White v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the relief sought by Plaintiff in her Complaint and Brief in Support of Complaint (Docs. 1 , 13 ) is DENIED; IT IS ORDERED that a separate judgment be entered incorporating this Memorandum and Order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Noelle C. Collins on September 8, 2015. (BRP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CHRISTINE J. WHITE,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security,)
Case No. 2:14CV55NCC
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This is an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner denying the application of Christine J. White
(Plaintiff) for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 et seq. Plaintiff has filed a brief in support of the
Complaint. (Doc. 13). Defendant has filed a brief in support of the Answer. (Doc.
18). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United
States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 8).
On June 10, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging a disability
onset date of January 15, 2011. (Tr. 11, 67, 135). Her application was denied
initially, and she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
(Tr. 67, 75-79, 82). After a hearing, by decision dated June 11, 2013, the ALJ
found Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 11-25, 30-66). On April 1, 2014, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review. (Tr. 1-6). As such, the decision of
the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
Under the Social Security Act, the Commissioner has established a five-step
process for determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920,
404.1529. “‘If a claimant fails to meet the criteria at any step in the evaluation of
disability, the process ends and the claimant is determined to be not disabled.’”
Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Eichelberger v.
Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 590-91 (8th Cir. 2004)). In this sequential analysis, the
claimant first cannot be engaged in “substantial gainful activity” to qualify for
disability benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(b), 404.1520(b). Second, the claimant
must have a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(c), 404.1520(c). The Social
Security Act defines “severe impairment” as “any impairment or combination of
impairments which significantly limits [claimant’s] physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities.” Id. “The sequential evaluation process may be terminated
at step two only when the claimant’s impairment or combination of impairments
would have no more than a minimal impact on [his or] her ability to work.” Page
v. Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting Caviness v. Massanari,
250 F.3d 603, 605 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Nguyen v. Chater, 75 F.3d 429, 430-31
(8th Cir. 1996)).
Third, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment
which meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the Regulations. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(d), 404.1520(d); pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. If the claimant has one of, or
the medical equivalent of, these impairments, then the claimant is per se disabled
without consideration of the claimant’s age, education, or work history. See id.
Fourth, the impairment must prevent the claimant from doing past relevant
work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(f), 404.1520(f). The burden rests with the claimant at
this fourth step to establish his or her Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). See
Steed v. Astrue, 524 F.3d 872, 874 n.3 (8th Cir. 2008) (“Through step four of this
analysis, the claimant has the burden of showing that she is disabled.”);
Eichelberger, 390 F.3d at 590-91; Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 737 (8th
Cir. 2004); Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1069 n.5 (8th Cir. 2000). The ALJ
will review a claimant’s RFC and the physical and mental demands of the work the
claimant has done in the past. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
Fifth, the severe impairment must prevent the claimant from doing any other
work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(g), 404.1520(g). At this fifth step of the sequential
analysis, the Commissioner has the burden of production to show evidence of other
jobs in the national economy that can be performed by a person with the claimant’s
RFC. See Steed, 524 F.3d at 874 n.3; Young, 221 F.3d at 1069 n.5. If the
claimant meets these standards, the ALJ will find the claimant to be disabled.
“The ultimate burden of persuasion to prove disability, however, remains with the
claimant.” Id. See also Harris v. Barnhart, 356 F.3d 926, 931 n.2 (8th Cir. 2004)
(citing 68 Fed. Reg. 51153, 51155 (Aug. 26, 2003)); Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d
801, 806 (8th Cir. 2004) (“The burden of persuasion to prove disability and to
demonstrate RFC remains on the claimant, even when the burden of production
shifts to the Commissioner at step five.”); Charles v. Barnhart, 375 F.3d 777, 782
n.5 (8th Cir. 2004) (“[T]he burden of production shifts to the Commissioner at step
five to submit evidence of other work in the national economy that [the claimant]
could perform, given her RFC.”).
Even if a court finds that there is a
preponderance of the evidence against the ALJ’s decision, the decision must be
affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence. See Clark v. Heckler, 733 F.2d
65, 68 (8th Cir. 1984). “Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but is
enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner’s conclusion.” Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d 1019, 1022 (8th
Cir. 2002). See also Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007). In Bland v.
Bowen, 861 F.2d 533, 535 (8th Cir. 1988), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
The concept of substantial evidence is something less than the weight
of the evidence and it allows for the possibility of drawing two
inconsistent conclusions, thus it embodies a zone of choice within
which the Secretary may decide to grant or deny benefits without
being subject to reversal on appeal.
See also Lacroix v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 881, 885 (8th Cir. 2006) (“[W]e may not
reverse merely because substantial evidence exists for the opposite decision.”)
(quoting Johnson v. Chater, 87 F.3d 1015, 1017 (8th Cir. 1996)); Hartfield v.
Barnhart, 384 F.3d 986, 988 (8th Cir. 2004) (“[R]eview of the Commissioner’s
final decision is deferential.”).
It is not the job of the district court to re-weigh the evidence or review the
factual record de novo. See Cox, 495 F.3d at 617; Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d
798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005); McClees v. Shalala, 2 F.3d 301, 302 (8th Cir. 1993);
Murphy v. Sullivan, 953 F.2d 383, 384 (8th Cir. 1992). Instead, the district court
must simply determine whether the quantity and quality of evidence is enough so
that a reasonable mind might find it adequate to support the ALJ’s conclusion. See
Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing McKinney v. Apfel, 228
F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000)). Weighing the evidence is a function of the ALJ,
who is the fact-finder. See Benskin v. Bowen, 830 F.2d 878, 882 (8th Cir. 1987).
See also Onstead v. Sullivan, 962 F.2d 803, 804 (8th Cir. 1992) (holding that an
ALJ’s decision is conclusive upon a reviewing court if it is supported by
“substantial evidence”). Thus, an administrative decision which is supported by
substantial evidence is not subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence
may also support an opposite conclusion or because the reviewing court would
have decided differently.
See Krogmeier, 294 F.3d at 1022.
Eichelberger, 390 F.3d at 589; Nevland v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 853, 857 (8th Cir. 2000)
(quoting Terrell v. Apfel, 147 F.3d 659, 661 (8th Cir. 1998)); Hutsell v. Massanari,
259 F.3d 707, 711 (8th Cir. 2001).
To determine whether the Commissioner’s final decision is supported by
substantial evidence, the court is required to review the administrative record as a
whole and to consider:
(1) Findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the claimant;
(3) The medical evidence given by the claimant’s treating physicians;
(4) The subjective complaints of pain and description of the claimant’s
physical activity and impairment;
(5) The corroboration by third parties of the claimant’s physical impairment;
(6) The testimony of vocational experts based upon proper hypothetical
questions which fairly set forth the claimant’s physical impairment; and
(7) The testimony of consulting physicians.
Brand v. Sec’y of Dep’t of Health, Educ. & Welfare, 623 F.2d 523, 527 (8th Cir.
1980); Cruse v. Bowen, 867 F.2d 1183, 1184-85 (8th Cir. 1989).
Additionally, an ALJ’s decision must comply “with the relevant legal
requirements.” Ford v. Astrue, 518 F.3d 979, 981 (8th Cir. 2008).
The Social Security Act defines disability as the “inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
416(i)(1)(A); 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). “While the claimant has the burden of
proving that the disability results from a medically determinable physical or mental
impairment, direct medical evidence of the cause and effect relationship between
the impairment and the degree of claimant’s subjective complaints need not be
produced.” Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1984). When
evaluating evidence of pain, the ALJ must consider:
(1) the claimant’s daily activities;
(2) the subjective evidence of the duration, frequency, and intensity of the
(3) any precipitating or aggravating factors;
(4) the dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication; and
(5) the claimant’s functional restrictions.
Baker v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 955 F.2d. 552, 555 (8th Cir. 1992);
Polaski, 739 F.2d at 1322.
The absence of objective medical evidence is just one factor to be
considered in evaluating the plaintiff’s credibility. See id. The ALJ must also
consider the plaintiff’s prior work record, observations by third parties and treating
and examining doctors, as well as the plaintiff’s appearance and demeanor at the
hearing. See Polaski, 739 F.2d at 1322; Cruse, 867 F.2d at 1186.
The ALJ must make express credibility determinations and set forth the
inconsistencies in the record which cause him or her to reject the plaintiff’s
complaints. See Guilliams, 393 F.3d at 801; Masterson, 363 F.3d at 738; Lewis v.
Barnhart, 353 F.3d 642, 647 (8th Cir. 2003); Hall v. Chater, 62 F.3d 220, 223 (8th
Cir. 1995). It is not enough that the record contains inconsistencies; the ALJ must
specifically demonstrate that he or she considered all of the evidence. Robinson v.
