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Shay v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

January 2, 2020

TYLER SHAY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING THE ALJ'S DECISION AND REMANDING THE CASE

          ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before 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 REVERSED, and the case is REMANDED.

         Standard of Review

         The 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).

         Discussion

         By way of overview, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has severe impairments of posttraumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), anxiety, depressive disorder, and tremors. However, the ALJ found that none of Plaintiff's impairments, whether considered alone or in combination, meet or medically equal the criteria of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 (“Listing”). Additionally, the ALJ found that despite Plaintiff's limitations, he retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work[1] with the following limitations:

[H]e can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. He can stand or walk 6 hours and sit 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. He can frequently handle and finger. He can perform simple and routine tasks in an unskilled work setting where no more than occasional changes are required. He cannot interact with the public in the performance of his job duties. He can occasionally interact with coworkers and supervisors.

(Tr. 14.) The ALJ then found that, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, he can perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, such as the jobs of advertising materials distributor, cleaner/housekeeper, and marker. Consequently, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled.

         On appeal, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ (1) failed to address certain limitations in his treating physician's opinion and (2) improperly discounted Plaintiff's subjective reports about his symptoms. The Court agrees.

         I. Treating Physician's Opinion

         Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, Rubin Moore, M.D., opined that Plaintiff was limited as follows because of his unspecified bipolar disorder, PTSD, and generalized anxiety disorder:

• He would miss approximately four days of work per month.
• He would likely be off task for even simple tasks 25% or more of the time.
• He is “markedly limited” (meaning there is a serious interference with independent functioning) in his ability “to complete a normal workday and workweek without interruption from psychologically based symptoms” and in his ability “to perform at a ...

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