United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Heather Eden seeks review of the decision by Defendant
denying her claim for Supplemental Security Income. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the ALJ's
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on
January 24, 2013, pursuant to Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1385. Tr. 136.
Eden, who was born in 1974, claimed that she became disabled
April 1, 2005. Tr. 136, 162. She claims that her disability
is caused by mental impairments, migraines, fibromyalgia, and
case is before the Court for the second time. The Court
previously remanded the proceeding (Tr. 784-94), but there is
no dispute that the Court's prior decision is not at
issue on this appeal. See Doc. 16, p. 2; see,
generally, Doc. 17. On remand, the ALJ concluded, after
another hearing, that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: probable fibromyalgia, migraines, asthma,
chronic rhino sinusitis, obesity, and mental impairments
variously diagnosed as depression, post-traumatic stress
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder,
bereavement, and bipolar affective disorder. Tr. 647-48. The
ALJ nonetheless concluded that Eden retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as
light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except she cannot
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can frequently climb
ramps and stairs; can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl; must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold,
excessive vibration, concentrated use of hazardous machinery
except motor vehicles, and unprotected heights; must avoid
even moderate exposure to irritants such as fumes, odors,
dust, gases, and poorly ventilated areas. She can maintain
concentration, persistence and pace on simple tasks for
two-hour periods, make simple work-related decisions,
understand, remember, and carry out simple work instructions
and procedures, and can adapt to changes in the workplace
that are simple, predictable, and can be easily explained.
She should avoid working with the public, but can engage in
occasional and superficial interaction with coworkers and
Tr. 652. Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the
ALJ concluded that Eden's RFC would allow her to work as
a Mail Clerk or Battery Assembler-jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy, including in the
State of Missouri. Tr. 658. The ALJ therefore concluded that
Eden was not under a “disability” as that term is
defined in the Act. Tr. 658-59. The Social Security
Administration's Appeals Council subsequently denied
Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 635-641. The
ALJ's decision constitutes the final decision of the
Commissioner subject to judicial review.
Court must affirm the Commissioner's denial of social
security benefits “if substantial evidence in the
record as a whole supports the ALJ's decision.”
Milam v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2015).
“Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but
is enough so that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to
support the ALJ's conclusion.” Singh v.
Apfel, 222 F.3d 448, 451 (8th Cir. 2000). The Court must
consider both “evidence that detracts from the
Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports
it.” Id. (quotation marks and citation
omitted). However, “as long as substantial evidence in
the record supports the Commissioner's decision, [the
Court] may not reverse it because substantial evidence also
exists in the record that would have supported a contrary
outcome, or because [the Court] would have decided the case
differently.” Andrews v. Colvin, 791 F.3d 923,
928 (8th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
The Court must “defer heavily to the findings and
conclusions of the Social Security Administration.”
Michel v. Colvin, 640 Fed.Appx. 585, 592 (8th Cir.
2016) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
argues (1) that the ALJ failed to include certain limitations
described by a treating psychiatrist that the ALJ had deemed
credible, and (2) that the ALJ did not properly evaluate
Eden's allegations. The Court considers these arguments
Whether the ALJ Failed to Include Certain Restrictions as
to which Dr. Christy Opined
Christy, M.D., Eden's treating physician from September
9, 2014 through 2016 (Tr. 1063-1110, 2092-2134), provided a
check-the-box form titled “MEDICAL SOURCE STATEMENT -
MENTAL” on January 28, 2016. The ALJ purported to
afford “great weight” to Dr. Christy's
opinion. However, Eden claims that the ALJ nonetheless failed
to include in the RFC all of the limitations as to which Dr.
Christy opined, without explanation.
Christy opined that Eden was “Moderately Limited”
in four abilities: “to understand and remember detailed
instructions, ” “to maintain attention and
concentration for extended periods, ” “to
complete a normal workday and workweek without interruption
from psychologically based symptoms and to perform at a
consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of
rest periods, ” and “to accept instructions and
respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors.”
Tr. 1035-36. In every other regard, Dr. Christy deemed Eden
“Not Significantly ...