Sullivan, 956 F.2d 836, 841 (8th Cir. 1992); Butler v. Sec’y of Health & Human
Servs., 850 F.2d 425, 429 (8th Cir. 1988). The ALJ, however, “need not explicitly
discuss each Polaski factor.” Strongson v. Barnhart, 361 F.3d 1066, 1072 (8th Cir.
2004). See also Steed, 524 F.3d at 876 (citing Lowe v. Apfel, 226 F.3d 969, 972
(8th Cir. 2000)). The ALJ need only acknowledge and consider those factors. See
id. Although credibility determinations are primarily for the ALJ and not the court,
the ALJ’s credibility assessment must be based on substantial evidence.
Rautio v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 176, 179 (8th Cir. 1988); Millbrook v. Heckler, 780
F.2d 1371, 1374 (8th Cir. 1985).
RFC is defined as what the claimant can do despite his or her limitations, 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1), and includes an assessment of physical abilities and
mental impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(b)-(e). The Commissioner must show
that a claimant who cannot perform his or her past relevant work can perform other
work which exists in the national economy. See Karlix v. Barnhart, 457 F.3d 742,
746 (8th Cir. 2006); Nevland, 204 F.3d at 857 (citing McCoy v. Schweiker, 683
F.2d 1138, 1146-47 (8th Cir. 1982) (en banc)). The Commissioner must first prove
that the claimant retains the RFC to perform other kinds of work. See Goff, 421
F.3d at 790; Nevland, 204 F.3d at 857. The Commissioner has to prove this by
substantial evidence. Warner v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 428, 431 (8th Cir. 1983).
Second, once the plaintiff’s capabilities are established, the Commissioner has the
burden of demonstrating that there are jobs available in the national economy that
can realistically be performed by someone with the plaintiff’s qualifications and
capabilities. See Goff, 421 F.3d at 790; Nevland, 204 F.3d at 857.
To satisfy the Commissioner’s burden, the testimony of a vocational expert
(VE) may be used. An ALJ posing a hypothetical to a VE is not required to
include all of a plaintiff’s limitations, but only those which the ALJ finds credible.
See Goff, 421 F.3d at 794 (“[T]he ALJ properly included only those limitations
supported by the record as a whole in the hypothetical.”); Rautio, 862 F.2d at 180.
Use of the Medical-Vocational Guidelines is appropriate if the ALJ discredits the
plaintiff’s subjective complaints of pain for legally sufficient reasons. See Baker
v. Barnhart, 457 F.3d 882, 894-95 (8th Cir. 2006); Carlock v. Sullivan, 902 F.2d
1341, 1343 (8th Cir. 1990); Hutsell v. Sullivan, 892 F.2d 747, 750 (8th Cir. 1989).
The issue before the court is whether substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner’s final determination that Plaintiff was not disabled. See Onstead,
962 F.2d at 804. Thus, even if there is substantial evidence that would support a
decision opposite to that of the Commissioner, the court must affirm her decision
as long as there is substantial evidence in favor of the Commissioner’s position.
See Cox, 495 F.3d at 617; Krogmeier, 294 F.3d at 1022.
Plaintiff alleged disability based on degenerative disc disease, left ankle
pain, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, sleep and concentration trouble, muscle
spasms in her back, and pain. Plaintiff, who was thirty-six years old at the time of
the hearing, testified that she lived with her boyfriend; she lost custody of her two
children two years prior to the hearing due to her anger problems, which included
snapping at and hitting her children; at the time of the hearing, she could have
unsupervised visits with her children; she completed the twelfth grade and had
been in special education classes; she believed she could read at the tenth grade
level; she lost her last job as a laundry worker because her employer thought she
was “incompetent” and used the bathroom excessively; and, at her laundry job, she
used the bathroom three to four times an hour. (Tr. 34-41). Plaintiff also testified
that she had three good days a week, during which she could read, clean her house,
cook, watch television, sew, fish, bird watch and tend to plants, and that she had
two bad days a week, during which she was extremely moody, kept her distance
from others, and yelled at others when they spoke to her. (Tr. 50-51).
The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
June 10, 2011; that she had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of
the lumbar spine, obesity, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD); and that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or equaled a listed impairment. The ALJ found Plaintiff had
the following RFC: Plaintiff could lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently; she could sit, stand and walk, with normal breaks, for a total of
6 hours in an 8-hour workday; she could push and pull within these limitations; she
could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never ladders, ropes or scaffolds;
she could occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; she was limited to low
stress work, defined as simple, routine, repetitive tasks in a relatively static
environment with few changes, and no fast production pace or stringent production
quotas; and she worked better with things than with people, but could have
occasional and superficial interaction with others, as long as there was no
interaction with the public. The ALJ solicited the testimony of a VE, who testified
that Plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work, but that there was work in
the national economy which a person of Plaintiff’s age, and with her education,
work experience and RFC could perform. As such, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. 13-24).
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ’s decision is not based on substantial
The ALJ did not accord controlling weight to Plaintiff’s
treating doctor, David Goldman, D.O.; the ALJ did not find Plaintiff’s mental
impairment met Listing 12.04 or Listing 12.06; the ALJ failed to fully develop the
record in that he did not order IQ testing; and the ALJ failed to give proper weight
to Third Party Reports from Plaintiff’s friends, Barbara Bright and James Bright.
For the following reasons, the court finds Plaintiff’s arguments are without merit
and that the ALJ’s determination that Plaintiff is not disabled is based on
substantial evidence and is consistent with the Regulations and case law.
The court will first address the ALJ’s credibility determination as the ALJ’s
credibility determination is relevant to arguments Plaintiff makes in support of her
contention that the ALJ’s decision is not based on substantial evidence. See
Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 969 (8th Cir. 2010) (A[The plaintiff] fails to
recognize that the ALJ's determination regarding her RFC was influenced by his
determination that her allegations were not credible.@) (citing Tellez v. Barnhart,
403 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 2005)); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945 (2010). As set
forth more fully above, the ALJ=s credibility findings should be affirmed if they are
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole; a court cannot
substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. See Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d
798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005); Hutsell, 892 F.2d at 750; Benskin, 830 F.2d at 882.
To the extent that the ALJ did not specifically cite Polaski, other case law,
and/or Regulations relevant to a consideration of Plaintiff=s credibility, this is not
necessarily a basis to set aside an ALJ=s decision where the decision is supported
by substantial evidence. Randolph v. Barnhart, 386 F.3d 835, 842 (8th Cir. 2004);
Wheeler v. Apfel, 224 F.3d 891, 895 n.3 (8th Cir. 2000); Reynolds v. Chater, 82
F.3d 254, 258 (8th Cir. 1996); Montgomery v. Chater, 69 F.3d 273, 275 (8th Cir.
1995). Additionally, an ALJ need not methodically discuss each Polaski factor if
the factors are acknowledged and examined prior to making a credibility
determination; where adequately explained and supported, credibility findings are
for the ALJ to make. See Lowe v. Apfel, 226 F.3d 969, 972 (8th Cir. 2000). See
also Tucker v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 781, 783 (8th Cir. 2004) (AThe ALJ is not
required to discuss each Polaski factor as long as the analytical framework is
recognized and considered.@); Strongson, 361 F.3d at 1072; Brown v. Chater, 87
F.3d 963, 966 (8th Cir. 1996).
In any case, A[t]he credibility of a claimant=s subjective testimony is
primarily for the ALJ to decide, not the courts.@ Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d
1211, 1218 (8th Cir. 2001).
AIf an ALJ explicitly discredits the claimant=s
testimony and gives good reason for doing so, [a court] will normally defer to the
ALJ=s credibility determination.@ Gregg v. Barnhart, 354 F.3d 710, 714 (8th Cir.
2003). See also Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922, 932 (8th Cir. 2010); Cox v.
Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 907 (8th Cir. 2006). For the following reasons, the court
finds that the reasons offered by the ALJ in support of his credibility determination
are based on substantial evidence.
First, the ALJ considered Plaintiff’s poor work history. (Tr. 18). A long and
continuous past work record with no evidence of malingering is a factor supporting
credibility of assertions of disabling impairments. See Allen v. Califano, 613 F.2d
139, 147 (6th Cir. 1980). For the same reason, an ALJ may discount a claimant=s
credibility based upon her poor work record. See Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549,
558 (8th Cir. 2011) (where the ALJ did not err in evaluating Plaintiff’s credibility
in finding that Plaintiff’s “sporadic work history prior to his alleged disability date
indicate[d] that he was not strongly motivated to engage in meaningful productive
activity even prior to the alleged onset date of disability and weigh[ed] against his
credibility in assigning reasoning for not working”) (internal quotation marks
omitted); Ellis v. Barnhart, 392 F.3d 988, 996 (8th Cir. 2005) (ALJ may properly
consider claimant had not worked for several years before filing SSI application);
Ownbey v. Shalala, 5 F.3d 342, 344 (8th Cir. 1993). See also Fredrickson v.
