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Robinson v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 15, 2014

TREVOR R. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

THOMAS C. MUMMERT, III, Magistrate Judge.

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for judicial review of the final decision of Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner), denying Trevor R. Robinson's applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act), 42 U.S.C. § 401-433, and for supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381-1383b. All matters are pending before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

Procedural History

Trevor R. Robinson (Plaintiff) applied for DIB and SSI in August 2010, alleging that he became disabled on January 1, 2007, because of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. (R.[1] at 128-34, 135-38, 189.) His applications were denied initially and after a hearing held in January 2012[2] administrative law judge ("ALJ") Jhane Pappenfus. (Id. at 14-53, 57, 58, 76-81.) The Appeals Council then denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision, effectively adopting the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner. (Id. at 1-5.)

Testimony Before the ALJ

Plaintiff, represented by counsel, and John F. McGowan, Ed.D., testified at the administrative hearing.[3]

Plaintiff testified that he currently lives in a home with a friend. Plaintiff completed the eleventh grade in high school, but did not graduate. He has no other education or training. (Id. at 17-18, 50-51.)

Plaintiff hears voices telling him negative things, such as that people are trying to kill him and will get him if he leaves the house. He does not go outside that much and does not like to be around people. (Id. at 23-24.) He quit his last job, as a fast food cook at Wendy's, because he thought the people there were trying to kill him. (Id. at 25-26.) He sees a psychiatrist and has been taking medication for approximately two years; he had not taken medication before then because he could not afford it. (Id. at 28.) Also, when he cannot afford the medication he does not take it every day; his psychiatrist recently gave him a thirty-day supply of medication at no cost. (Id. at 29, 32-33.) When on medication, he continues to hear voices, but they are softer and not as loud. (Id. at 26-27.) He is unable to tune out the voices, even when they are soft. (Id. at 34.) He is unable to see a counselor because of his inability to pay for such services. (Id. at 29-30.) Plaintiff testified that he was last hospitalized for his condition in 2008. (Id. at 27-28.)

Plaintiff testified that he was tired of constantly hearing the voices and has told his doctors that he wanted to die. He does not know who he can trust. (Id. at 30-31.) The voices interfere with his concentration, causing him to be confused about what to do because he does not know who is talking. The voices also interfere with his ability to work at a quick pace. He experienced these problems while working at Wendy's. (Id. at 31-32, 34-35.)

Describing his daily activities, Plaintiff testified that he wakes up around 9:00 a.m. and watches television during the day. He naps throughout the day because of sleeping difficulties at night. He sleeps at night from half an hour to an hour and then is awake for three or four hours because of the voices. He repeats this cycle throughout the night. (Id. at 23-24.)

Dr. McGowan, testifying as a vocational expert ("VE") without objection, classified Plaintiff's past work as a fast food worker as light and having a specific vocational preparation ("SVP") level of 2 and as a marble machine tender as light and having an SVP level of 3. (Id. at 37-38.)

The ALJ then asked Dr. McGowan to consider a hypothetical claimant who is limited to medium and unskilled work; who person should not work in a setting that includes constant, regular contact with the general public; and who should not perform work that includes more than infrequent handling of customer complaints. Asked if this claimant can perform Plaintiff's past relevant work, Dr. McGowan testified that such a person can perform the jobs of a marble machine tender and a fast food worker as Plaintiff actually performed them. (Id. at 39, 44.) Such a person can perform Plaintiff's past work even if he was limited to light exertional work. This person can also perform other light work, such as bench assembler, hospital product assembler, and plastic products inspector and hand packager. These jobs exist in significant numbers in the state and national economies. (Id. at 40-41.)

In response to questions from counsel, Dr. McGowan testified that a person will not be able to maintain employment if he cannot follow instructions and cannot keep a persistent pace with his activities. (Id. at 43.) Dr. McGowan could identify no jobs a person can perform if he is unable to concentrate for 65 percent of the day. (Id. at 49-50.) Dr. McGowan further testified that Plaintiff's work as a fast food worker, as Plaintiff actually performed it, did not fit within the definition set out in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") inasmuch as Plaintiff did not, and could not, meet all the requirements of the job as defined in the DOT. (Id. at 47.)

