United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
Joseph Erbe (“Plaintiff”) petitions for judicial
review of an adverse decision by Defendant, the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”).
Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 and
1381-1383f. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
found Plaintiff's allegations of disabling symptoms were
not supported by the medical record and determined Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform other work as a battery assembler or production
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 his applications on December 26, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of August 2, 2011. The Commissioner
denied the applications at the initial claim level, and
Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. The ALJ held a
hearing, and on July 14, 2017, found Plaintiff was not
disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for a review on May 14, 2018. Plaintiff has exhausted all
administrative remedies and judicial review is now
appropriate under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
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
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 points to an alternate outcome.
Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir.
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 that the ALJ erred by (1) giving no weight to the
opinion of Sheetal Dhoke, M.D., a psychiatrist who treated
Plaintiff three times and (2) failing to adopt the opinion of
Michael Wuebker, Ph.D., a consultative examiner, that
Plaintiff would have difficulties responding to work setting
pressures. After reviewing the record and the applicable law,
the Court finds substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
The ALJ did not err by assigning no weight to Dr. Dhoke's
Dhoke opined Plaintiff had moderate or marked limitations in
all areas of mental functioning, would be absent from work
more than three times a month, and was unemployable. R. at
1169-70. Plaintiff argues that Dr. Dhoke's opinion is
entitled to great weight because the ALJ did not give good
reasons for disregarding her opinion.
treating physician is a doctor with whom the patient
“‘has, or has had, an ongoing treatment
relationship.'” Walker v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., 911 F.3d 550, 553 (8th Cir. 2018)
(quoting 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1502, 416.902
(2015)). “Opinions by treating physicians receive
controlling weight if they are well-supported by the medical
evidence and are ‘not inconsistent with the other
substantial evidence in [the] case record.'”
Id. (quoting 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527(c)(2), 416.927 (2015)). “Whether the ALJ gives
the opinion of a treating physician great or little weight,
the ALJ must give good reasons for doing so.” Reece
v. Colvin, 834 F.3d 904, 909 (8th Cir. 2016).
“Such reasons include internal inconsistency or that
other physicians' opinions have better evidentiary