Barnhart, 359 F.3d 972, 976 (8th Cir. 2004) (ALJ properly found claimant not
credible due in part to his sporadic work record reflecting relatively low earnings
and multiple years with no reported earnings); Pena v. Chater, 76 F.3d 906, 908
(8th Cir. 1996); McClees v. Shalala, 2 F.3d 301, 303 (8th Cir. 1993). Work history
is only factor among many for an ALJ to consider.
See Curran-Kicksey v.
Barnhart, 315 F.3d 964, 969 (8th Cir. 2003). In particular, the ALJ considered that
Plaintiff’s work record showed that she never came close to working at a full-time
level; that she had not attempted to work since 2004; that an award of SSI at the
full rate would result in Plaintiff’s having a higher income than she ever earned;
and that such a scenario could motivate Plaintiff, either consciously or
subconsciously, to exaggerate her symptoms. (Tr. 18, 146-47).
Second, the ALJ considered that Plaintiff reported that her medications,
including Celexa, Prozac, and Lexapro, helped her mental issues. (Tr. 18-19, 20).
Conditions which can be controlled by treatment are not disabling. See Renstrom
v. Astrue, 680 F.3d 1057, 1066 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Brown v. Astrue, 611 F.3d
941, 955 (8th Cir. 2010)); Davidson v. Astrue, 578 F.3d 838, 846 (8th Cir. 2009);
Medhaug v. Astrue, 578 F.3d 805, 813 (8th Cir. 2009); Schultz v. Astrue, 479 F.3d
979, 983 (8th Cir. 2007) (holding that if an impairment can be controlled by
treatment, it cannot be considered disabling). Indeed, on August 23, 2010, Plaintiff
told her health care provider that she thought her medications “helped some.” (Tr.
300). Notably, when Plaintiff presented for back pain, in August 2010, it was
reported that she “tolerated treatment well.” (Tr. 298).
Records of June 20, 2011, reflect that Plaintiff said she felt much better on
Lexapro; that her blood pressure had improved with an increased dosage of
Lisinopril; and that she was sleeping better with medication and had no hangover
effect in the morning. Further, as considered by the ALJ, in July 2011, when
Plaintiff was hospitalized due to a suicide attempt, her Global Assessment of
Functioning (GAF) was 35, but, with treatment, upon discharge, her GAF was 50.1
(Tr. 19, 462, 465). On the day of her discharge from the hospital, July 25, 2011,
Global assessment of functioning (AGAF@) is the clinician=s judgment of
the individual=s overall level of functioning, not including impairments due to
physical or environmental limitations. See Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders, DSM-IV, 30-32 (4th ed. 1994). Expressed in terms of degree of
severity of symptoms or functional impairment, GAF scores of 31 to 40 represent
Asome impairment in reality testing or communication or major impairment in
several areas, such as work or school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or
mood,@ 41 to 50 represents Aserious,@ scores of 51 to 60 represent Amoderate,@
scores of 61 to 70 represent Amild,@ and scores of 90 or higher represent absent or
minimal symptoms of impairment. Id. at 32. See also Brown v. Astrue, 611 F.3d
941, 955 (8th Cir. 2010) (A[A] GAF score of 65 [or 70] . . . reflects >some mild
symptoms (e.g. depressed mood or mild insomnia) OR some difficulty in social,
occupational, or school functioning . . . but generally functioning pretty well, has
some meaningful interpersonal relationships.=@) (quoting Kohler v. Astrue, 546
F.3d 260, 263 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Am. Psychiatric Ass'n, Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 34 (4th ed. 2000) (alterations in original).
See also Goff, 421 F.3d at 791, 793 (affirming where court held GAF of 58 was
inconsistent with doctor’s opinion that claimant suffered from extreme limitations;
GAF scores of 58-60 supported ALJ’s limitation to simple, routine, repetitive
Plaintiff told Dr. Goldman that she liked Lexapro and that it “really work[ed].”
When she suggested that Lexapro caused a problem with her concentration, Dr.
Goldman suggested Plaintiff split her dosage between the morning and the
afternoon, which suggestion Plaintiff thought was “good.”
further considered by the ALJ, despite Plaintiff’s reporting on this date that
medication gave her minimal relief for back pain, there were no specific objective
findings in regard to Plaintiff’s back condition at this time. (Tr. 19, 266).
Records of November 2011 reflect that Plaintiff said she had no side effects
from her medications and that her medication efficacy was “fair.” (Tr. 378). On
January 11, 2012, Plaintiff reported that medication helped her, and her therapist
noted that Plaintiff had a good response to medication, with no side effects. (Tr.
377). On January 20, 2012, Plaintiff said that both Lexapro and Seroquel were
helping, and the therapist again reported that Plaintiff had a good response to
medication, with no side effects. (Tr. 376). Also, on February 28, 2012, it was
reported that Plaintiff’s blood pressure was controlled. (Tr. 433).
Third, the ALJ considered that observations and records of Plaintiff’s mental
health providers were inconsistent with Plaintiff’s claims regarding the severity of
her symptoms. (Tr. 18-21). See Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922, 933 (8th Cir.
2010) (doctor’s observations were inconsistent with claimant’s allegations of
disability). A[A]n ALJ may disbelieve a claimant=s subjective reports of pain
because of inconsistencies or other circumstances.@ Eichelberger, 290 F.3d at 589.
In this regard, the ALJ considered that, when Plaintiff presented with mental health
complaints, in September 2010, the examiner noted that Plaintiff dressed
appropriately; that she had normal hygiene; that she had clear and goal directed
thoughts; that there was no evidence of disturbance of perception or thought; and
that Plaintiff was pleasant and cooperative and oriented.
The ALJ further
considered that the most negative findings on that date were that Plaintiff had only
fair remote and recent memory and her affect was bland. (Tr. 18, 246).
As considered by the ALJ, Plaintiff was hospitalized from July 19 to July 25,
2011, due to an overdose of medication. Upon admission, Plaintiff reported that
she overdosed, as a suicide attempt, due to “the stress which she [was] currently
living relating to continuing problems with her current husband.”
Examination showed that Plaintiff was oriented, exhibited no signs or symptoms of
psychosis or formal thought disorder; she denied hallucinations; she was judged to
have borderline intelligence with a limited fund of information; and she had no
conspicuous signs of anxiety or depression. (Tr. 461). Upon discharge, it was
reported that Plaintiff’s mood and affect had improved on a daily basis; she had
been an active participant in “the milieu and found counseling sessions to be
helpful”; and she denied suicidal thoughts and feelings. (Tr. 465).
When Plaintiff underwent a mental health assessment with Dr. Goldman on
July 25, 2011, Dr. Goldman noted that Plaintiff maintained good eye contact,
displayed no psychomotor agitation or psychomotor retardation, and her speech
was loquacious but she had no eccentricities of rate, rhythm, or amplitude. Dr.
Goldman also reported that a mental status examination showed that Plaintiff was
oriented; Plaintiff correctly identified the current and past two United States
presidents; Plaintiff denied hallucinations, although she thought there were
poltergeists living in the house she shared with her boyfriend; Plaintiff denied
being suicidal; and Plaintiff told Dr. Goldman she was “actually a lot better now.”
Dr. Goldman’s impression was PTSD, “[m]ajor depressive disorder, recurrent,
moderate to severe.” (Tr. 380-82).
Additionally, on August 18, 2011, Plaintiff reported to Dr. Goldman that
things were going “better.”2 Records reflect that Plaintiff had normal appearance,
behavior, activity level, orientation, speech, affect, thought process, insight,
judgment, cognition, and impulse control and no delusions or hallucinations on this
On September 9, 2011, Plaintiff’s caseworker reported that
Plaintiff said she had done her homework and had written a list of positive things
about herself once a day for seven days, that she had started going back to a church
choir, and that she was remembering to take her medications. (Tr. 407). On
The ALJ mistakenly stated this visit took place on August 28, 2011. (Tr. 20).
September 16, 2011, Plaintiff told her caseworker that she was in a “great mood”
and that she was going to visit her brother and would not be at their next meeting.
(Tr. 406). On October 14, 2011, Plaintiff told her case worker that her trip to see
her brother was “very good”; that she had “some mood swings”; and that it “really
help[ed] having someone to help her pin point where [her mood swings] were
coming from.” (Tr. 403).
