Thibodeaux v. Colvin
ORDER AND OPINION AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION DENYING BENEFITS. Signed on 5/12/17 by District Judge Ortrie D. Smith. (Matthes Mitra, Renea)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
TINA A. THIBODEAUX,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security, )
Case No. 16-3088-CV-S-ODS
ORDER AND OPINION AFFIRMING
COMMISSIONER’S FINAL DECISION DENYING BENEFITS
Pending is Plaintiff’s appeal of the Commissioner of Social Security’s final
decision denying her application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income. The Commissioner’s decision is affirmed.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court’s review of the Commissioner’s decision is limited to a determination
whether the decision is “supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but…enough that a reasonable mind
would find it adequate to support the conclusion.” Andrews v. Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928
(8th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted). “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 differently.” Cline v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 1098,
1102 (8th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). Though advantageous to the Commissioner, this
standard also requires the Court consider evidence that fairly detracts from the final
decision. Anderson v. Astrue, 696 F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted).
Substantial evidence means “more than a mere scintilla” of evidence; rather, it is
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d), Nancy A. Berryhill is substituted for
former Acting Commissioner Carolyn A. Colvin as the Defendant in this suit.
relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Gragg v. Astrue, 615 F.3d 932, 938 (8th Cir. 2010).
Plaintiff was born in 1959, and completed the eleventh grade in high school. R.
at 24, 37, 303, 305, 327. Plaintiff previously worked as a certified nurse’s aide, and a
supervisor for a residential facility. R. at 39-43. In 2013, Plaintiff applied for disability,
disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income, alleging a disability
onset date of December 30, 2012. R. at 13, 303-10. Plaintiff’s applications were
denied, and she requested a hearing. R. at 249-53, 256-57. A hearing was held before
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) in July 2014. R. at 31-72. On November 5, 2014,
the ALJ issued her decision, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. R. at 13-25. Plaintiff
appealed the decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her appeal. R. at 1-3.
In reaching her decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease of the spine, osteoarthritis of the knees with
degenerative changes in the left knee, obesity, and depression. R. at 15. The ALJ
determined Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):
[P]erform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c)
except that the claimant can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
She can frequently balance, handle, and finger. She must avoid
concentrated exposure to cold, vibrations, and hazards. The claimant
requires a sit/stand option hourly for a positional change not to exceed two
minutes. The claimant is limited to simple routine work and simple
R. at 17. Based upon the RFC and the Vocational Expert’s (“VE”) testimony, the ALJ
concluded Plaintiff could work as a laundry worker or cleaner. R. at 23-24. Plaintiff now
appeals the ALJ’s decision to this Court.
Plaintiff argues the ALJ’s decision must be reversed because (1) the ALJ failed to
afford adequate weight to Plaintiff’s treating physician’s opinion, and (2) the ALJ failed
to support the RFC with substantial evidence in the absence of the treating physician’s
A. Treating Physician’s Opinion
Plaintiff claims the ALJ erred in affording little weight to the opinion of her treating
physician, Saima Jabeen, M.D. Generally, a treating physician’s opinion is given more
weight than other sources in a disability proceeding. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). A
treating physician’s opinion may be disregarded if it is unsupported by clinical or other
data or is contrary to the weight of the remaining evidence in the record. See Anderson,
696 F.3d at 793-94; Pena v. Chater, 76 F.3d 906, 908 (8th Cir. 1996). Ultimately, the
ALJ must “give good reasons” to explain the weight given the treating physician’s
opinion. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2); Anderson, 696 F.3d at 793.
