United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE.
action seeks judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security's (“the Commissioner”)
decision denying Plaintiff Richard Price's applications
for Social Security disability insurance benefits under Title
II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42
U.S.C. §§ 401-434; Supplemental Security Income
under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-
1383f; and Widower's Insurance Benefits under Title II of
the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 402(f). The Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) found Plaintiff had severe impairments of
bilateral shoulder degenerative joint disease, bilateral knee
degenerative joint disease, left hand pain and loss of
feeling of the left hand middle and forefinger tips, and
diverticulitis, but he retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as a production
carefully reviewing the record and the parties'
arguments, the Court finds the ALJ's opinion is supported
by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. The
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
and Factual Background
complete facts and arguments are presented in the
parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent
filed his applications on December 2, 2013, alleging a
disability onset date of October 3, 2012. The Commissioner
denied the applications at the initial claim level, and
Plaintiff appealed the denials to an ALJ. The ALJ held a
hearing, and on September 3, 2015, issued a decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on August 24, 2016,
leaving the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's
final decision. Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative
remedies and judicial review is now appropriate under 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
federal court's review of the Commissioner's decision
to deny disability benefits is limited to determining whether
the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Chaney v. Colvin,
812 F.3d 672, 676 (8th Cir. 2016). Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance, but is enough evidence that a
reasonable mind would find it sufficient to support the
Commissioner's decision. Id. In making this
assessment, the court considers evidence that detracts from
the Commissioner's decision, as well as evidence that
supports it. Id. The court must “defer
heavily” to the Commissioner's findings and
conclusions. Wright v. Colvin, 789 F.3d 847, 852
(8th Cir. 2015). The court may reverse the Commissioner's
decision only if it falls outside of the available zone of
choice; a decision is not outside this zone simply because
the evidence also points to an alternate outcome. Buckner
v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011).
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process to determine whether a claimant is
disabled, that is, unable to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable
impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred by failing to
properly weigh the consultative examiner's opinion and
discussing differences between the doctor's opinion and
the RFC determination.
The ALJ did not commit reversible error in weighing or
discussing Dr. Ash's opinion.
argues the ALJ erred in weighing the opinion of the
consultative examiner, Dr. Charles Ash, M.D., because he did
not include in his RFC finding all of the limitations that
Dr. Ash recommended. For example, the ALJ did not adopt Dr.
Ash's suggestion that Plaintiff could only
occasionally push and/or pull, handle, finger, and
reach, and that he could only sit, stand, and walk for
one hour at a time without interruption. The ALJ
found Plaintiff could frequently push and/or pull,
handle, finger and reach, and that he could sit, stand, and
walk for up to two hours at a time. R. at 24.
Plaintiff contends the ALJ's divergence from Dr.
Ash's opinion is unexplained and unclear; at the very
least, the Court should remand the matter for another
is no basis to reverse or remand here. An ALJ may
appropriately discount the opinion of a medical source-or any
portion thereof-if it is inconsistent with other evidence in
the record, and the ALJ is not required to refute in the
decision every possible limitation suggested by the record or
any particular medical source. See McCoy v. Astrue,
648 F.3d 605, 615 (8th Cir. 2011) (noting an ALJ is not
required to list and reject every possible limitation). Here,
the ALJ recognized his RFC finding differed slightly from Dr.
Ash's opinion, but was consistent with the doctor's
overarching opinion that Plaintiff was capable of a range of
light exertional level work. This is not reversible error;
this is the ALJ discounting a portion of an opinion that
is-in the ALJ's opinion-inconsistent with other evidence
in the record. Although Plaintiff believes that the ALJ
should have weighed Dr. Ash's opinion differently and
imposed all of his suggested limitations, his decision to
reject a few of Dr. Ash's suggested limitations is
supported by substantial evidence and so is within the
available zone of choice. See Perks v. Astrue, 687
F.3d 1086, 1092 (8th Cir. 2012) (holding ALJ's decision
to partially discount consultative physician's opinion
was proper because substantial evidence supported the
ALJ's decision on those limitations).
course, the ALJ committed a writing error when he wrote,
“[f]or these reasons, Dr. Ash's overarching opinion
is given to Dr. Ash's opinion [sic].” R. at 26.
Because of this mangled sentence, the reader does not know
the precise weight the ALJ gave to Dr. Ash's opinion.
Even so, it is clear from the surrounding sentences that the
ALJ was not adopting each of Dr. Ash's suggested
limitations; he was adopting Dr. Ash's general opinion
that Plaintiff was capable of a range of work at the light
exertional level. R. at 25-26. Given the evidence in the
record supporting the ALJ's RFC ...