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Eisenbise v. Berryhill

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

December 5, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Pending is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying his applications for disability and 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 1964, and is a high school graduate who completed some college coursework. R. at 49, 164, 316. He previously worked as a bail bonding agent and a financial management specialist. R. at 33, 49-51, 191. Plaintiff applied for disability and disability insurance benefits, alleging an onset date of October 1, 2012. R. at 22, 164-65. Plaintiff's application was denied, and he requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). R. at 86-94. A hearing was held in February 2016. R. at 45-71. In March 2016, ALJ George Bock issued his decision, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. R. at 19-35.

         In rendering his decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. R. at 24. The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:

[P]erform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(c). He can lift and/or carry 25 pounds frequently and 50 occasionally; stand and/or walk for about 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday; and sit for about 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday. Mentally, he is limited to repetitive work, which is unskilled, simple, and does not involve any complex instruction.

R. at 27. Based upon the RFC and the vocational expert's (“VE”) testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could work as a dishwasher, salvage laborer, and hand packager. R. at 34. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied his appeal. R. at 1-6. Plaintiff now appeals to this Court.


         Plaintiff argues the ALJ's decision must be reversed because (1) the ALJ erred in weighing medical opinions in the record, and (2) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff's credibility.

         A. Medical Opinions

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in giving “little weight” to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, Dr. Ekkehard Othmer, and in giving “great weight” to consultative psychologist Dr. C. William Breckenridge's opinion. Plaintiff also contends the RFC is not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to include limitations consistent with Plaintiff's complaints of back pain and related medical opinions.

         One's RFC is the “most you can still do despite your limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). “The ALJ is not required to rely entirely on a particular physician's opinion” and must develop an “RFC based on all relevant evidence, including medical records, observations of treating physicians and others, and claimant's own description of his limitations.” Martise v. Astrue, 641F.3d 909, 926-27 (8th Cir. 2011) (citations and quotations omitted); Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2011). 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). However, 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). A consultative examiner's ...

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