United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
the Court is Plaintiff's appeal brought under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) seeking review of Defendant Commissioner of
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 Plaintiff suffers from
the following severe impairments: schizoaffective disorder;
generalized anxiety disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder;
and joint pain of the arm, neck, back, and right knee.
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 her limitations, Plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium
exertional work with the following limitations: Plaintiff can
understand, remember, and carry out simply instructions and
make simple work-related decisions; Plaintiff can have
occasional interaction with supervisors and co-workers,
performing work requiring no tandem tasks; and Plaintiff
cannot interact with the public. Although the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work,
the ALJ found that considering Plaintiff's age,
education, work experience, and RFC, Plaintiff can perform
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
appeal, Plaintiff argues the ALJ's RFC determination is
not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ
improperly discounted the medical opinions of Dr. Susan
Doyle and Dr. S. Gunda. Dr. Doyle is
Plaintiff's treating psychological
counselor. Dr. Gunda is Plaintiff's treating
physician and provided two opinions concerning
Plaintiff's mental functioning. The ALJ gave little weight
to Dr. Doyle's opinion and little weight to Dr.
Gunda's first opinion. The ALJ gave no weight to Dr.
Gunda's second opinion.
is required to weigh all medical source opinions and
“always give good reasons for the weight given to a
treating source's opinion.” SSR 96-2p, 1996 WL
374188 at *5 (Soc. Sec. Admin. July 2, 1996). “The
opinion of a treating physician is accorded special deference
under the social security regulations [and] normally entitled
to great weight.” Vossen v. Astrue, 612 F.3d
1011, 1017 (8th Cir. 2010). “However, the Commissioner
may discount or even disregard the opinion of a treating
physician where other medical assessments are supported by
better or more thorough medical evidence.” Fentress
v. Berryhill, 854 F.3d 1016, 1020 (8th Cir. 2017)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
discounted Dr. Doyle and Dr. Gunda's opinions because the
opined marked and extreme limitations were inconsistent with
the content in Plaintiff's treatment records,
inconsistent with Plaintiff's noncompliance with
treatment and medication directives, and inconsistent with
the improvement in symptoms that Plaintiff experienced when
taking her medications as directed.The ALJ may discount a
treating psychologist's opinion where (1) a non-examining
opinion is supported by superior medical evidence or (2) if
the treating physician offered an opinion inconsistent with
the treating physician's own treatment notes. Hogan
v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 958, 961 (8th Cir. 2001). See
also Chesser v. Berryhill, 858 F.3d 1161, 1164-65 (8th
Cir. 2017) (the Commissioner may also assign "little
weight" to a treating physician's opinion when it is
either internally inconsistent or conclusory). If a
plaintiff's impairment can be controlled through
treatment or medication, the impairment is not disabling.
Brown v. Astrue, 611 F.3d 941, 955 (8th Cir. 2010).
Finally, “an ALJ may properly consider the
claimant's noncompliance with a treating physician's
directions . . . including failing to take prescription
medications.” Choate v. Barnhart, 457 F.3d
865, 872 (8th Cir. 2006). Accordingly, the Court finds that
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision to
discount the weight given to Dr. Doyle and Dr. Gunda.
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. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED
that the decision of the ALJ is AFFIRMED.
 Plaintiff's briefing consistently
refers to Dr. Doyle as “Dr. Pyle.” However, the
ALJ, Defendant, and medical record indicate that the
appropriate name is “Dr. Doyle.” Accordingly,