United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff's appeal brought under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) seeking review of Defendant Social Security
Administration's (“SSA”) denial of disability
benefits as rendered in a decision by an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). For the reasons below, the
decision of the ALJ is AFFIRMED.
Court's review of the ALJ'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.” Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922, 929
(8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ford v. Astrue, 518 F.3d
979, 981 (8th Cir. 2008)). “Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance of the evidence, but is ‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind would find adequate to
support the [ALJ's] conclusion.'” Grable v.
Colvin, 770 F.3d 1196, 1201 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)).
In determining whether existing evidence is substantial, the
Court takes into account “evidence that detracts from
the [ALJ's] decision as well as evidence that supports
it.” Cline v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th
Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). “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) (citing Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d
962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)). The Court does not “re-weigh
the evidence presented to the ALJ.” Guilliams v.
Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing
Baldwin v. Barnhart, 349 F.3d 549, 555 (8th Cir.
2003)). The Court must “defer heavily to the findings
and conclusions of the [ALJ].” Hurd v. Astrue,
621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
of overview, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff suffers
from the following severe impairments: Leriche's
syndrome; history of stroke; diabetes mellitus; right rotator
cuff tear; and major depressive disorder. However, the ALJ
found that none of 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 his limitations, Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform a range of sedentary work. Plaintiff can lift,
carry, push, or pull ten pounds on an occasional and frequent
basis. Plaintiff can stand or walk two hours out of an
eight-hour day and can climb stairs or ramps occasionally.
Plaintiff must avoid climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds.
Plaintiff is able to balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl
occasionally. Plaintiff can reach overhead occasionally with
his dominant right upper extremity. Plaintiff must avoid
exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, and hazards such as
moving machinery and unprotected heights. Plaintiff is able
to understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions
and perform simple, routine repetitive tasks consistent with
unskilled work of an SVP of 1 or 2. Although the ALJ found
Plaintiff to be unable to perform any past relevant work, the
ALJ found Plaintiff to not be disabled, and that considering
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC,
there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that the Plaintiff can perform.
appeal, Plaintiff makes the following arguments: (1) whether
the ALJ's RFC determination as to Plaintiff's
physical functional capabilities was supported by substantial
evidence, and (2) whether the ALJ's determination of
Plaintiff's credibility was proper.
Plaintiff argues the ALJ failed to properly determine
Plaintiff's RFC as to Plaintiff's physical functional
capabilities. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's
physical functional capabilities included the ability to
perform sedentary work with postural and environmental
limits. Specifically, Plaintiff argues the ALJ had a duty to
develop the record because there is no medical opinion
evidence concerning Plaintiff's physical functional
determination does not need to be supported by a specific
medical opinion if significant medical evidence in the record
exists to support the ALJ's RFC determination. Steed
v. Astrue, 524 F.3d 872, 875-76 (8th Cir. 2008) (even if
the medical record does not contain a specific medical
opinion, mild or unremarkable objective medical findings and
other medical evidence may constitute evidence sufficient to
support an RFC finding). See also Hensley v. Colvin,
829 F.3d 926, 932 (8th Cir. 2016) (the RFC is a medical
question and must be supported by some medical evidence;
however, the RFC is not required to be supported by a
specific medical opinion). Here, the record provides, and the
ALJ's decision references, numerous physical examination
and diagnostic testing results that were mild and
Plaintiff's argument to the contrary, because there is
sufficient medical evidence in the record to determine
Plaintiff's physical functional capabilities, the ALJ
does not have a duty to develop the record as to
Plaintiff's physical functional capabilities. See
Barrett v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 1019, 1023 (8th Cir. 1994)
(“The ALJ is required to order medical examinations and
tests only if the medical records presented to him do not
give sufficient medical evidence to determine whether the
claimant is disabled.”); Stormo v. Barnhart,
377 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2004) (the ALJ does not need to
develop the record unless a crucial issues is undeveloped).
Plaintiff argues the ALJ improperly assessed Plaintiff's
credibility concerning Plaintiff's testimony at the
hearing and his subjective complaints in the record.
“This 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.” Travis v.
Astrue, 477 F.3d 1037, 1042 (8th Cir. 2007). Further,
the Court will “defer to the ALJ's determinations
regarding the credibility of testimony, so long as they are
supported by good reasons and substantial evidence.”
Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir.
2005). Here, the ALJ discounted Plaintiff's credibility
because Plaintiff's subjective complaints were
inconsistent with the overall medical record and inconsistent
with Plaintiff's ability to perform activities of daily
living. See Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d
1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1984) (an ALJ may consider the absence
of objective medical evidence supporting the plaintiff's
subjective complaints in the credibility analysis).
Accordingly, substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
carefully reviewed the record before the Court and the
parties' submissions on appeal, the Court concludes that
substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the
ALJ's decision. Accordingly, the decision of the ALJ is