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Beeler v. Berryhill

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

January 3, 2018

SHANE ALLEN BEELER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          GREG KAYS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CHIEF JUDGE

         This action seeks judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security's (“the Commissioner”) decision denying Plaintiff Shane Beeler's applications for Social Security disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, and Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381- 1383f. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff had severe impairments of degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, but retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to work as a fruit distributor and fruit grade operator.

         After 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.

         Procedural and Factual Background

         The complete facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         Plaintiff filed his applications on January 13, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of December 13, 2011. 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 June 21, 2013, issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council subsequently remanded the case. A different ALJ gathered additional evidence and held a new hearing. On November 5, 2015, he issued his decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled.

         On September 3, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, 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).

         Standard of Review

         A 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 supports an alternate outcome. Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011).

         Discussion

         The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process[1] 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 at Step Four by: (1) failing to properly evaluate his treating physician's opinion; and (2) failing to properly evaluate his credibility. Both arguments are unavailing.

         I. In formulating Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ did not err in evaluating the medical source statements provided by Dr. Glynn.

         Plaintiff argues that in formulating his RFC, the ALJ erred by discounting the opinion of his treating physician, Dr. Paul Glynn, D.O., expressed in two medical source statements. The ALJ gave little weight to Dr. Glynn's opinions because they were “based on subjective findings and he was sympathetic to the claimant, especially regarding the reported loss of concentration for 10% of every hour, need to alternate between sitting and standing every 15 minutes, use of a cane, and need to miss multiple days of work per month.” R. at 30-31. They ALJ also discounted them because they were inconsistent with the objective medical evidence.

         Plaintiff contends there is no evidence in the record that Dr. Glynn's opinion was based solely on his subjective reports, or that he was influenced by sympathy. He also argues that the ALJ failed to point to specific inconsistencies between Dr. Glynn's opinions and the ...


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