The ALJ also considered that, at a November 2011 examination, which was
about two months prior to Plaintiff’s alleged onset date, Plaintiff presented as
“very upbeat” and talkative and maintained good eye contact. (Tr. 18). Notably,
on November 30, 2011, although Plaintiff said she was experiencing nightmares
and that she had not been sleeping well, even with Seroquel, Dr. Goldman reported
that Plaintiff’s appearance, behavior, activity level, orientation, speech, affect,
thought process, insight, judgment, cognition, and impulse control were normal. It
was also reported, on this date, that aggression was absent; Plaintiff was not a
suicide risk; and she did not have psychosis. (Tr. 378). On January 11, 2012, the
only abnormality noted by Dr. Goldman, pursuant to a mental status examination,
was that Plaintiff was loquacious (Tr. 377), and, on January 20, 2012, when
Plaintiff said she did not want to go out in public places, Dr. Goldman noted
Plaintiff had normal appearance, behavior, activity level, orientation, speech,
affect, thought process, insight, judgment, cognition, and impulse control (Tr. 376).
Also, Dr. Goldman noted, on January 11 and 20, 2012, that aggression was absent,
and Plaintiff had no psychosis and was not a suicide risk or a risk to others. (Tr.
Fourth, Plaintiff was prescribed ibuprofen and given a non-invasive “low
amplitude” technique (manual manipulation) for her back pain, which treatment
she repeatedly tolerated well. (Tr. 298, 328, 433, 442). See Constock v. Chater,
91 F.3d 1143, 1147 (8th Cir. 1996) (upon discrediting the claimant=s allegations of
back pain, ALJ properly considered that Plaintiff took aspirin, used a whirlpool
tub, and had his wife rub ointment on his back to relieve pain); Benskin v. Bowen,
830 F.2d 878, 884 (8th Cir. 1987) (holding that disabling pain not indicated when
claimant merely took hot showers and used Advil and aspirin to relieve pain).
Also, at the time of the April 2013 hearing, Plaintiff testified that she was not
receiving treatment for her back, although she had a medical card, and had not seen
her doctor for her back since October 2011, when he retired. (Tr. 55). A lack of
regular treatment for an alleged disabling condition detracts from a claimant=s
credibility. See Dukes v. Barnhart, 436 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2006) (upholding
an ALJ’s determination that a claimant lacked credibility due in part to “absence of
hospitalizations . . ., limited treatment of symptoms, [and] failure to diligently seek
medical care”); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(c)(3)(v) (the agency will consider the
claimant’s treatment when evaluating her symptoms): Roberts v. Apfel, 222 F.3d
466, 469 (8th Cir. 2000).
Fifth, the ALJ considered observations of Plaintiff’s medical providers and
objective medical evidence relevant to Plaintiff’s pain and physical conditions.
See 20 CFR § 404.1529(c)(2) (agency will consider “objective
medical evidence” when evaluating symptoms); Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d
922, 933 (8th Cir. 2010) (doctor’s observations were inconsistent with claimant’s
allegations of disability); Gonzales v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 890, 895 (8th Cir. 2006)
(ALJ may find claimant’s subjective pain complaints are not credible in light of
objective medical evidence to the contrary).
In particular, that when Plaintiff presented on February 28, 2011,
examination showed no focal deficits, normal patella reflexes, intact sensation,
intact strength with flexion and extension, negative straight leg raise, and mild
tenderness to palpation in the midline of the lower lumbar spine, and that the
remainder of Plaintiff’s back was non-tender. (Tr. 18, 253). Notably, records of
this date reflect that Plaintiff denied urinary frequency and focal neurological
symptoms, and that examination additionally showed no clubbing, cyanosis or
edema in Plaintiff’s extremities. (Tr. 253). A February 28, 2011 lumbar spine xray showed degenerative disc disease at L5-S1 and was otherwise unremarkable;
the impression was “mild degenerative disc disease at L5-S1, without any acute
abnormality.” (Tr. 255) (emphasis added). Also, when Plaintiff was hospitalized
in July 2011, Plaintiff reported no hearing or visual deficits, no neck pain or
swallowing difficulty, no ankle edema, no urinary dysfunction, no myalgias or
arthralgias, and no motor or sensory deficits. On examination, Plaintiff had normal
range of motion (ROM) in her extremities and neck, her neck was supple, and she
had no apparent sensory or motor deficits. (Tr. 462).
As considered by the ALJ, Plaintiff underwent a physical consultative
examination, in August 2011, conducted by Gregory Henry, D.O. Dr. Henry
reported that Plaintiff had an “entirely normal” gait pattern, walked without an
assistive device, did not stagger, showed good heel to toe gait, had brisk and equal
reflexes, did not complain of numbness, had no neuromuscular deficits, exhibited
no atrophy, demonstrated no hearing deficit, and had no sensory deficits, motor
reflex deficits, muscle spasm, or particular muscle tenderness, although she was a
bit tender in the lumbosacral region and left sacroiliac joints with palpation. Dr.
Henry also reported that the motion in Plaintiff’s back was “significantly normal”
and her limitation in flexion related to tightness in the hamstrings. Dr. Henry
opined that Plaintiff had no impairment that would preclude her from sitting,
standing, walking, lifting, and carrying objects, and that Plaintiff’s ability to handle
objects was not impaired. Dr. Henry also reported that, from a physical standpoint,
Plaintiff ambulated well; the use of her hands was not impaired; and she was well
able to tolerate lifting and carrying objects in the light range. (Tr. 359-60).
On January 9, 2012, when Plaintiff was seen for a six-month check-up, she
reported that her back pain had been worse in the prior to weeks, but that her left
sacral spasm was “corrected with indirect counterstrain technique” (manual
manipulation) which procedure she tolerated well. (Tr. 442). Examination, on
February 28, 2012, showed no ankle edema. (Tr. 432-33). On September 5, 2012,
Plaintiff presented with low back pain, and she received manual treatment which
she tolerated well. (Tr. 428). When Plaintiff presented, on October 17, 2012, for
abdominal pain, a physical exam showed that she appeared well, with no
respiratory or cardiac problems. (Tr. 424).
Sixth, the ALJ considered that, although a June 2011 treatment record noted
rapid mood changes around 4:00 p.m. everyday, this appeared to be by Plaintiff’s
self-reporting. (Tr. 18, 270). Cf. Blakeman v. Astrue, 509 F.3d 878, 882 (8th Cir.
2007) (AThe issue is not whether [the claimant] was credible in testifying that he
naps each weekday afternoon he is not working. The issue is whether his heart
condition compels him to nap each afternoon.@).
Seventh, as discussed above, when Plaintiff was hospitalized in July 2011
due to a suicide attempt, she complained she overdosed because of stress caused by
problems with her current husband. She also reported that her “primary problem
[was] [a] continuing struggle with her current husband. (Tr. 461). Indeed,
situational depression is not disabling. See Dunahoo v. Apfel, 241 F.3d 1033,
1039-40 (8th Cir. 2001) (holding that depression was situational and not disabling
because it was due to denial of food stamps and workers compensation and
because there was no evidence that it resulted in significant functional limitations).
Eighth, the ALJ considered Plaintiff’s noncompliance with prescribed
medical treatment. In particular, the ALJ considered that Plaintiff often missed
doctors’ appointments and that her doing so did not enhance her credibility. (Tr.
See Eichelberger, 390 F.3d at 589 (holding that the ALJ properly
considered that the plaintiff cancelled several physical therapy appointments and
that no physician imposed any work-related restrictions on her) (citing Brown v.
Chater, 87 F.3d 963, 965 (8th Cir. 1996) (claimant=s failure to comply with
prescribed medical treatment is inconsistent with complaints of disabling pain).
See also Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 968-69 (8th Cir. 2010) (it is
permissible for ALJ to consider claimant’s noncompliance with prescribed medical
As specifically considered by the ALJ, on August 18, 2011, Plaintiff
admitted that she changed, of her own volition, the dosage of her Lexapro. (Tr.
379). An August 22, 2011 record reflects that Plaintiff could not be contacted
because her voicemail was full. (Tr. 20, 410). Plaintiff cancelled a counseling
appointment, on September 30, 2011, due to the flu; she scheduled for the next
week; and records of October 7 2011, reflect that she again cancelled stating she
had the flu and strep. (Tr. 20, 404-405). On October 21, 2011, Plaintiff called her
mental health case worker and stated she would not be home for her meeting
scheduled for that date. (Tr. 402).
Subsequently, on December 2, 2011, Plaintiff’s mental health case worker
reported that she tried to go to the weekly meeting that had been scheduled with
Plaintiff, but that there was no answer at the door or on the phone, so she left a
note stating that she would be back the next week. (Tr. 20, 397). The next week,
December 9, 2011, the same thing happened; there was no answer when the mental
health case worker arrived for Plaintiff’s weekly meeting. (Tr. 20, 396). When
Plaintiff’s mental health case worker arrived at Plaintiff’s house on January 6,
2012, Plaintiff’s boyfriend answered the door and said they were getting ready to
leave; he told the case worker that “from now on [Plaintiff’s] visitations with her
sons [were] not to be discussed in [their] home any longer.” (Tr. 20, 395).
