Berry v. Colvin
ORDER Affirming decision of Commissioner re 3 SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT. Signed on 9/20/2017 by District Judge Roseann Ketchmark. (Stout, Courtney)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING
COMMISSIONER OF SSA1;
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s appeal seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff’s application
for disability benefits. Upon review, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
Standard of Review
The Court’s review of the Commissioner’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)); see also
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “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
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 both supports and detracts
from the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) findings. Cline v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 1098, 1102
(8th Cir. 2014) (quotation marks omitted). “If the ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial
evidence, [the Court] may not reverse even if substantial evidence would support the opposite
Nancy A. Berryhill became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security on January 23, 2017,
however, for consistency purposes, the case style in this action remains as originally filed.
outcome or [the Court] would have decided differently.” Smith v. Colvin, 756 F.3d 621, 625
(8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Davis, 239 F.3d at 966). 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 should “defer
heavily to the findings and conclusions of the [Commissioner].” Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734,
738 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
By way of overview, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff suffered from the following severe
mental impairments: cognitive disorder, not otherwise specified; bipolar disorder; paranoid
schizophrenia; anxiety disorder; agoraphobia without panic; and paranoid personality disorder.
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 his mental
impairments, Plaintiff retained the mental residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to complete
simple tasks with the following limitations: the Plaintiff can perform simple tasks that are not
performed as an integral part of a team, involving simple work-related decision making and
relatively few workplace changes, and Plaintiff can occasionally interact with supervisors and
coworkers but must avoid interaction with the general public. Although the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work, the ALJ found that jobs exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that the Plaintiff can perform. Therefore, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff was not disabled.
On appeal, the issues raised by Plaintiff in support of reversing the ALJ’s decision are:
(1) whether the ALJ properly weighed the medical opinion evidence in the record and (2)
whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s RFC determination.
In assessing Plaintiff’s RFC, the ALJ properly considered and weighed the available
medical opinion evidence.2 See Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 969 (8th Cir. 2010) (an ALJ
The ALJ properly discounted Dr. Rehmert’s opinion, the treating psychiatrist, because the
opinion lacked support from the treatment notes and was inconsistent with other evidence of record,
including the objective medical findings. The ALJ properly discounted Dr. Doyle’s opinion, the clinical
psychologist, because Dr. Doyle’s Medical Source Statement was inconsistent with Dr. Doyle’s narrative
statement. See Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922, 930 (8th Cir. 2010) (an ALJ may discount the opinion
of a physician when the opinion is inconsistent with the physician’s treatment notes). The ALJ assigned
substantial weight to Dr. Smith’s and Dr. Gerhart’s opinions, the consultative evaluator and psychological
must assess a claimant’s RFC based on all relevant evidence); Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 619
(8th Cir. 2007) (while the ALJ’s assessment must be supported by some medical evidence, it is
not limited to considering medical evidence exclusively).
The ALJ considered Plaintiff’s
testimony, Plaintiff’s medical treatment records, and the physicians’ medical opinions. Upon
careful consideration, the Court finds that substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s RFC
Having 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
IT IS THEREFORE, ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
s/ Roseann A. Ketchmark
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DATED: September 20, 2017
consultative examiner respectively, because the opinions were consistent with the overall medical
evidence. Finally, the ALJ gave great weight to state agency medical psychologist Dr. Stephen Scher,
Ph.D. because the opinion was consistent with the record as a whole. See Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d
801, 807 (8th Cir. 2004) (the ALJ carefully considered the record as a whole, giving substantial weight to
statements based upon medical expertise and supported by the medical evidence).
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