plaintiff had no limitations because the
medical evidence supports that Plaintiff does have some
limitations. When considering the other objective medical
evidence, the ALJ found a lack of positive clinical findings
which did not support the full extent of Plaintiff's
complaints. Therefore, the record as a whole supports
the ALJ's conclusion that Plaintiff retained the RFC to
perform a limited range of light work.
carefully reviewed the record before the Court and the
parties' submissions on appeal, the Court concludes that
substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the
THEREFORE, ORDERED that the decision of the ...