Rice v. Colvin
ORDER AND OPINION REVERSING COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION DENYING BENEFITS AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS. Signed on 6/22/17 by District Judge Ortrie D. Smith. (Matthes Mitra, Renea)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security, )
Case No. 16-3160-CV-S-ODS
ORDER AND OPINION REVERSING COMMISSIONER’S FINAL DECISION
DENYING BENEFITS AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
Pending is Plaintiff’s appeal of the Commissioner of Social Security’s decision
denying her application for disability insurance benefits. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner’s decision is reversed, and the case is remanded for further
When determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) employs a five-step process. Jones v. Astrue, 619 F.3d 963, 968 (8th Cir.
2010). At step two, which is relevant to the Court’s decision, the ALJ evaluates whether
the claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits her physical or mental
ability to perform basic work activities. R. at 11; Dixon v. Barnhart, 353 F.3d 602, 605
(8th Cir. 2003). As set forth in the ALJ’s decision, “[a]n impairment is ‘severe’ within the
meaning of the regulations if it significantly limits an individual’s ability to perform basic
work activities.” R. at 11.
Plaintiff argues this matter should be reversed and remanded because the ALJ
failed to properly consider chronic fatigue syndrome at step two, and failed to make a
determination as to whether chronic fatigue syndrome was a severe impairment. When
Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits, she alleged disability due to, among
other things, chronic fatigue syndrome. R. at 154, 321. Plaintiff also testified about
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.
chronic fatigue syndrome during the hearing before the ALJ, specifically stating her
“biggest complaint is my chronic fatigue.” R. at 37, 48. Chronic fatigue syndrome is
referenced throughout Plaintiff’s medical records. R. at 404-06, 408, 410, 412, 533,
540-41, 545, 565, 593, 603, 608-10, 615, 617, 619, 623-24, 628, 643, 663, 666-67, 670,
686, 699-700, 814-15, 818, 821, 827, 839, 842, 845, 847, 901, 955, 976, 1056, 1060,
1062, 1067, 1077, 1081, 1084.2 While the ALJ, at step two, discussed Plaintiff’s alleged
“sleep disorder due to her complaints of fatigue,” the ALJ failed to discuss Plaintiff’s
allegation that she suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome. R. at 13. Upon remand, the
ALJ must consider Plaintiff’s alleged chronic fatigue syndrome at step two, make a
finding as to whether chronic fatigue syndrome is a severe impairment, and set forth the
reasons why chronic fatigue syndrome is or is not a severe impairment.
Plaintiff also contends this matter should be reversed because the ALJ
failed to afford proper weight to the opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Crist. The ALJ
discounted Dr. Crist’s opinion because he found the opinion was not supported by his
treatment notes, were inconsistent with objective medical tests and physical
examinations performed by other physicians, and he was not an infectious disease
specialist. R. at 13, 19.
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 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).
Because the Court is remanding this matter for the ALJ’s consideration of chronic
fatigue syndrome and a determination as to whether that impairment is severe, the ALJ
must reassess the weight afforded to Dr. Crist’s opinion, which, in part, discusses
chronic fatigue syndrome.
There are also numerous references to “fatigue” in Plaintiff’s medical records. See R.
at 404, 406, 408, 410, 412-13, 415, 422, 435, 440, 448, 459, 533, 540, 545, 566, 574,
580, 584, 587, 589, 592, 603, 608-10, 615-17, 619, 623, 628, 645-46, 651, 684, 686,
690, 697, 699, 703, 789, 814-15, 821, 824, 839, 842, 847, 955, 976, 1055-56, 1062-63,
1067, 1069, 1077, 1083.
Upon remand, the ALJ must also re-evaluate Plaintiff’s credibility when
considering her impairment of chronic fatigue syndrome and making a determination as
to whether said impairment is severe.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Ortrie D. Smith
ORTRIE D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DATE: June 22, 2017
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?