In a January 24, 2012 review of Plaintiff’s progress, Plaintiff’s mental health
case worker noted that Plaintiff had “not been following through with her CSS to
work on goals on her treatment plan. She ha[d] seen the CSS a couple of times
during the quarter and [did] not seem to want to make any progress forward.” The
caseworker also noted that Plaintiff’s doctor had suggested reinstating therapy, but
that Plaintiff had not followed through with that suggestion. (Tr. 411). Then, on
February 3, 2012, Plaintiff’s mental health case worker reported that, when she
went to her weekly meeting with Plaintiff, there was no answer at the door or on
the phone. (Tr. 391). The ALJ also considered that, although Plaintiff testified at
the hearing that her mental health case worker was often late to appointments (Tr.
58), Plaintiff did not provide a reason why she could not stay and wait for her, and
there was no indication that Plaintiff called to report the caseworker’s tardiness or
difficulty with timely meetings (Tr. 20).
To the extent Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in considering her
noncompliance with prescribed treatment, see Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564 F.3d 935,
945 (8th Cir. 2009) (A[F]ederal courts have recognized a mentally ill person's
noncompliance with psychiatric medications can be, and usually is, the >result of
[the] mental impairment [itself] and, therefore, neither willful nor without a
justifiable excuse.=@) (citing Mendez v. Chater, 943 F. Supp. 503, 508 (E.D. Pa.
1996)), as noted by the ALJ, Plaintiff fails to cite evidence expressly linking her
mental limitations with her noncompliance, see Jones v. Astrue, 2010 WL
3782143, at *2 (W.D. Mo. Sept. 22. 2010) (unpublished) (“Plaintiff cites to no
evidence in the record demonstrating she cannot comply with taking her
medication because of her mental limitations. Without such evidence, the Court
cannot find the ALJ erred in factoring in Plaintiff’s noncompliance.”). Moreover,
in Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 965 (8th Cir. 2010), the Eighth Circuit
distinguished depression, which Plaintiff had, from schizophrenia or psychotic
disorders with respect to noncompliance.
Ninth, in October 2012, it was recommended that Plaintiff engage in regular
physical and aerobic activity. (Tr. 424). Cf. Pirtle v. Astrue, 479 F.3d 931, 935
(8th Cir. 2007) (claimant’s ability to homeschool her two children was inconsistent
with allegation of disability).
Tenth, the ALJ considered that he did not observe any pain symptoms at the
hearing. (Tr. 21-22). While an ALJ cannot accept or reject subjective complaints
solely on the basis of personal observations, see Ward v. Heckler, 786 F.2d 844,
847-48 (8th Cir. 1986), an ALJ's observations of a claimant=s appearance and
demeanor during the hearing is a consideration, see Steed v. Astrue, 524 F.3d 872,
876 (8th Cir. 2008) (holding that an ALJ Ais in the best position@ to assess
credibility because he is able to observe a claimant during his testimony).
Eleventh, the ALJ considered Plaintiff’s daily activities, including her
stating that, on good days, she sewed, went fishing, watched birds, and worked
with plants, showed that she could “focus quite a bit,” as these activities all require
attention and concentration. The ALJ also noted that although Plaintiff said she
could not watch a movie due to an inability to focus, she also testified that she
watched a soap opera mid-day. (Tr. 21). The court notes that Plaintiff testified
that she could read at a tenth grade level; she read the comics and the weather in
the newspaper; she went to the grocery store with her boyfriend; she went to the
butcher shop and Casey’s General Store; she watched the news on television; she
did house cleaning; and she met her boyfriend online and in person at the library.
(Tr. 38-39, 48-50, 53, 59). Indeed, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff’s stating that she
met her boyfriend in the library and records, reflecting she was frequently not at
home, contradicted her testimony that she did not like to go out in public. (Tr. 22).
While the undersigned appreciates that a claimant need not be bedridden
before she can be determined to be disabled, Plaintiff's daily activities can
nonetheless be seen as inconsistent with her subjective complaints of a disabling
impairment and may be considered in judging the credibility of complaints. See
McDade v. Astrue, 720 F.3d 994, 998 (8th Cir. 2013) (ALJ properly discounted
plaintiff’s credibility where, among other factors, plaintiff “was not unduly
restricted in his daily activities, which included the ability to perform some
cooking, tak[ing] care of his dogs, us[ing] a computer, driv[ing] with a neck brace,
and shop[ping] for groceries with the use of an electric cart”); Eichelberger, 390
F.3d at 590 (ALJ properly considered that plaintiff watched television, read, drove,
and attended church upon concluding that subjective complaints of pain were not
credible). Indeed, the Eighth Circuit holds that allegations of disabling Apain may
be discredited by evidence of daily activities inconsistent with such allegations.@
Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962, 967 (8th Cir. 2001). AInconsistencies between [a
claimant=s] subjective complaints and her activities diminish her credibility.@ Goff,
421 F.3d at 792.
Because the record did not include any recent IQ testing for Plaintiff, she
argues that the ALJ should have ordered such testing. For the following reasons
the court finds Plaintiff’s argument without merit and that the ALJ was not
required to order that Plaintiff undergo IQ testing.
First, an ALJ is required to order medical examinations and tests only where
the medical records presented to him do not give sufficient medical evidence to
determine whether the claimant is disabled. See Ellis v. Barnhart, 392 F.3d 988,
994 (8th Cir. 2005) (the duty to develop the record further only arises where Aa
crucial issue is undeveloped@); Landess v. Weinberger, 490 F.2d 1187, 1189 (8th
Cir. 1974) (an ALJ need not develop a record further where it is Asufficiently clear
to make a fair determination as to whether the claimant is disabled or not”).
Second, the ALJ did consider evidence relevant to Plaintiff’s intellectual
functioning. In particular, the ALJ considered that, although Plaintiff completed
twelfth grade, she retained some difficulties, and that her education records
reflected that she attended special education classes and that, in the ninth and tenth
grades, she scored well below average in reading, mathematics, science, and social
studies. (Tr. 21).
Third, the ALJ considered that, during Plaintiff’s hospitalization, it was
noted that she appeared to be in the borderline range of intelligence and she
presented with some intellectual limitations.
The ALJ further considered,
however, that there was no formal testing within the record, including an IQ
assessment, which would verify a diagnosis of borderline intelligence. (Tr. 21).
Fourth, as noted by the ALJ, even if Plaintiff did have borderline intellectual
functioning, borderline intellectual functioning is not listed as a severe impairment.
Fifth, the ALJ noted Plaintiff’s history of special education classes and stated that
her continued difficulty reading and writing would be taken into account. (Tr. 21).
Indeed, the RFC which the ALJ assigned to Plaintiff accommodated her
intellectual functioning difficulties, to the extent the ALJ found such difficulties
credible, see Tindell v. Barnhart, 444 F.3d 1002, 1007 (8th Cir. 2006) (AThe ALJ
included all of Tindell=s credible limitations in his RFC assessment, and the ALJ=s
conclusions are supported by substantial evidence in the record.@), and limited
Plaintiff to simple, routine, repetitive tasks in a relatively static environment with
few changes and no fast production pace or stringent production quotas.
Sixth, as discussed above in regard to Plaintiff’s credibility, the ALJ
considered that Plaintiff’s daily activities, including her bird watching and sewing,
required an ability to focus. (Tr. 17, 21). Seventh, the record does not reflect that
Plaintiff’s counsel ever requested that the ALJ order testing of Plaintiff.
Eighth, to the extent Plaintiff suggests 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(b) required the
ALJ to order intellectual testing of Plaintiff, that Regulation only requires an ALJ
to do so where the record, as it exists, is incomplete. Moreover, 20 C.F.R. §
416.919a(b) requires a claimant undergo a consultative examination only to resolve
inconsistencies in the record or where further evidence is necessary for the ALJ to
determine whether a claimant is disabled. As discussed above, in the instant matter
there was no such need as the evidence sufficiently supported the level of
Plaintiff’s intellectual functioning as incorporated by the ALJ in Plaintiff’s RFC.
Statements of Plaintiff’s Friends:
Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred by discounting the opinions of her friends as
their opinions were consistent with her caseworker’s notes. (Doc. 13 at 14). The
ALJ did consider that Plaintiff’s friends, Barbara Bright and James Bright,
submitted function reports on Plaintiff’s behalf. (Tr. 23, 181-89, 219-26). The
ALJ noted, however, that these persons were lay witnesses and were not medical or
vocational experts capable of determining whether Plaintiff was disabled, or
whether she was exaggerating or manipulating for secondary gain. As such, the
ALJ held that he did not give significant weight to their statements because these
statements, like Plaintiff’s, were not consistent with the preponderance of the
opinions and observations of Plaintiff’s medical doctors.
While the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has frequently criticized the
failure of an ALJ to consider subjective testimony of the family and others and
while such testimony must be considered, no case directs that reversal is
appropriate where an ALJ fails to specifically do so when he has discredited the
testimony of the claimant. See e.g., Rautio v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 176, 180 (8th Cir.
