Submitted: January 12, 2017
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Jonesboro
COLLOTON, GRUENDER, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
Chesser appeals the district court's order affirming
the Social Security Administration's (SSA) denial of
social security disability benefits. Chesser argues that the
Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) determination of the
severity of her mental limitations is not supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
born in 1986, protectively filed social security disability
applications on April 26, 2012. She alleged a disability
onset date of December 15, 2011, stemming from anxiety,
depression, nightmares, paranoia, auditory and visual
hallucinations, panic attacks, carpal tunnel syndrome,
September 3, 2013, the ALJ held a hearing on Chesser's
claims. Chesser presented evidence of the above conditions,
including documentary evidence from several medical sources.
Chesser testified that she left her most recent job because
she moved to another state following a divorce. She testified
that she was unable to secure employment because she could
not "comprehend anything" and did not
"understand what people tell" her. Chesser
explained that she spent her time watching television and
sleeping, that she preferred to be alone, and that her
boyfriend managed the household and cooked meals. She said
that mental health treatment and medication improved her
symptoms, but that she was unable to afford all of the
medications prescribed to her. Chesser's written surveys
and application for benefits echoed these complaints
regarding depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
considered the entirety of the record and applied the
familiar five-step process prescribed by the social security
regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a);
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987). The
ALJ ultimately determined that Chesser had the Residual
Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform "light work, "
as that term is defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b)
except the claimant cannot perform rapid repetitive flexion
or extension of the wrists bilaterally. The claimant is able
to perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to
the work performed, where "incidental" is defined
as interpersonal contact requiring a limited degree of
interaction such as meeting and greeting the public,
answering simple questions, accepting payment and making
change. The claimant is able to perform work where the
complexity of tasks can be learned by demonstration or
repetition within thirty days with few variables, little
judgment, and the supervision required is simple, direct, and
arriving at this RFC determination, the ALJ found that
Chesser's testimony about the severity of her limitations
was not fully credible, and as a result, afforded little
weight to the observations of Chesser's caseworker and
Mental Health Paraprofessional (MHPP), because those opinions
were based on Chesser's subjective complaints. Likewise,
the ALJ assigned little weight to the opinion of
Chesser's treating physician, finding his opinions were
internally inconsistent and inconsistent with the record as a
whole. Relying on testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ
held that Chesser was able to perform work existing in
significant numbers in the national economy. The ALJ
concluded that Chesser was not disabled and denied her
request for benefits.
review de novo whether substantial evidence in the record as
a whole supports the ALJ's decision. See Milam v.
Colvin, 794 F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2015).
"Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but
is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to
support the Commissioner's conclusion." Prosch
v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). While we
must consider both evidence that supports and evidence that
detracts from the ALJ's determination, we "may not
reverse the Commissioner's decision merely because
substantial evidence supports a contrary outcome."
Id. (quoting Warburton v. Apfel, 188 F.3d
1047, 1050 (8th Cir. 1999)). "[I]f it is possible to
draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of
those positions represents the agency's findings, we must
affirm the decision." Cruze v. Chater, 85 F.3d
1320, 1323 (8th Cir. 1996) (quoting Oberst v.
Shalala, 2 F.3d 249, 250 (8th Cir. 1993)).
Chesser argues that the ALJ erred by assigning little weight
to the opinion of her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Miguel
Casillas. The opinion of a treating physician is generally
afforded "controlling weight if that opinion is
well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with
the other substantial evidence in the record."
Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 964 (8th Cir. 2010)
(quoting Brown v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 535, 540 (8th
Cir. 2004)). Where an ALJ assigns less than controlling
weight to the opinion of a treating source, the ALJ must
"give good reasons" for doing so. Anderson v.
Astrue, 696 F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting 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, " Cruze, 85 F.3d at ...