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Pliler v. Berryhill

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

September 20, 2017

MARIA J. PLILER, 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 her applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. 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 1967, and is a high school graduate. R. at 54, 57. She previously worked as an appliance assembler, sewing machine operator, and cloth folder. R. at 27, 60-61. Plaintiff applied for disability and disability insurance benefits as well as supplemental security income, alleging a disability onset date of July 5, 2008. R. at 18. Plaintiff's applications were denied, and she requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). R. at 171-84. A hearing was held in September 2015. R. at 49-93. During the hearing, Plaintiff's counsel indicated an intent to amend Plaintiff's alleged onset date to December 12, 2012, but a form amending Plaintiff's onset was not submitted. R. at 18, 55-56. In December 2015, ALJ Victor Horton issued his decision, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. R. at 18-28.

         In rendering his decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: migraines, Raynaud's disease, peripheral vascular disease, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, radiculopathy, and a seizure disorder. R. at 21. The ALJ determined Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:

[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except that she must have a sit/stand option with the ability to change positions frequently, further defined as every hour for one minute and then can return to the same or different position; can never climb ladders or scaffolds; occasionally climb stairs and ramps, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; frequently push and pull with the arms and legs; frequently reach in all directions; never lift overhead; frequently perform handling/gross and fingering/fine manipulation; must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and vibrations, further defined as operating jackhammers or heavy equipment that vibrates the operator; must avoid concentrated exposure to level five noise; and must avoid all exposure to hazards and heights and machinery.

         R. at 23. Based upon the RFC and the vocational expert's (“VE”) testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could work as a charge account clerk and document preparer. R. at 28. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her 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 is not supported by substantial evidence because it does not include Plaintiff's use of a cane; and (2) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff's credibility.

         A. Assistive Device

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ's RFC determination is not supported by substantial evidence because the RFC does not include Plaintiff's use of a cane. 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).

         Plaintiff was treated by family nurse practitioner David McVicker, who completed a medical source statement - physical (“MSS”) in August 2015. R. at 755-57. McVicker opined Plaintiff would be able to occasionally carry less than ten pounds; could never or rarely twist, stoop, balance, crouch, crawl, or climb; could occasionally reach, frequently handle, and constantly finger and feel; would need to shift positions between standing and sitting; would need unscheduled breaks every twenty minutes lasting thirty minutes on average; would be off-task twenty-five percent of the day; and was incapable of “low ...

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