1988); Smith v. Heckler, 735 F.2d 312, 317 (8th Cir. 1984). Moreover, the ALJ
may discount corroborating testimony on the same basis used to discredit a
claimant’s testimony. See Black v. Apfel, 143 F.3d 383, 387 (8th Cir. 2006). As
stated above, the ALJ discredited the opinions of Barbara Bright and James Bright
based on the fact that their opinions were inconsistent with the medical evidence of
record, upon which basis the ALJ also discredited Plaintiff. As such, the court
finds that the ALJ’s failing to give significant weight to the opinions of Barbara
Bright and James Bright is consistent with the Regulations and case law, and that it
is based on substantial evidence.
Listings 12.04 and 12.06:
Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in failing to find that Plaintiff met Listings
12.04 and 12.06. The court first notes that 20 C.F.R. Ch. lll, Pt. 404, Supt. P,
App.1 § 12.00(a) states, in relevant part, that:
The evaluation of disability on the basis of mental disorders requires
documentation of a medically determinable impairment(s),
consideration of the degree of limitation such impairment(s) may
impose on your ability to work, and consideration of whether these
limitations have lasted or are expected to last for a continuous period
of at least 12 months.
Section 12.00(a) further lists mental disorders in diagnostic categories,
which include, among others, affective disorders (Listing 12.04) and anxietyrelated disorders (Listing 12.06).
The Commissioner has supplemented the
familiar five-step sequential process for generally evaluating a claimant's eligibility
for benefits with additional regulations dealing specifically with mental
impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a. A special procedure must be followed at
each level of administrative review. See Pratt v. Sullivan, 956 F.2d 830, 834 n.8
(8th Cir. 1992) (per curiam).
The mere existence of a mental condition, however, is not per se disabling.
See Dunlap v. Harris, 649 F.2d 637, 638 (8th Cir. 1981). The sequential process
for evaluating mental impairments is set out in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a. This
Regulation states that the steps set forth in § 404.1520 also apply to the evaluation
of a mental impairment. § 404.1520a(a). However, other considerations are
included. The first step is to record pertinent signs, symptoms, and findings to
determine if a mental impairment exists. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a(b)(1). These are
gleaned from a mental status exam or psychiatric history and must be established
by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520a(b)(1).
If a mental impairment is found, the ALJ must then analyze whether certain
medical findings relevant to ability to work are present or absent. 20 C.F.R. §
The procedure then requires the ALJ to rate the degree of
functional loss resulting from the impairment in four areas of function which are
deemed essential to work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a(c)(2). Those areas are: (1)
activities of daily living; (2) social functioning; (3) concentration, persistence or
pace; and (4) deterioration or decompensation in work or work-like settings. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520a(c)(3). (For Listing 12.04 see Myers v. Colvin, 721 F.3d 521,
526 (8th Cir. 2013) (where no episodes of decompensation or demonstrated
susceptibility to such episodes, to meet paragraph C criteria, claimant must show
current history of inability to function outside a highly supportive living
arrangement; highly supportive settings include hospitals, halfway houses, care
facilities, and personal home settings that “greatly reduce the mental demands
place on [the claimant].”).
The limitation in the first three functional areas of activities of daily living
(social functioning and concentration, persistence, or pace) is assigned a
designation of either Anone, mild, moderate, marked, [or] extreme.@ 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520a(c)(4). The degree of limitation in regard to episodes of decompensation
is determined by application of a four-point scale: A[n]one, one or two, three, four
or more.@ Id. When Athe degree of limitation in the first three functional areas@ is
Anone@ or Amild@ and Anone@ in the area of decompensation, impairments are not
severe, Aunless the evidence otherwise indicates that there is more than a minimal
limitation in [a claimant=s] ability to do basic work activities.@
20 C.F.R. §
404.1520a(d)(1). When it is determined that a claimant=s mental impairment(s) are
severe, the ALJ must next determine whether the impairment(s) meet or are
equivalent in severity to a listed mental disorder. This is done by comparing the
medical findings about a claimant=s impairment(s) and the rating of the degree of
functional limitation to the criteria of the appropriate listed mental disorder. See
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a(d)(2). If it is determined that a claimant has Aa severe
mental impairment(s) that neither meets nor is equivalent in severity to any
listing,@ the ALJ must then assess the claimant=s RFC.
20 C.F.R. §
The court further notes that 20 C.F.R. Ch. lll, Pt. 404, Supt. P, App.1 §
12.00(a) states, in relevant part, that:
The evaluation of disability on the basis of mental disorders requires
documentation of a medically determinable impairment(s),
consideration of the degree of limitation such impairment(s) may
impose on your ability to work, and consideration of whether these
limitations have lasted or are expected to last for a continuous period
of at least 12 months.
In particular, Listing 12.04 states:
12.04 Affective Disorders: Characterized by a disturbance of mood,
accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome.
Mood refers to a prolonged emotion that colors the whole psychic life;
it generally involves either depression or elation.
The required level of severity for these disorders is met when the
requirements in both A and B are satisfied, or when the requirements
in C are satisfied.
A. Medically documented persistence,
intermittent, of one of the following:
1. Depressive syndrome characterized by at least four of the
a. Anhedonia or pervasive loss of interest in almost all activities; or
b. Appetite disturbance with change in weight; or
c. Sleep disturbance; or
d. Psychomotor agitation or retardation; or
e. Decreased energy; or
f. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness; or
g. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
h. Thoughts of suicide; or
i. Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking; or
2. Manic syndrome characterized by at least three of the following:
a. Hyperactivity; or
b. Pressure of speech; or
c. Flight of ideas; or
d. Inflated self-esteem; or
e. Decreased need for sleep; or
f. Easy distractibility; or
g. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful
consequences which are not recognized; or
h. Hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking;
3. Bipolar syndrome with a history of episodic periods manifested by
the full symptomatic picture of both manic and depressive syndromes
(and currently characterized by either or both syndromes);
B. Resulting in at least two of the following:
1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or
2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or
4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration;
C. Medically documented history of a chronic affective disorder of at
least 2 years' duration that has caused more than a minimal limitation
of ability to do basic work activities, with symptoms or signs currently
attenuated by medication or psychosocial support, and one of the
1. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration;
2. A residual disease process that has resulted in such marginal
adjustment that even a minimal increase in mental demands or change
in the environment would be predicted to cause the individual to
3. Current history of 1 or more years' inability to function outside a
highly supportive living arrangement, with an indication of continued
need for such an arrangement.
Listing 12.06 states:
12.06 Anxiety Related Disorders: In these disorders anxiety is either
the predominant disturbance or it is experienced if the individual
attempts to master symptoms; for example, confronting the dreaded
object or situation in a phobic disorder or resisting the obsessions or
compulsions in obsessive compulsive disorders.
The required level of severity for these disorders is met when the
requirements in both A and B are satisfied, or when the requirements
in both A and C are satisfied.
A. Medically documented findings of at least one of the following:
1. Generalized persistent anxiety accompanied by three out of four of
the following signs or symptoms:
a. Motor tension; or
b. Autonomic hyperactivity; or
c. Apprehensive expectation; or
d. Vigilance and scanning;
2. A persistent irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation
which results in a compelling desire to avoid the dreaded object,
activity, or situation; or
3. Recurrent severe panic attacks manifested by a sudden
unpredictable onset of intense apprehension, fear, terror and sense of
impending doom occurring on the average of at least once a week; or
4. Recurrent obsessions or compulsions which are a source of marked
5. Recurrent and intrusive recollections of a traumatic experience,
which are a source of marked distress;
B. Resulting in at least two of the following:
1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or
2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or
4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.
C. Resulting in complete inability to function independently outside
the area of one's home.
As a preliminary matter, as relevant to both Listing 12.04 and 12.06, the ALJ
considered whether the requirements of the paragraph B criteria were satisfied, and
concluded that they were not. As to activities of daily living, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff had a mild restriction, noting that her main difficulties in this regard
were more related to physical than mental complaints. (Tr. 14-15). As set forth
above, the ALJ considered that Plaintiff reported that she could perform a wide
range of activities of daily living, including housekeeping, shopping, caring for her
own personal needs, and preparing meals, and that she sewed and fished. (Tr. 1415). The court finds, therefore, that the ALJ’s conclusion that Plaintiff had only a
mild restriction in this area is based on substantial evidence.
