Hurd v. Astrue
ORDER, re 3 SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT filed by Barbara Hurd, reversing decision of Commissioner and remanding case under Sentence 4 for proper consideration, with directive to further develop the record. Signed on 10/22/2012 by Magistrate Judge Matt J. Whitworth. (Bode, Kay)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner,
Social Security Administration,
Plaintiff Barbara Hurd seeks judicial review,1 of a final administrative decision denying
plaintiff disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq., and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381 et seq. Section 205(g) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), provides for judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration under Title
II. Section 1631(c)(3) of the Act and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) provide for judicial review to the
same extent as the Commissioner’s final determination under section 205.
The parties’ briefs are fully submitted, and an oral argument was held on October 19,
2012. The complete facts and arguments are presented in the parties’ briefs and will not be
Standard of Review
The Eighth Circuit has set forth the standard for the federal courts’ judicial review of
denial of benefits, as follows:
Our role on review is to determine whether the Commissioner’s findings are
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Substantial evidence
is less than a preponderance, but is enough that a reasonable mind would find it
adequate to support the Commissioner’s conclusion. In determining whether
existing evidence is substantial, we consider evidence that detracts from the
With the consent of the parties, this case was assigned to the United States Magistrate
Judge, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
Commissioner’s decision as well as evidence that supports it. As long as
substantial evidence in the record supports the Commissioner’s decision, we may
not reverse it because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have
supported a contrary outcome or because we would have decided the case
Baker v. Barnhart, 457 F.3d 882, 892 (8th Cir. 2006).
The claimant has the initial burden of establishing the existence of a disability as defined
by 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1). See Roth v. Shalala, 45 F.3d 279, 282 (8th Cir. 1995). To meet the
statutory definition, "the claimant must show (1) that he has a medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which will either last for at least twelve months or result in death, (2) that he
is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity, and (3) that this inability is the result of
his impairment." McMillian v. Schweiker, 697 F.2d 215, 220 (8th Cir. 1983).
When reviewing the record to determine if there is substantial evidence to support the
administrative decision, the court considers the educational background, work history and
present age of the claimant; subjective complaints of pain or other impairments; claimant’s
description of physical activities and capabilities; the medical opinions given by treating and
examining physicians; the corroboration by third parties of claimant’s impairments; and the
testimony of vocational experts when based upon proper hypothetical questions that fairly set
forth the claimant’s impairments. McMillian, 697 F.2d at 221.
After reviewing this case in its entirety, and considering the arguments of the parties
presented at oral argument on October 19, 2012, this Court finds this case must be remanded to
the Commissioner for further development of the record. Remand is necessary to cure the lack
of medical evidence in the record to support the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
Specifically, this Court finds the ALJ erred in discounting the medical source report
(MSR) of Hurd’s treating physician. A treating physician's opinion is generally entitled to
substantial weight. Brown v. Astrue, 611 F.3d 941, 951 (8th Cir. 2010). However, an ALJ is
entitled to discount the opinion of a treating physician when that opinion is conclusory or
inconsistent with the evidence of record. Samons v. Astrue, 497 F.3d 813, 819 (8th Cir. 2007).
Here, the ALJ failed to adequately explain why the opinion of Hurd’s treating physician, Dr.
Tenorio, was discounted. When an ALJ determines that a treating physician's opinion should be
discounted, he should give good reasons for doing so. See Brown, at 951-52.
Further, the controlling weight given by the ALJ to the one-time consultative examiner
was error. Although the ALJ may credit other medical evaluations over that of the treating
physician, such decision must be supported by evidence showing that the other medical
assessments are supported by better or more thorough evidence. Heino v. Astrue, 578 F.3d 873,
879 (8th Cir. 2009). See also Wagner v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 842, 848-49 (8th Cir. 2007) (discussing
weight given to opinions of consultative physicians). Here, the controlling weight given to the
opinion of the one-time consultative examiner, who did not review Hurd’s medical records, is
not an assessment supported by better or more thorough evidence.
Therefore, this Court finds the administrative record in this case is not sufficiently
developed to make a determination as to plaintiff’s disability. See Battles v. Shalala, 36 F.3d 43,
45 (8th Cir. 1994) (determination of when the Commissioner has failed to develop the record is
made on a case-by-case basis). Specifically, this Court finds there is not substantial evidence in
the record to support the ALJ’s discounting of Dr. Tenorio’s MSR or the ALJ’s RFC
determination. The ALJ has the duty to fully develop the record on crucial issues such as this.
Ellis v. Barnhart, 392 F.3d 988, 994 (8th Cir. 2005). This case should, therefore, be remanded.
Upon remand, the ALJ is directed to further develop the record to include additional
consideration and evaluation of the opinion received from treating physician Dr. Tenorio and an
additional consultative medical examination by a proper qualified examiner. The consultative
examiner should be given the opportunity to review plaintiff’s medical records prior to such
examination. The examination should include a full assessment of Hurd’s medical conditions
and the extent to which her medical conditions limit her physical capabilities to work. An MSR
should be completed and submitted for consideration by the ALJ.
IT IS, THEFORE, ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner is reversed, and this
case is remanded to the Commissioner under Sentence 4 for proper consideration, with directive
to further develop the record as set forth herein.
Dated this 22nd day of October, 2012, at Jefferson City, Missouri.
Matt J. Whitworth
MATT J. WHITWORTH
United States Magistrate Judge
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