Medical and Other Records Before the ALJ

Plaintiff's Work History Report shows that Plaintiff worked in a warehouse in 1995 and as a pourer at a marble company from 1997 to 1998. Plaintiff worked intermittently as a general laborer in 2000 and 2001. From 1991 to August 1, 2006, Plaintiff worked intermittently as a fast food cook. (Id. at 157.)

Plaintiff's medical records begin with his admission to St. Louis University Hospital in July 2006 with a diagnosis of psychotic disorder, not otherwise specified. He was thirty-seven years of age. He reported that he had been hearing voices for three days and that he was becoming increasingly paranoid. The voices were telling him that his friends were going to kill him. He had been working at Wendy's when the auditory hallucinations began, at which time he quit his job. He reported that he had not had any psychiatric symptoms in the past. He was homeless. Dr. Charles R. Conway noted that Plaintiff was somewhat disorganized and potentially manipulative. Plaintiff refused to allow the evaluation team to call anyone for collateral information. Mental status examination showed Plaintiff to be scared and to have a restricted and paranoid affect. Thought processes were latent and tangential. Thought content included paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations. Plaintiff's insight and judgment were poor. Dr. Conway noted that he was unable to perform a mini-mental status exam because Plaintiff refused to cooperate. Plaintiff was admitted to the psychiatric unit with a Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") score of 35.[4] A computed ("CT") scan of the brain showed no acute intracranial process. Plaintiff was given Haldol, Ativan, and Risperidone during his hospital stay, and his psychotic symptoms minimized during the last days. Five days after admission, Plaintiff was discharged in stable and improved condition. Upon discharge, Plaintiff reported that he was no longer hearing voices. Plaintiff's discharge medications included Risperidone. He was instructed to follow up at the outpatient clinic at Barnes Jewish Center. His GAF score was then 45.[5] (Id. at 322-52.)

Plaintiff went to the emergency room at St. Louis University Hospital in November 2007 with complaints relating to a sore throat. No other complaints were noted. (Id. at 380-87.)

Plaintiff was seen again at the St. Louis University Hospital emergency room on August 11, 2008, with complaints of knee and ankle pain. It was noted that Plaintiff had a psychotic disorder and previously had a psychiatric admission. No current psychiatric complaints were noted. (Id. at 388-401.)

Plaintiff returned to the emergency room on August 28 with complaints of having a toothache for three days. It was noted that Plaintiff had no significant medical history; no psychiatric complaints were noted. (Id. at 227-42.)

Plaintiff was admitted to St. Louis University Hospital in November with a diagnosis of psychosis, not otherwise specified. Plaintiff reported that he constantly heard voices. He denied having any symptoms of depression and any suicidal or homicidal thoughts. It was noted that he had previously been hospitalized and prescribed Risperidone, but did not follow up or take his medication on discharge. Plaintiff reported that he currently lived and worked in a group home. Mental status examination showed Plaintiff to be fairly groomed and to have good eye contact. His mood was good; his affect was euthymic; his thought process was goal directed and logical; his insight and judgment were fair. Dr. Joao H. Ramos noted that Plaintiff had auditory hallucinations, but did not appear to respond to internal stimuli. Plaintiff was assigned a GAF score of 30.[6] He was given Abilify upon admission and was also given Haldol and Ativan for agitation and psychosis. Plaintiff improved during his hospitalization and was discharged on four days later since he was not an immediate danger to himself or others. On discharge, he continued to have auditory hallucinations, was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia, and was prescribed Abilify. He was instructed to follow up with Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Center (Grace Hill) on November 26. (Id. at 353-79.)

The next record is from April 2009 and is a Psychiatric Review Technique Form ("PRTF") completed by Joan Singer, Ph.D., a non-examining psychological consultant. She opined that Plaintiff had no ...


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