Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Morand v. Berryhill

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

March 15, 2018

ELIZABETH MORAND, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Elizabeth Morand (“Morand”) petitions for review of an adverse decision by Defendant, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”). Morand applied for Social Security disability insurance benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1385. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Morand was not disabled under the Act, and had an RFC that allowed her to perform past relevant work.

         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.

         Morand filed her application on March 6, 2014 alleging a disability onset date of April 1, 2012. She later amended her alleged onset date to March 6, 2014. The Commissioner denied the application at the initial claim level, and Morand appealed the denial to an ALJ. The ALJ held a hearing on October 26, 2015. On December 4, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Morand could perform work as a price marker, routing clerk, or hand packager. The Appeals Council denied Morand's request for review on October 27, 2016. Morand has exhausted all administrative remedies and judicial review is now appropriate under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).

         Standard of Review

         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).

         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. Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but 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. McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000). The court must “defer heavily” to the Commissioner's findings and conclusions. Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010). The court may reverse the Commissioner's decision only if it falls outside of the available zone of choice, and a decision is not outside this zone simply because the court might have decided the case differently were it the initial finder of fact. Buckner, 646 F.3d at 556.

         Discussion

         Morand argues that the ALJ erred in determining her residual functional capacity (“RFC”) at step four because he 1) improperly weighed the medical opinions in the record, 2) failed to consider Morand's moderate limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace, and 3) failed to support the RFC with proper medical evidence. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, the Court finds these arguments are without merit.

         I. Substantial evidence supports the ALJ's weighing of the medical opinions.

         Morand argues that the ALJ erred in formulating the RFC because he gave substantial weight to a non-examining state-agency physician and little weight to her treating examiners. In weighing a medical opinion, the ALJ should consider the length, frequency, nature, and extent of the treatment relationship, supportability, consistency with the record as a whole, specialization of the treating source, and other factors supporting or contradicting the opinion. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c). An ALJ must give controlling weight to a treating medical source opinion if it is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques, and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence. Papesh v. Colvin, 786 F.3d 1126, 1132 (8th Cir. 2015). The opinion may be given “limited weight if it provides conclusory statements only, or is inconsistent with the record.” Id. (citation omitted). The ALJ “may discount or even disregard the opinion . . . where other medical assessments are supported by better or more thorough medical evidence, or where a treating physician renders inconsistent opinions that undermine the credibility of such opinions.” Id. (citation omitted). The mere fact that a physician is a treating physician is not good enough to overcome the better-supported opinion of a reviewing physician. See Ponder v. Colvin, 770 F.3d 1190, 1195 (8th Cir. 2014).

         Here, the ALJ gave little weight to Morand's treating neurologist, Ravinder Arora, M.D. The ALJ found that Dr. Arora's opinion was not supported by his own “minimal treatment notes.” R. at 18, 349-53, 518-19. The ALJ cited Dr. Arora's unremarkable objective findings that Morand showed no cognitive, motor, sensory, coordination, or reflex deficits. R. at 16, 518-19. The ALJ also noted that Dr. Arora gave opinions outside his neurological specialty. Owen v. Astrue, 551 F.3d 792, 800 (8th Cir. 2008) (explaining one factor in evaluating medical opinions is “whether the opinion is related to the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.