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Adams v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

September 14, 2016

GREGORY ADAMS, PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT

          ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER

         Plaintiff Gregory Adams has appealed the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying his claim for supplemental security income. Both parties have submitted appeal briefs and the case is ready for decision.[1]

         Background

         Mr. Adams alleged that he became limited in his ability to work due to depression, human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”), and lack of sleep. (SSA record at 150) After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge[2] (“ALJ”) concluded that Mr. Adams had not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act at any time from March 23, 2012, through February 27, 2014, the date of his decision. (Id. at 27) On July 7, 2015, the Appeals Council denied the request for a review of the ALJ's decision, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Id. at 3-6) Mr. Adams then filed his complaint initiating this appeal. (Docket #3)

         Mr. Adams was 48 years old at the time of the hearing and lived with a friend. (SSA record at 36, 40) He had a twelfth-grade education but did not graduate from high school. (Id. at 52) He had past relevant work as a salvage worker and line cook and last worked in 2011 as a cashier. (Id. at 36-38, 142)

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ found that Mr. Adams had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date and that his HIV; adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood; and history of cocaine and alcohol abuse were severe impairments. (Id. at 15) He further found that Mr. Adams's allegations regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of his symptoms were not entirely credible. (Id. at 17-23)

         Based on his findings, the ALJ concluded that, during the relevant time period, Mr. Adams retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) for sedentary work, except he could only occasionally stoop, crouch, kneel, bend and crawl; was restricted to an indoor environment without temperature extremes; and could only perform work that was simple, routine, and repetitive with supervision that was simple, direct and concrete. (Id. at 17-25)

         After hearing testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ determined that Mr. Adams could not perform his past relevant work, but that he could perform work as a lamp shade assembler and document preparer. (Id. at 26) Thus, the ALJ concluded, Mr. Adams was not disabled. (Id. at 27)

         Mr. Adams's Allegations

         Mr. Adams generally challenges the ALJ's decision, but focuses on the weight given to the opinions of his treating physicians and the assessment of his RFC. (#3) He argues the medical evidence supports more limitation than the ALJ found. For these reasons, he says, substantial evidence does not support the decision.

         Standard on Review

         The Court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and free of legal error. Papesh v. Colvin, 786 F.3d 1126, 1131(8th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Phillips v. Astrue, 671 F.3d 699, 702 (8th Cir. 2012).

         Opinion Evidence

         A treating physician's opinion should be granted controlling weight if it is well supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in the record. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015). The opinion of a treating physician, however, does not automatically control or eliminate the need to evaluate the record as a whole. Id. (quoting Hogan v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 958, 961 (8th Cir. 2001)). An ALJ may discount or disregard the opinion of a treating physician when other medical assessments are supported by better or more thorough medical evidence, or where a treating physician renders inconsistent opinions that undermine the credibility of the opinions. Id. (citations omitted). Further, a medical source opinion that ...


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