United States District Court, D. Minnesota
C. Olson, Esq., Disability Attorneys of Minnesota, and Karl
E. Osterhout, Esq., Osterhout Disability Law, LLC, counsel
D. Jenkins, Esq., United States Attorney's Office,
counsel for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. THORSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff seeks judicial review
of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
denying her application for disability insurance benefits.
This matter is before the Court on the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment, in accordance with D.
Minn. LR 7.2(c)(1). (Doc. Nos. 17, 21.) For the reasons
stated below, the Court concludes that the Administrative Law
Judge's (“ALJ”) decision is supported by
substantial evidence in the record. Therefore,
Plaintiff's motion is denied and Defendant's motion
alleged a disability onset date of July 31, 2014. (Tr. 27,
In a decision dated February 1, 2017, the ALJ conducted the
five-step sequential analysis and found that Plaintiff was not
disabled. (Tr. 27-43.) At step 2 of the sequential analysis,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical
spine; bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome; and cubital tunnel
syndrome on the left. (Tr. 29.) However, between steps 3 and
4, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, except
with the following limitations: no climbing of ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; occasional climbing of ramps and stairs;
occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling; occasional overhead reaching; frequent reaching in
all other directions; and no power gripping or torqueing type
activities using the hands or wrists. (Tr. 33.) At steps four
and five, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform past
relevant work as a server or, in the alternative, other work
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy.
Standard of Review
ALJ's decision will be upheld if the decision is
supported substantial evidence in the record a whole. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Kluesner v. Astrue, 607 F.3d
533, 536 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
“Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but
enough so that a reasonable mind might find it adequate to
support the conclusion.” Robinson v. Sullivan,
956 F.3d 836, 838 (8th Cir. 1992). All evidence in the record
is considered, whether it supports or detracts from the
ALJ's decision. Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d
575, 578 (8th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). In doing so, the
Court does not “reweigh the evidence presented to the
ALJ, and [the Court] defer[s] to the ALJ's determinations
regarding the credibility of testimony, as long as those
determinations are supported by good reasons and substantial
evidence.” Gonzales v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 890,
894 (8th Cir. 2006) (internal citation and quotation marks
omitted). If, after reviewing the record, it is possible to
draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of
those positions represents the ALJ's findings, the
ALJ's decision must be affirmed. Young v. Apfel,
221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
asserts that the ALJ improperly weighed the opinion of
Plaintiff's longtime treating physician, Dr. Petry,
contrary to agency policy and Eighth Circuit precedent. (Doc.
No. 18, Pl.'s Mem. 4-30.) Specifically, Plaintiff argues
that the ALJ failed to address the factors set forth in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c) before determining the weight given.
(Pl.'s Mem. 14.)
treating physician's opinion regarding an applicant's
impairment will be granted controlling weight, provided the
opinion is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical
and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent
with the other substantial evidence on the record.”
Singh v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 448, 452 (8th Cir. 2000)
(citation omitted). Although a treating physician's
opinion is usually entitled to great weight, it “do[es]
not automatically control, since the record must be evaluated
as a whole.” Bentley v. Shalala, 52 F.3d 784,
785-86 (8th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted).
regulations require that the ALJ must “always give good
reasons” for the weight given to a treating
physician's opinion. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2).
“Good reasons for assigning lesser weight to the
opinion of a treating source exist where the treating
physician's opinions are themselves inconsistent, or
where other medical assessments are supported by better or
more thorough evidence.” Chesser v. Berryhill,
858 F.3d 1161, 1164 (8th Cir. 2017) (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted). An ALJ may “justifiably
discount the opinion of a treating physician where it is
inconsistent or contrary to the medical evidence as a
whole.” Martise v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 909, 925
(8th Cir. 2011) (internal citation and quotation marks
omitted). Moreover, a treating physician's opinion does
not deserve controlling weight when it is nothing more than a
conclusory statement. See Piepgras v. Chater, 76
F.3d 233, 236 (8th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted).
points to the Medical Source Statement (“MSS”)
filled out by Dr. Petry, asserting it is generally at odds
with the RFC assessment provided by the ALJ. (Pl.'s Mem.
6; Tr. 33, 381-86.) There, Dr. Petry set forth his opinion
that Plaintiff could not function in a competitive work
setting, even on a part-time basis. (Tr.
382-83.) The ALJ gave “little weight”
to Dr. Petry's opinion, reasoning that the opinion was
not supported by Dr. Petry's own June 3, 2015 examination
of Plaintiff or the overall course of treatment. (Tr. 40.)
The ALJ also found other evidence in the record, such as
Plaintiff's daily activities, Dr. Neil
Johnson's findings, and the findings of the
physicians employed by the State Disability Determination
Services (“SDDS”), did not support Dr.
Petry's opinion. (Tr. 35-36, 39-40, 53-60, 73-84, 86-97,
particular, the ALJ explained that Dr. Petry's opinion
lacked citation or reference to any objective findings or
data to support or corroborate his opinion. (Tr.
Further, the ALJ found that Dr. Petry's opinion did not
provide any rationale as to why Plaintiff would miss work at
the frequency he indicated. (Tr. 40.) Instead, the opinion
appeared to be based “primary [sic] on
[Plaintiff]'s self-report of symptoms and limitations . .
.”, such as Plaintiff's self-report of not being
able to walk 200 feet. (Tr. 40- 41.) Treating opinions based