United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
the Court is Plaintiff's appeal seeking judicial review
of a final decision of the Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying disability
benefits. The decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED in
part and REMANDED for further proceedings.
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision to deny
disability benefits is limited to determining if the decision
“complies with the relevant legal requirements and is
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole.” KKC v. Colvin, 818 F.3d 364, 374 (8th
Cir. 2016) (quoting Ford v. Astrue, 518 F.3d 979,
981 (8th Cir. 2008)); see also 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). “Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find
it adequate to support the [Commissioner's]
conclusion.” Gann v. Berryhill, 864 F.3d 947,
950 (8th Cir. 2017). In determining whether existing evidence
is substantial, the Court takes into account “evidence
that both supports and detracts from the ALJ's
[Administrative Law Judge] decision.” Milam v.
Colvin, 794 F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Perkins v. Asture, 648 F.3d 892, 897 (8th Cir.
2011)). “If the ALJ's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, [the Court] may not reverse even if
substantial evidence would support the opposite outcome or
[the Court] would have decided differently.” Smith
v. Colvin, 756 F.3d 621, 625 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)).
The Court does not re-weigh the evidence presented to the
ALJ. Reece v. Colvin, 834 F.3d 904, 908 (8th Cir.
2016). The Court should “defer heavily to the findings
and conclusions of the [Commissioner].” Wright v.
Colvin, 789 F.3d 847, 852 (8th Cir. 2015) (quotation and
of overview, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff suffers from
the following severe impairments: cardiomyopathy, atrial
flutter, status post cardia ablation, history of congestive
heart failure, severe tricuspid regurgitation, obesity,
bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and social anxiety.
However, the ALJ found that none of the Plaintiff's
impairments, whether considered alone or in combination, meet
or medically equals the criteria of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Pt. 404. Subpt. P, App. 1
(“Listing”). Additionally, the ALJ found that
despite the ALJ's limitations, the Plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a
range of light work with limitations. Although the ALJ found
the Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work,
the ALJ found the Plaintiff was not disabled, and that
considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy the Plaintiff can perform.
appeal, Plaintiff makes the following arguments in support of
reversal of the ALJ's decision: (1) whether the ALJ's
evaluation of the medical opinions was proper, and (2)
whether the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's
erred by omitting marked limitation opinions from medical
sources without explaining why those opinions were not
adopted. The Plaintiff was treated by Dr. Heslin, Ms.
Lazzari, and Mr. Stephenson at Burrell Behavioral Health.
While the ALJ properly discounted Dr. Heslin, Ms. Lazzari,
and Mr. Stephenson's opinions of extreme limitations, the
ALJ omitted the opinions' marked ‘limitations'
from the RFC without explanation. An ALJ is required to weigh
all medical source opinions and “always give good
reasons for the weight given to a treating source's
opinion.” SSR 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188 at *5 (Soc. Sec.
Admin. July 2, 1996). Further, an ALJ must explain why an
opinion from a medical source was not adopted. SSR 96-8p,
1996 WL 374184 at *7 (Soc. Sec. Admin. July 2, 1996)
(“The RFC assessment must always consider and address
medical source opinions. If the RFC assessment conflicts with
an opinion from a medical source, the adjudicator must
explain why the opinion was not adopted.”). See
Trotter v. Colvin, 2015 WL 5785548, at *3 (W.D. Mo. Oct.
2, 2015) (remand was required when the ALJ gave the opinion
weight but did not provide any explanation for omitting
portions of the opinion); White v. Astrue, 2012 WL
930840, at *7 (W.D. Mo. March 19, 2012) (the ALJ erred when
the ALJ gave weight to the doctor's opinion but did not
include the doctor's limitations in the RFC or explain
the omission); Woods v. Astrue, 780 F.Supp.2d 904,
913-15 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 26, 2011) (remand was required when the
ALJ provided weight to the treating physician's opinion,
but disregarded the physician's limitations without
explanation). Accordingly, the record does not reflect
substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's evaluation of
the medical opinions and the corresponding omission of the
marked limitations without explanation.
to Plaintiff's last argument, the Court finds that
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's assessment that
Plaintiff's subjective complaints were not fully
credible. See Travis v. Astrue, 477 F.3d
1037, 1042 (8th Cir. 2007) (“[A] court will not
substitute its opinion for the ALJ's, who is in the
better position to gauge credibility and resolve conflicts in
the evidence.”). Plaintiff argues the ALJ failed to
discount the Plaintiff's credibility utilizing all
Polaski factors. However, the ALJ is not required to
discuss each factor used in determining credibility. See
Strongson v. Barnhart, 361 F.3d 1066, 1072 (8th Cir.
2004) (the “ALJ, in determining a claimant's
credibility in a social security disability benefits case,
need not explicitly discuss each Polaski factor; it
is sufficient if he acknowledges and considers those factors
before discounting the claimant's complaints”);
Smith v. Colvin, 756 F.3d 621, 625 (8th Cir. 2014)
(“[w]e defer to the ALJ's evaluation of [a
claimant's] credibility, provided that such determination
is ‘supported by good reasons and substantial evidence,
even if every factor is not discussed in depth.'”)
(quoting Cox v. Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 907 (8th
Cir. 2006)). Accordingly, substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's credibility determination.
remand, the ALJ should reevaluate the medical opinions of Dr.
Heslin, Ms. Lazzari, and Mr. Stephenson. If the ALJ
determines that the marked limitations should be disregarded,
the ALJ should provide specific, reasoned explanations for
carefully reviewed the record before the Court and the
parties' submissions on appeal, the Court AFFIRMS
in part the Commissioner's decision and
REMANDS for further proceedings.