United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER AND OPINION AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S FINAL
DECISION DENYING BENEFITS
D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE.
is Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner of Social
Security's final decision denying her applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. For the following reasons, the Commissioner's
decision is affirmed.
was born in October 1980, and has two years of high school
education. R. at 19, 39-40. She previously worked as a skip
tracer, cashier, and store laborer. R. at 57-58, 200-06.
Plaintiff applied for disability and disability insurance
benefits, as well as supplemental security income, alleging a
disability onset date of December 1, 2009. R. at 10, 179.
Plaintiff's applications were denied, and she requested a
hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). R. 105. A hearing was held on August 8,
2016. R. at 35-62. In November 2016, ALJ Mark Naggi issued
his decision, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. R. at 7-21.
rendering his decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the
following severe impairments: obesity, a history of carpal
tunnel syndrome, attention deficit disorder, major depressive
disorder, and anxiety. R. at 12. The ALJ determined Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
[P]erform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) in that she can lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently; can stand and/or walk about 6 hours out of
an 8 hour workday, with normal breaks; can sit for about 6
hours out of an 8 hour workday, with normal breaks; and can
push and/or pull the same weights. [Plaintiff] cannot work
around unprotected heights; is limited to simple, routine,
repetitive tasks with no production rate pace work, such as
assembly line work, but could perform goal-oriented work such
as office cleaning; is limited to simple work-related
decisions; can have frequent interaction with supervisors;
can have occasional interaction with co-workers and the
general public; and would be off task 5 percent of the time
in an eight-hour workday.
R. at 15. Based upon the RFC and the vocational expert's
(“VE”) testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff
could work as a retail marker, inserting machine operator,
and laundry sorter. R. at 20. Plaintiff appealed the
ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her
appeal. R. at 1-5. Plaintiff now appeals to this Court.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
limited to a determination whether the decision is
“supported by substantial evidence on the record as a
whole. Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance
but…enough that a reasonable mind would find it
adequate to support the conclusion.” Andrews v.
Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015) (citations
omitted). “As long as substantial evidence in the
record supports the Commissioner's decision, we may not
reverse it because substantial evidence exists in the record
that would have supported a contrary outcome, or because we
would have decided the case differently.” Cline v.
Colvin, 771 F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th Cir. 2014) (citation
omitted). Though advantageous to the Commissioner, this
standard also requires that the Court consider evidence that
fairly detracts from the final decision. Anderson v.
Astrue, 696 F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2015) (citation
omitted). Substantial evidence means “more than a mere
scintilla” of evidence; rather, it is relevant evidence
that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Gragg v. Astrue, 615 F.3d 932, 938 (8th
RFC is the “most you can still do despite your
limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). The ALJ
must base the RFC on “all of the relevant evidence,
including the medical records, observations of treating
physicians and others, and an individual's own
description of his limitations.” McKinney v.
Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000). Because
Plaintiff's RFC is a medical question, “an
ALJ's assessment of it must be supported by some medical
evidence of [Plaintiff's] ability to function in the
workplace.” Hensley v. Colvin, 829 f.3d 926,
932 (8th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). “However, there
is no requirement that an RFC finding be supported by a
specific medical opinion.” Id. (citations
argues the RFC is unsupported by substantial evidence, and
the ALJ erred by failing to order a consultative exam to
assess Plaintiff's physical limitations related to
obesity and carpal tunnel syndrome. In determining the RFC,
the ALJ considered, among other things, Plaintiff's
treatment records; statements concerning the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of those symptoms;
activities of daily living; compliance with treatment; and a
third party function report submitted by Plaintiff's
fiancé. R. at 15-19.
specifically noted Plaintiff's “treatment records
do not document any specific symptoms or limitations that are
attributed to obesity.” R. at 16. Although Plaintiff
argues greater limitations related to her obesity should have
been included, she does not specify or point to evidence in
the record demonstrating what those limitations are. The ALJ
has a responsibility to develop the record fairly and fully,
but is not obligated to seek additional opinions unless a
“crucial issue is undeveloped.” Combs v.
Berryhill, 878 F.3d 642, 646-47 (8th Cir. 2017)
(citations and quotation omitted). The ...