United States District Court, D. Nebraska
AMBER L. KRAUS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. Bazis United States Magistrate Judge.
Amber Kraus (“Plaintiff”) claims in this Social
Security appeal that the Commissioner's decision to deny
her applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income is contrary to law and not
supported by substantial evidence. Having considered all
arguments and materials presented, and for the reasons
explained below, the Commissioner's decision will be
9, 2014, Plaintiff filed applications for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income. (TR.
159). Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. (TR. 177). Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) and a
hearing was held on March 7, 2017. (TR. 156).
23, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (TR. 171).
The ALJ's decision evaluated Plaintiff's claim under
the five-step sequential analysis prescribed by the Social
Security Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The
ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe impairments of asthma,
anxiety, depression, and a history of substance abuse. (TR.
161). The ALJ formulated Plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) as follows:
[Plaintiff] as the [RFC] to perform light work as defined in
20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she is able to
perform work away from fumes, odors, astringents, and other
types of items commonly associated with someone who has a
breathing problem. She is capable of performing simple work
due to some problem with maintaining attention and
concentration for extended periods nee1ded for more complex
work. [Plaintiff] is able to understand and follow simple
instructions and is able to get along with supervisors,
peers, and the general public as she has worked at those
types of positions in the past. [Plaintiff] is able to make
simple work related decisions and adjustments to changes in
the work setting. Finally, [Plaintiff] is able to perform
work away from concentrated cold and heat.
(TR. 164). The ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have any
past relevant work but determined that there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff can perform. (TR. 170-71.) These jobs include
cashier, router, and counter clerk. (TR. 171.)
requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council. (TR. 284.) The request was denied. (TR. 1.) Having
been denied review by the Appeals Council, the ALJ's
decision stands at the final decision of the Commissioner of
denial of benefits by the Commissioner is reviewed to
determine whether the denial is supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. See Hogan v.
Apfel, 239 F.3d 958, 960 (8th Cir. 2001).
“Substantial evidence” is less than a
preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find
it adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion.
Id. at 960-61; Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d
1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). Evidence that both supports and
detracts from the Commissioner's decision must be
considered, but the decision may not be reversed merely
because substantial evidence supports a contrary outcome.
See Moad v. Massanari, 260 F.3d 887, 890 (8th Cir.
argues that the ALJ erred in assigning “little
weight” to the opinions of her treating physicians, Dr.
Walter Duffy (“Dr. Duffy”) and Dr. Kirk Kinberg
(“Dr. Kinberg”). Dr. Kinberg is Plaintiff's
treating physician in the specialty of asthma, allergy, and
immunology. (TR. 77.) Dr. Kinberg, who has treated Plaintiff
since 2012, opined that Plaintiff is unable to work due to
asthma. Dr. Duffy, who, according to Plaintiff, has been her
treating mental health physician for fifteen years, opined
that Plaintiff cannot work due to her mental impairments. In
discounting these treating physicians' opinions, the ALJ
stated, among other things, that the opinions did not provide
any “function by function analysis” and were
“vague and imprecise.” (TR. 169.)
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.” Medhaug v.
Astrue,578 F.3d 805, 815 (8th Cir. 2009) (quotation
omitted). However, a treating physician's opinion does
not automatically control because the record must be
evaluated as a whole. Id. “An ALJ may discount
or even disregard the opinion of a treating physician where
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 such opinions.” Id. (quotation omitted).
Still, “[w]hether granting a treating physician's
opinion substantial or little weight . ...