In the area of social functioning, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff had moderate
difficulties. (Tr. 15). Social functioning refers to a claimant’s “capacity to interact
independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis with other
individuals.” 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, § 12.00(C)(2). As also set forth
above, the ALJ considered that, although Plaintiff said she did not like to go out in
public, she was able to go out and perform such tasks as grocery shopping, and she
was often not home when the therapist arrived for appointments. The ALJ also
considered, as set forth above, that, at one appointment, Plaintiff was described as
talkative to the extent she required redirection, but that most often it was reported
that her speech was normal. Additionally, there was no indication that Plaintiff
was uncooperative during examinations, and the ALJ observed that, at the hearing,
she was cooperative, responded appropriately, and maintained an appropriate
demeanor. (Tr. 15). Moreover, the State agency examiner found Plaintiff had only
moderate difficulties in social functioning.
See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527(f)(2)(i), 416.927(f)(2)(i) (State agency medical consultants are highly
qualified experts in Social Security disability evaluation; therefore, ALJs must
consider their findings as opinion evidence.); Roberson v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 1020,
1025 (8th Cir. 2007) (moderate limitations do not prevent an individual from
functioning Asatisfactorily@). As such, the court finds that the ALJ’s determination
that Plaintiff had no more than moderate difficulties in the area of social
functioning is based on substantial evidence.
With regard to concentration, persistence, or pace, the ALJ found Plaintiff
had only moderate difficulties, despite her assertion that she had great difficulty in
this area. (Tr. 15). “Concentration, persistence or pace” is the ability to maintain
“focused attention and concentration sufficiently long to permit the timely and
appropriate completion of tasks commonly found in work settings.” 20 C.F.R. pt.
404, subpt. P, app. 1, § 12.00(C)(3). As discussed above, the ALJ considered that
Plaintiff watched television, sewed, fished, and bird watched, and that these
activities demonstrated ability in this area. The court finds, therefore, that the
ALJ’s determination that Plaintiff had moderate difficulties in this area is based on
With regard to episodes of decompensation, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not
meet this criteria in that, although Plaintiff was hospitalized in July 2011, she was
hospitalized only for a few days and not for a period of two weeks, and the record
did not reflect any other hospitalizations. (Tr. 15). This portion of the “B” criteria
requires that a claimant experience three such episodes within a single year, each
lasting for longer than two weeks.
20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, §
12.00(C)(4). As such, the court finds that the ALJ’s determination that Plaintiff
did not meet this criteria is based on substantial evidence.
Consistent with the Regulations, the ALJ found that paragraph B criteria
were not met because Plaintiff’s mental impairments did not cause at least two
“marked” limitations or one “marked” limitation and “repeated” episodes of
decompensation, each of an extended duration.
See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520a(c)(2) and (d)(1).
Also, consistent with the Regulations, because Plaintiff did not meet either
the A or B criteria, the ALJ then proceeded to consider the paragraph C criteria for
Listing 12.04 and Listing 12.06, as set forth above, and concluded that the
evidence failed to document the required criteria. (Tr. 15-16). Notably, Plaintiff
does not argue that she met the C criteria for Listing 12.04 or Listing 12.06. In any
case, the court finds the ALJ’s determination that Plaintiff did not meet the C
criteria for either Listing is based on substantial evidence and consistent with the
Regulations and case law.
In conclusion, the court finds that the ALJ’s
consideration of Listing 12.04 and Listing 12.06 is consistent with the Regulations
and case law and based on substantial evidence.
Dr. Goldman’s Opinion:
In a January 11, 2012 Medical Source Statement of Ability to Do Work-
Related Activities (Mental) (the Medical Source Statement), Dr. Goldman opined
that Plaintiff was extremely or markedly limited in all areas of consideration, with
the exception of his finding that Plaintiff was only moderately limited in regard to
Plaintiff’s ability to understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions. He
also opined that Plaintiff would be unable to retain information, would have
difficulty containing her anger, and would have severe difficulty being around
others, and that her PTSD would adversely affect her focus, concentration, and
memory. (Tr. 372-73). Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred upon determining
that “very little” weight should be given to the limitations imposed by Dr.
Goldman in the Medical Source Statement. (Tr. 22). For the following reasons the
court finds Plaintiff’s argument without merit and that the weight the ALJ gave to
Dr. Goldman’s opinion is based on substantial evidence.
First, as considered by the ALJ, the limitations imposed by Dr. Goldman in
the Medical Source Statement were inconsistent with his own treatment notes. (Tr.
22-23). See Leckenby v. Astrue, 487 F.3d 626, 632 (8th Cir. 2007) (upholding the
ALJ=s decision to discount the treating physician=s medical-source statement where
limitations were never mentioned in numerous treatment records or supported by
any explanation); Hacker v. Barnhart, 459 F.3d 934, 937 (8th Cir. 2006) (holding
that where a treating physician=s notes are inconsistent with his or her RFC
assessment, controlling weight is not given to the RFC assessment); Reed v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (holding that a treating physician=s
opinion is given controlling weight Aif it is well-supported by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with other
In this regard, in July 2011, Dr. Goldman reported, among other things, that
Plaintiff was oriented, maintained good eye contact, and, although she was
loquacious, she displayed no eccentricities of rate, rhythm, or amplitude. (Tr.
380). Moreover, Dr. Goldman reported, in August and November 2011, that
Plaintiff said she was doing better; that Plaintiff was responding well to
medication; and that she had no psychosis, was not a suicide risk and had no
aggression. (Tr. 378-79). The only abnormality Dr. Goldman noted, in January
2012, was that Plaintiff was loquacious, and, in January 2012, Dr. Goldman noted
no abnormalities pursuant to a mental status examination. (Tr. 376-77).
Although Plaintiff argues that Dr. Goldman’s “normal” opinions are not as
they seem, (Doc. 13 at 11), courts have held that normal findings pursuant to a
mental status examination are a sufficient basis upon which an ALJ may discredit a
treating doctor’s opinion that a claimant is disabled. See, e.g., Mitchell v. Colvin,
2014 WL 65386, at *28 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 8, 2014) (unpublished) (referring to
“normal mental status examinations” demonstrating “only mild to moderate
symptoms” as substantial evidence to support ALJ’s RFC determination); Boling
v. Astrue, 2012 WL 1898783, at *4 (W.D. Mo. May 23, 2012) (unpublished)
(referring to normal mental status examination as substantial evidence supporting
ALJ’s decision to discount treating physician’s opinion).
Second, the ALJ considered that Dr. Goldman’s opinion, as expressed in the
Medical Source Statement, appeared to be based on Plaintiff’s subjective
complaints. (Tr. 22-23). Notably, in the Medical Source Statement, Dr. Goldman
quoted Plaintiff as saying, “I can’t even remember what you just explained to me,”
in support of his assertion that she was “unable to retain simple information given
to her.” (Tr. 372). A treating physician’s opinion is not entitled to controlling
weight when it is based, in part, on a claimant’s subjective complaints. See
Renstrom v. Astrue, 680 F.3d 1057, 1064-65 (8th Cir. 2012) (affirming where ALJ
did not give controlling weight to opinion of treating doctor, where doctor’s
opinion was “largely based on [claimant’s] subjective complaints”).
Third, the ALJ considered that Dr. Goldman’s treatment records deserved to
be given greater weight than his opinion as expressed in the Medical Source
Statement, because the latter was prepared for purposes of compensation. (Tr. 2223).
Fourth, the court notes that Dr. Goldman’s opinion was inconsistent with
Plaintiff’s own testimony regarding her activities, as discussed above in regard to
Plaintiff’s credibility. An ALJ need not accord a treating physician’s opinion
controlling weight where it is inconsistent with a claimant’s own testimony. See
Meyers v. Colvin, 721 F.3d 521, 525 (8th Cir. 2013).
Fifth, the ALJ did give some weight to Dr. Goldman’s opinion as he limited
Plaintiff to work which required only occasional and superficial interaction with
others and no interaction with the public. He also limited her to work with few
environmental changes and no fast production. See Choate v. Barnhart, 457 F.3d
865, 869-70 (8th Cir. 2006) (holding that the limitations imposed by the ALJ as
reflected in the claimant=s RFC demonstrating that the ALJ gave some credit to the
opinions of the treating physicians); Ellis v. Barnhart, 392 F.3d 988, 994 (8th Cir.
2005) (AIn assessing [the claimant=s] RFC, the ALJ determined that [the claimant]
could sit for a total of six hours and stand for a total of two hours, but was limited
to sedentary work. This in itself is a significant limitation, which reveals that the
ALJ did give some credit to [the treating doctor=s] medical opinions.@).
Sixth, Dr. Goldman’s checkmarks on the Medical Source Statement are not
controlling. A treating physician=s checkmarks on a form are conclusory opinions
which can be discounted if contradicted by other objective medical evidence. See
Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d 801, 805-06 (8th Cir. 2004); Hogan, 239 F.3d at 961;
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188 (July 2, 1996).
