United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE
Rebecca Zorsch (“Plaintiff”) petitions for review
of an adverse decision by Defendant, the Acting Commissioner
of Social Security (“Commissioner”). Plaintiff
applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II of
the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. The
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff
had severe impairments of occipital neuralgia, cervicalgia,
migraine headaches, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, obesity,
fibromyalgia, and Chiari malformation, but retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
her past relevant work as an employment and claims aid, or
alternatively, a marker.
carefully reviewing the record and the parties'
arguments, the Court finds the ALJ's decision is
supported by substantial evidence. 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 her application on June 27, 2014, alleging a disability
onset date of June 11, 2014. The Commissioner denied the
application at the initial claim level, and Plaintiff
appealed the denial to an ALJ. The ALJ held a hearing, and on
May 31, 2016, found Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review, leaving
the ALJ's decision as the final decision. Plaintiff has
exhausted all administrative remedies and judicial review is
now appropriate under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
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. Andrews v.
Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015).
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. 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, and 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
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. §
argues the ALJ erred by: (1) discounting a portion of Stephen
Holmes's M.D. (“Dr. Holmes”) opinion; (2)
failing to provide a narrative statement explaining why he
omitted limitations due to Plaintiff's headaches; and (3)
failing to fully develop the record. After reviewing the
record and the applicable law, the Court finds these
arguments are without merit.
The ALJ properly weighed the medical evidence.
Plaintiff complains that the ALJ incorrectly discounted a
portion of her treating physician, Dr. Holmes's opinion.
“may discount or even disregard the opinion of a
treating physician 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.”
Medhaug v. Astrue, 578 F.3d 805, 815 (8th Cir.
2009). Physician opinions that are internally inconsistent
are entitled to less deference than they would otherwise
receive. Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 803
(8th Cir. 2005). Further, an ALJ is entitled to give less
weight to a physician's opinion when ...