In April 2014, Dr. Jabeen executed a Medical Source Statement (“MSS”). R. at
571-72. Dr. Jabeen opined Plaintiff can frequently lift and carry less than ten pounds;
stand and/or walk continuously for less than fifteen minutes with a walker; stand and/or
walk less than one hour total during an eight-hour workday; sit continuously for fifteen
minutes at a time; sit less than one hour total during an eight-hour workday; is limited in
her ability to push and/or pull; should never climb, stoop, or crawl; can only occasionally
balance, kneel, crouch, reach, handle, finger, feel, see, speak, and hear; must avoid
any exposure to extreme cold and heights; must avoid moderate exposure to extreme
heat, weather, wetness/humidity, dust/fumes, vibration, and hazards; would need to lie
down or recline every one to two hours; and has difficulty concentrating. Id. Plaintiff
argues Dr. Jabeen’s opinion should have been afforded controlling weight, and the
ALJ’s decision to discount Dr. Jabeen’s opinion is not supported by substantial
The ALJ assigned “limited weight” to Dr. Jabeen’s opinion. The ALJ stated
“some of the limitations described by Dr. Jabeen, such as limitations on the claimant’s
ability to kneel and crouch, are supported by the records,” but “overall, the limitations
described [by Dr. Jabeen] are inconsistent with other medical evidence of record,
including diagnostic imaging studies and Dr. Jabeen’s own treatment notes.” R. at 21.
The ALJ also discounted Dr. Jabeen’s opinion on the MSS because Dr. Jabeen did not
provide an explanation of the extreme limitations described therein. R. at 21-22.
The Court reviewed the record and finds substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s
decision to discount Dr. Jabeen’s opinion. The Court also finds the ALJ provided good
reasons explaining the weight she afforded Dr. Jabeen’s opinion. Specifically, Dr.
Jabeen’s opinion that Plaintiff suffered disabling limitations is not supported by the
treatment notes from the four occasions Dr. Jabeen met with Plaintiff. R. at 594-607.
By way of example, in Dr. Jabeen’s treatment notes, there is no mention of Plaintiff’s
inability to sit or stand for more than fifteen minutes; there is no indication Plaintiff was
limited in her ability to see, speak or hear; and there is no suggestion that Plaintiff must
lie down or recline every one to two hours. The Court finds the ALJ properly afforded
Dr. Jabeen’s opinion little weight, and the Court affirms the ALJ’s decision in this
B. Plaintiff’s RFC
One’s RFC is the “most you can still do despite your limitations.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1). The ALJ must base the RFC on “all of the relevant evidence, including
the medical records, observations of treating physicians and others, and an individual’s
own description of his limitations.” McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir.
2000). Plaintiff contends the ALJ did not have sufficient evidence addressing Plaintiff’s
functional capabilities to determine her RFC once the ALJ dismissed Dr. Jabeen’s
In determining Plaintiff’s RFC, the ALJ considered, among other things, all of
Plaintiff’s symptoms that were consistent with the objective medical evidence, Plaintiff’s
daily living activities, an investigative report from the Cooperative Disability
Investigations Unit, the inconsistencies between Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and the
objective medical evidence, the results from a consultative examination (and Plaintiff’s
lack of cooperation during the consultative examination), psychological examination of
Plaintiff, opinions from medical providers, and medical records. R. at 17-23. Tellingly,
the investigative report revealed Plaintiff ambulated normally without using any assistive
devices on multiple occasions, and when she did use her walker, she did not put any
weight on it, and she was able to walk at a normal pace and stride while using the
walker. R. at 18-19, 399-402. Plaintiff was also observed getting into a van without
assistance, walking a dog, and rising from a seated position without exhibiting any pain
mannerisms. Id. These observations were recorded on video. R. at 402.
Here, the ALJ properly utilized the evidence in the record to support her
determination of Plaintiff’s RFC. Even without Dr. Jabeen’s opinion, the ALJ had
sufficient evidence in the record to determine Plaintiff’s RFC, and the ALJ cited the
portions of the record she considered in reaching that determination. The Court finds
substantial evidence in the record supports the ALJ’s RFC determination.
The Court concludes there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to
support the ALJ’s decision. The Commissioner’s decision denying benefits is affirmed.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Ortrie D. Smith
ORTRIE D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DATE: May 12, 2017
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