United States District Court, D. Nebraska
ANGEL D. GARCIA, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
E. STROM, Senior Judge United States District Court
matter is before the Court for review of a final decision of
the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(the “Commissioner”), wherein the Commissioner
denied the plaintiff, Angel D. Garcia's
(“plaintiff” or “Garcia”) request for
disability insurance benefits. After review of the
parties' briefs, the record, and the applicable law, the
Court finds that the Commissioner's decision should be
October 12, 2012, plaintiff “filed an application for
disability benefits under the [Social Security Act].”
(Filing No. 1 at 2). Plaintiff's application was
denied at the initial and reconsideration levels by the
Commissioner (Id.). Plaintiff sought and was granted
a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) (Id.). The ALJ held a hearing on
June 17, 2014 (Id.). On September 18, 2014, the ALJ
denied Garcia's application for benefits (Id.).
On January 12, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision
and stated that the ALJ's “decision is the final
decision of the Commissioner . . . .” (Filing No.
9-2 at 1).
March 14, 2016, plaintiff filed the instant action in
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (Filing No.
1). The parties filed their briefs in accordance
with the Court's June 29, 2016, order setting the
briefing schedule (Filing No. 14); see also
Filing Nos. 15-19.
Commissioner's decision will be affirmed “if the
record contains substantial evidence to support it.”
Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966 (8th Cir.
2003). “Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind might accept
it as adequate to support a decision.” Haley v.
Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001) (internal
marks and cite omitted). “In determining whether
existing evidence is substantial, [a court should] consider
evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision
as well as evidence that supports it.” Hutsell v.
Massanari, 259 F.3d 707, 711 (8th Cir. 2001) (internal
citation omitted). If the record reveals substantial evidence
supporting the Commissioner's decision, then that
decision should not be reversed merely because
“substantial evidence exists in the record that would
have supported a contrary outcome.” Hutsell,
259 F.3d at 711. In other words, “[a court] may not
reverse simply because [a court] would have decided
differently or because substantial evidence supports a
contrary outcome.” Grable v. Colvin, 770 F.3d
1196, 1201 (8th Cir. 2014) (citing Davis v. Apfel,
239 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir. 2001)). Finally, the claimant
“bears the burden of proving disability.”
Teague v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 611, 615 (8th Cir. 2011).
alleges two errors on the part of the ALJ require the Court
to “reverse the final agency decision and enter
judgment” or alternatively “reverse the ALJ's
decision and remand th[e] matter for further
proceedings.” (Filing No. 17 at 25). Plaintiff
first argues that the ALJ failed to provide good reasons
supported by substantial evidence for not assigning the
opinions of Garcia's treating physicians, Dr. Charging
Thunder and Dr. Kader, at least substantial weight
(Id. at 18). The Court's review of the record
reveals that this argument lacks merit. The ALJ accorded
“the opinions of Dr. Charging Thunder partial
weight.” (Filing No. 9-2 at 29). The ALJ
explained that he did “not agree with Dr. Charging
Thunder's conclusory statement that the claimant could
not perform full time [sic] work” because the
“medical evidence support[ed] a finding that [Garcia]
could perform full time [sic] competitive work . . . .”
(Id.). The ALJ likewise accorded Dr. Kader
“partial weight.” (Id. at 30). The ALJ
specifically noted “Dr. Kader's opinions are not
consistent with the treatment notes in the record.”
“[a] treating physician's opinion is given
controlling weight ‘if it is well-supported by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial
evidence.'” House v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 741,
744 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting Reed v. Barnhart, 399
F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005)). The United States Court of
Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has specifically determined
that a treating physician's opinion is not entitled to
special weight when “the treating physician evidence
itself is inconsistent.” House, 500 F.3d at
744 (internal marks and cite omitted). The Court is satisfied
that the ALJ's determinations to assign Garcia's
treating physicians partial, as opposed to controlling or
substantial weight, are supported by the record's
further alleges the ALJ failed to make an individualized
function-by-function assessment of plaintiff's residual
function capacity (“RFC”) by not considering
Garcia's need for frequent absences from work (Filing No.
17 at 22). Although the heading in plaintiff's
brief states that this argument is premised on Garcia's
seizures, the remaining sentences, paragraphs, pages, and
illustrative chart fail to mention anything regarding
seizures. See Id. at 22-25.
the confusion contained in plaintiff's brief, the Court
is satisfied that the ALJ's determination regarding
Garcia's RFC is supported by substantial evidence from
the record as a whole. See Pearsall v. Massanari,
274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001) (“It is the
claimant's burden . . . to prove the claimant's RFC .
. . [but] [i]t is the ALJ's responsibility to determine a
claimant's RFC based on all relevant evidence . . . .).
Therefore, the Court finds the ALJ's determinations to be
supported by ...