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Bailey v. Berryhill

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

September 25, 2017

JENIFER BAILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION DENYING BENEFITS

          ORTRIE D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE

         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.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born in 1980, and has a bachelor's degree in science. R. at 41, 183. She previously worked as a medication aide, dispatcher, operations specialist, and paralegal. R. at 51, 184. Plaintiff first applied for disability and disability insurance benefits in September 2012 and alleged an onset date of March 1, 2012, but her application was denied on May 27, 2014. R. at 15. On June 3, 2014, Plaintiff applied a second time for disability and disability insurance benefits, and filed an application for supplemental security income as well, again alleging a disability onset date of March 1, 2012. R. at 15. Because Plaintiff's March 1, 2012 alleged onset date was considered and adjudicated in a prior proceeding, the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) considered May 27, 2014, the date on which Plaintiff's first application was denied, as the onset date for Plaintiff's applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income at issue here. R. at 15. Plaintiff's applications were again denied, and she requested a hearing before an ALJ. R. at 106. A hearing was held in November 2015. R. at 36-55. In December 2015, the ALJ issued his decision, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. R. at 12-24.

         In rendering his decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder. R. at 18.

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:

[P]erform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: she is limited to simple, repetitive, routine tasks; limited to making simple work-related decisions; limited to tolerating few or infrequent changes in a routine work setting; occasional interactions with supervisors and coworkers, and no contact with the public.

         R. at 19. Based upon the RFC and the vocational expert's (“VE”) testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could work as a hospital food service worker, industrial cleaner, and folding machine operator. R. at 23. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her appeal. R. at 1-7. Plaintiff now appeals to this Court.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ's decision must be reversed because (1) the ALJ failed to properly weigh the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, and (2) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff's credibility.

         A. Medical Opinion Evidence

         Plaintiff claims the ALJ erred in affording “little weight” to the opinion of her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Zafar Mahmood. Generally, a treating physician's opinion is given more weight than other sources in a disability proceeding. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). A treating physician's opinion may be disregarded if it is unsupported by clinical or other data, or is contrary to the weight of the remaining evidence in the record. See Anderson, 696 F.3d at 793-94; Pena v. Chater, 76 F.3d 906, 908 (8th Cir. 1996). The ALJ must ...


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