United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dallas Nauman seeks review of the decision by Defendant
denying his 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 July
13, 2016 and Disability Insurance Benefits on August 12, 2016
under Titles XVI and II of the Social Security Act,
respectively. Tr. 155-59, 163-64. Nauman claims he became
disabled on June 18, 2016, Tr. 30, and listed the following
causes of his disability: chronic nausea, stomach and abdomen
pain, lymphoma stomach cancer in remission, digestive issues,
frequent vomiting, multiple stomach surgeries, chronic
fatigue and confusion, problems with bending, stooping,
standing, and walking, and weakness in his lumbar back, Tr.
185. Shortly after his alleged onset date, he reported
taking, pursuant to prescriptions, Baclofen for pain, Norco,
Pepcid and Viokase for digestive issues, Promethazine and
Zofran for nausea, Xanax for anxiety and Pamelor for
depression. Tr. 188. He has an eighth-grade education level
and had worked in construction for approximately 20 years,
but he stopped working in 2013 due to his condition. Tr.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) concluded, after a hearing,
that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: left hip
fracture, status post pinning, osteoarthritis of the right
thumb, gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastroparesis,
pancreatitis, reactive gastropathy, peptic ulcer disease, sun
sensitivity, history of fibromyalgia/myofasciitis, history of
chronic obstructive disorder, learning disorder, alcohol
abuse/dependence, and cognitive neurological disorder due to
past chemotherapy. Tr. 13. The ALJ nonetheless concluded that
Nauman retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform work as follows:
sedentary work . . . including the ability to lift and carry
up to 10 pounds occasionally, stand and/or walk up to 2 hours
in an 8 hours workday, and sit up to 6 hours in an 8 hour
workday. The claimant can never climb ladders, ropes or
scaffolds, balance, kneel, crouch or crawl, but he can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, and stoop. The claimant
can frequently handle and finger with the right hand. He must
avoid extreme cold weather, extreme heat, exposure to
sunlight, humidity, and excessive vibration. The claimant
must avoid irritants, such as fumes, odors, dust, gases and
poorly ventilated areas. He must also avoid operational
control of moving machinery, unprotected heights and
hazardous machinery. Due to his mental impairments, the
claimant is limited to simple, routine and repetitive tasks,
which may required detailed instructions, but do not involve
complex tasks. The work must be in an environment free of
fast-paced production requirements and involve only simple,
work-related decision, and few, if any, work place changes.
He cannot have any interaction with the public. He can work
around co-workers, but he can have only occasional
interaction with co-workers.
Tr. 14. Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the
ALJ concluded that Nauman's RFC would allow him to work
as a lens inserter, wire wrapper, and production checker-jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.
Tr. 19. The ALJ therefore concluded that Nauman was not under
a “disability” as that term is defined in the
Act. Tr. 10-20. As the Appeals Council subsequently denied
Plaintiff's request for review, Tr. 1-4, 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). “[A]s
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 that the ALJ failed to provide reasons supported by
substantial evidence for discounting the opinion of
Nauman's treating oncologist and an examining
phycologist, and that the ALJ failed to develop the record as
to Nauman's mental abilities before formulating an RFC
assessment. Nauman contends that these errors make the RFC
deficient, and therefore remand is appropriate.
is “the most a claimant can still do despite [his]
physical or mental limitations.” Swink v.
Saul, 931 F.3d 765, 769 (8th Cir. 2019) (quoting 42
U.S.C. § 404.1520(a)(1)). An RFC must be “based 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.”
Myers v. Colvin, 721 F.3d 521, 527 (8th Cir. 2013)
(quotations omitted). In determining the RFC, “a
treating physician's opinion is generally entitled to
substantial weight, ” but such an opinion “does
not automatically control in the face of other credible
evidence on the record that detracts from that
opinion.” Brown v. Astrue, 611 F.3d 941, 951
(8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Heino v. Astrue, 578 F.3d
873, 880 (8th Cir. 2009)). When “discount[ing] a
treating physician's opinion, [the ALJ] should give good
reasons for doing so.” Id.
Rangineni, Nauman's treating oncologist, provided the
following medical opinions: a brief letter dated January 8,
2014, Tr. 610; a check-the-box form titled “MEDICAL
SOURCE STATEMENT - MENTAL” and a similar “MEDICAL
SOURCE STATEMENT - PHYSICAL” that was accompanied by a
written explanation of Nauman's treatment and symptoms,
each dated October 13, 2016, Tr. 528-33; and another set of
source statements similar to those submitted in October 2016
that were dated December 5, 2017, Tr. 543-48.
opinions generally advised that Nauman could occasionally
lift up to 10 pounds, occasionally use his hands or arms,
stand for up to two hours in a day and sit for four hours,
but would need to change positions every 15 minutes, would
require frequent breaks, would be off-task 25% of the time
and absent at least four days per month. Tr. 532-33, 544-45.
The ALJ afforded “partial weight” to Dr.
Rangineni's opinion, incorporating his recommended limits
on lifting, standing and walking in the RFC, but not Dr.
Rangineni's recommendations regarding nonexertional
limits, Nauman's ability to sit or be on task, or Dr.