Leggett v. Colvin
ORDER re 3 SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT. The Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED. Signed on 3/7/2017 by District Judge Roseann Ketchmark. (Perry, Madison)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CAROLYN W. COLVIN1, ACTING
COMMISSIONER OF SSA;
Before the Court is Plaintiff Tammy Leggett (“Plaintiff”)’s appeal of the Commissioner
of Social Security (“Commissioner”)’s final decision denying her application for Social Security
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434.
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
outcome or [the Court] would have decided differently.” Smith v. Colvin, 756 F.3d 621, 625
Nancy A. Berryhill became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security on January 23, 2017,
however for consistency purposes, the case style in this legal action remains as originally filed.
(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 that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; obesity; tachycardia; post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD); major depressive disorder; schizoaffective disorder; a personality
disorder; and a history of polysubstance abuse. The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff has nonsevere impairments, including diabetes and daily headaches with associated nausea and
vomiting. However, the ALJ found that none of Plaintiff’s impairments, whether considered
alone or in combination, meet or medically equals the criteria of one of the listed impairments in
20 CFR Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. Despite Plaintiff’s limitations, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work with several exceptions
and limitations. Though the ALJ found Plaintiff incapable of performing any past relevant
work, there are jobs in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform,
such as retail marker, machine operator, and bench assembler.
Therefore, Plaintiff is not
disabled, as defined in the Act, from August 15, 2010, through the date of the ALJ’s decision.
On appeal, Plaintiff alleges errors related to (1) whether the ALJ properly considered
Plaintiff’s headaches; and (2) whether the ALJ properly evaluated the medical opinion evidence.2
Plaintiff argues the ALJ improperly gave little weight to the opinions of the treating psychiatrist,
treating therapist, and the consultative examiner, while giving significant weight to the State agency
consultants. “State agency medical and psychological consultants are highly qualified physicians and
psychologists who are experts in the evaluation of the medical issues in disability claims under the Act.”
SSR 96-6p; 1996 WL 374180, at *2 (July 2, 1996). “In appropriate circumstances, opinions from State
agency medical and psychological consultants and other program physicians and psychologists may be
entitled to greater weight than the opinions of treating or examining sources.” Brown v. Colvin, No. 4:13CV-368-DGK-SSA, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59088, at *9 (W.D. Mo. Apr. 29, 2014) (citing SSR 96-6p;
1996 WL 374180, at *3). In weighing the medical opinions, the ALJ’s decision provided sufficient
explanations supported by the evidence in the case record.
Having carefully reviewed the record before the Court and the parties’ submissions on
appeal, the Court concludes that the ALJ complied with relevant legal requirements and
substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the ALJ’s decision.
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: March 7, 2017
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