Seventh, to the extent Dr. Goldman opined that Plaintiff was disabled for
purposes of Social Security, it is the Commissioner’s role to make such a
determination. See Renstrom v. Astrue, 680 F.3d 1057, 1065 (8th Cir. 2012) (ALJ
need not defer to treating doctor’s opinion that claimant is totally disabled
“because it invades the province of the Commissioner to make the ultimate
disability determination”); Ward v. Heckler, 786 F.2d 844, 846 (8th Cir. 1986) (per
curiam) ("Even statements made by a claimant's treating physician regarding the
existence of a disability have been held to be properly discounted in favor of the
contrary medical opinion of a consulting physician where the treating physician's
statements were conclusory in nature.@).
Eighth, to the extent Plaintiff argues that Dr. Goldman’s assigning her a
GAF of 45 supported the limitations he imposed on her (Doc. 13 at 10), the ALJ
did consider that, after Plaintiff was released from the hospital, in July 2011, Dr.
Goldman reported that she had a GAF of 45 and that this score indicated serious
symptoms in social and occupational functioning. Consistent with the case law
and Regulations, however, the ALJ further noted that GAF scores are given little
weight in the disability process. See Jones v. Astrue, 619 F.3d 963, 974 (8th Cir.
2010) (ALJ may afford greater weight to medical evidence and testimony that to
GAF scores); Grim v. Colvin, 2014 WL 859840, at *7-8 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 5, 2014)
(unpublished) (ALJ properly found claimant’s mental impairments were not
serious despite the presence of GAF scores that reflected moderate or serious
Further, upon declining to give controlling weight to the GAF score assigned
by Dr. Goldman, the ALJ considered that GAF scores do no describe specific work
related limitations or objective mental abnormalities.
Rather, they consider
psychological, social, and occupational functioning, “whereas Social Security is
primarily concerned with occupational functioning.” The ALJ also noted that GAF
descriptions are “short and vague,” and “if symptom severity and functioning are
discordant, the GAF reflects the lower of the two.” The ALJ additionally reasoned
that because GAF scores reflect the individual clinician’s judgment, “scoring can
vary considerably from practitioner to practitioner.” (Tr. 19). Thus, the ALJ gave
good reasons for discrediting the GAF score of 45 assigned by Dr. Goldman. See
Hacker v. Barnhart, 459 F.3d 934, 937 (8th Cir. 2006) (ALJ may elect in certain
circumstances not to give controlling weight to treating physician=s opinion, as
record must be evaluated as whole; for treating physician=s opinion to have
controlling weight, it must be supported by medically acceptable diagnostic
techniques and not be inconsistent with other substantial evidence in case record;
physician=s own inconsistency may diminish or eliminate weight accorded to his
Additionally, upon failing to give controlling weight to Dr. Goldman’s GAF
assessment, the ALJ correctly cited Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating
Mental Disorders and Traumatic Brain Injury, 65 Fed. Reg. 50746, 50764-65
(Aug. 21, 2000), where the Commissioner stated that GAF scores do “not have a
direct correlation to the severity requirements in our mental disorders listings.”
(Tr. 15). See Shrout v. Astrue, 2013 WL 772827, at *16 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 8, 2013)
(unpublished) (“[T]he ALJ accurately pointed out that GAF scores are not intended
for the assessment of disability.”) (citing DeBoard v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 211
Fed. Appx. 411, 415 (6th Cir. 2006) (noting that the Commissioner has declined to
endorse the GAF scale for use in the disability programs) (citing 65 Fed. Reg.
50746, 50764–65 (Aug. 21, 2000)).
Also, the court notes that although Dr. Goldman assigned Plaintiff a GAF of
45 on July 25, 2011, but on that same date, upon her discharge from the hospital,
her GAF was assessed as 50. (Tr. 382, 465). See n.5 herein.
Notably, the ALJ gave good reasons for discounting Dr. Goldman’s opinion.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527 and 416.927 (requiring that the ALJ provide Agood
reasons in the notice of the determination or decision for the weight given to a
treating source=s medical opinion(s)@). In conclusion, the court finds that the ALJ
gave proper weight to Dr. Goldman’s GAF assessment and to Dr. Goldman’s
opinion in its entirety, and that the ALJ’s decision, in this regard, is consistent with
the Regulations and the case law and that it is based on substantial evidence.
The Regulations define RFC as Awhat [the claimant] can do@ despite his or
her Aphysical or mental limitations.@ 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a). AWhen determining
whether a claimant can engage in substantial employment, an ALJ must consider
the combination of the claimant=s mental and physical impairments.@ Lauer v.
Apfel, 245 F.3d 700, 703 (8th Cir. 2001). AThe ALJ must assess a claimant=s RFC
based on all relevant, credible evidence in the record, >including the medical
records, observations of treating physicians and others, and an individual=s own
description of his limitations.=@ Tucker v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 781, 783 (8th Cir.
2004) (quoting McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000)). See also
Myers v. Colvin, 721 F.3d 521, 526 (8th Cir. 2013).
To determine a claimant=s RFC, the ALJ must move, analytically, from
ascertaining the true extent of the claimant=s impairments to determining the kind
of work the claimant can still do despite his or her impairments.
assessing a claimant=s RFC is primarily the responsibility of the ALJ, a A>claimant's
residual functional capacity is a medical question.=@
Lauer, 245 F.3d at 704
(quoting Singh v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 448, 451 (8th Cir. 2000)). The Eighth Circuit
clarified, in Lauer, 245 F.3d at 704, that A>[s]ome medical evidence,= Dykes v.
Apfel, 223 F.3d 865, 867 (8th Cir. 2000) (per curiam), must support the
determination of the claimant's RFC, and the ALJ should obtain medical evidence
that addresses the claimant=s >ability to function in the workplace,= Nevland v.
Apfel, 204 F.3d 853, 858 (8th Cir. 2000).@ Thus, an ALJ is Arequired to consider at
least some supporting evidence from a professional.@ Id. See also Vossen v.
Astrue, 612 F.3d 1011, 1016 (8th Cir. 2010) (AThe ALJ bears the primary
responsibility for determining a claimant's RFC and because RFC is a medical
question, some medical evidence must support the determination of the claimant's
RFC.@); Eichelberger, 390 F.3d at 591.
Consistent with these requirements, the ALJ in the instant matter considered
the evidence of record, including the opinions and records of treating and
examining doctors and therapists as well as Plaintiff’s testimony and reports from
her friends. The ALJ also considered the credibility of Plaintiff’s allegations and
those of her friends and found the severity of Plaintiff’s subjective complaints were
not fully credible.
The court has found above that the ALJ’s credibility
determination and the weight he gave to Dr. Goldman’s opinion are based on
substantial evidence. The court further finds that the ALJ’s consideration of all
evidence of record is based on substantial evidence.
Indeed, the ALJ evaluated the record as a whole. Only after doing so did the
ALJ find that Plaintiff had the following RFC: Plaintiff could lift and carry 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; she could sit, stand and walk, with
normal breaks, for a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; she could push and pull
within these limitations; she could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never
ladders, ropes or scaffolds; she could occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl;
Plaintiff was limited to low stress work, defined as simple, routine, repetitive tasks
in a relatively static environment with few changes, and no fast production pace or
stringent production quotas; and she worked better with things than with people,
but could have occasional and superficial interaction with others, as long as there
was no interaction with the public.
The court finds that the ALJ’s RFC
determination is based on substantial evidence.
The ALJ posed a hypothetical to a VE which included all of Plaintiff’s
credible limitations, see Renstrom v. Astrue, 680 F.3d 1057, 1067 (8th Cir. 2012)
(ALJ need only include in hypothetical to VE limitations which he finds credible),
and the VE testified that there was work in the national economy which Plaintiff
could perform, see Martise v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 909, 927 (8th Cir. 2011) (ABased on
our previous conclusion . . . that >the ALJ's findings of [the claimant=s] RFC are
supported by substantial evidence,= we hold that >[t]he hypothetical question was
therefore proper, and the VE's answer constituted substantial evidence supporting
the Commissioner=s denial of benefits.=@) (quoting Lacroix v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d
881, 889 (8th Cir. 2006)); Robson v. Astrue, 526 F.3d 389, 392 (8th Cir. 2008)
(holding that a VE=s testimony is substantial evidence when it is based on an
accurately phrased hypothetical capturing the concrete consequences of a
claimant=s limitations). The ALJ then considered that the VE’s testimony was
consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). As such, the ALJ
found Plaintiff not disabled. The court finds that the ALJ’s ultimate finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled was, therefore, based on substantial evidence and
consistent with the Regulations and case law.
For the reasons set forth above, the court finds that substantial evidence on
the record as a whole supports the Commissioner’s decision that Plaintiff is not
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the relief sought by Plaintiff in her
Complaint and Brief in Support of Complaint (Docs. 1, 13) is DENIED;
IT IS ORDERED that a separate judgment be entered incorporating this
Memorandum and Order.
Dated this 8th day of September 2015.
/s/ Noelle C. Collins
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?