United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MARY E. O'COIN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, Magistrate Judge.
This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of defendant's final decision denying the application of Mary E. O'Coin for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. This case has been assigned to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to the Civil Justice Reform Act and is being heard by consent of the parties. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Plaintiff filed a Brief in support of the Complaint. [Doc. 8] Defendant filed a Brief in Support of the Answer. [Doc. 15] Plaintiff has filed a Reply. [Doc. 22]
On March 30, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits, claiming that she became unable to work due to her disabling condition on June 30, 2006. (Tr. 92-96.) This claim was denied initially and, following an administrative hearing, Plaintiff's claim was denied in a written opinion by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), dated January 19, 2012. (Tr. 50, 9-23.) Plaintiff then filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration (SSA), which was denied on December 27, 2012. (Tr. 7, 1-6.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
Evidence Before the ALJ
A. ALJ Hearing
Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on December 7, 2011. Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel. Also present was vocational expert Delores E. Gonzalez.
The ALJ questioned Plaintiff, who testified that she was forty-four years of age, and was a high school graduate. (Tr. 31.)
Plaintiff stated that she worked at Wendy's as a shift manager for "a couple of years" beginning in 1996. (Tr. 32) Plaintiff testified that she worked as a salvage coordinator at Safeco from 1997 to 2006. Id . Plaintiff stated that she worked as a bookkeeper and office manager at Carpenter Health Care prior to 1996. (Tr. 33)
Plaintiff testified that she was fired from her position at Safeco in 2006, because she was unable to perform her job. Id . Plaintiff explained that she had difficulty with concentration and would "get lost" in the middle of telephone conversations with customers. Id.
Plaintiff stated that she was not using cocaine or marijuana at the time she was fired. Id . The ALJ noted that Plaintiff's medical records indicate that she admitted to smoking marijuana in August of 2007. (Tr. 34) Plaintiff testified that she does not remember when she stopped smoking marijuana, but she had not smoked it in "quite some time." Id . Plaintiff stated that she had smoked marijuana to treat her pain, but she stopped smoking marijuana when she obtained pain medication. Id.
Plaintiff testified that she was five-feet, seven-inches tall, and weighed 230 pounds at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 35.) She stated that she had gained weight due to inactivity. Id.
Plaintiff testified that she was receiving psychological care for depression and that the depression "kills" her. Id . Plaintiff stated that, due to her depression, she does not shower often, does not have any friends, does not clean, and does not do "much of anything." (Tr. 36.) Plaintiff testified that she had not gone gambling in approximately five years. Id.
Plaintiff stated that she has difficulty remembering to take her medication, and that her mother reminds her. Id.
Plaintiff testified that she was injured in a shooting incident in 2003. Id . Plaintiff stated that she was working for Safeco at the time of the shooting. Id . Plaintiff testified that her hearing was tested in 2003, and it was determined that she has no hearing in her left ear. (Tr. 37.) Plaintiff stated that she also has no feeling on the left side of her face, no feeling in her tongue, and no taste buds. Id.
Plaintiff's attorney questioned Plaintiff, who testified that, as a result of her depression, she does not want to do anything, wants to sleep all the time, has no friends, and wants to hide by herself. Id . Plaintiff stated that, about half of a typical week, she spends the entire day in bed. (Tr. 37-38.) Plaintiff stated that she experiences crying spells "a couple of days a week." (Tr. 38) Plaintiff testified that she has been hospitalized for experiencing suicidal thoughts. Id . Plaintiff stated that she still experiences suicidal thoughts occasionally, and that her mother comforts her when this occurs. (Tr. 39)
Plaintiff testified that she is unable to concentrate long enough to read a book or watch a program on television. Id . Plaintiff stated that she does not do any household chores. Id . Plaintiff testified that she no longer cooks, because she has left the oven on inadvertently and burnt things. Id.
Plaintiff's attorney next examined Ellen O'Coin, Plaintiff's mother, who testified that Plaintiff was living with her at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 40.) Ms. O'Coin stated that Plaintiff had lived with her since the 2003 shooting. Id . Ms. O'Coin testified that she retired in 2010. Id.
Ms. O'Coin stated that Plaintiff does not help much with housework, because she forgets to complete tasks; Plaintiff is unable to follow simple instructions without having them repeated, and is unable to maintain concentration or focus; and she reminds Plaintiff to take her medication constantly throughout the day. (Tr. 41)
Ms. O'Coin stated that she observes Plaintiff rubbing her face frequently due to pain she experiences. (Tr. 42)
When asked by the ALJ, Ms. O'Coin did not know why Plaintiff went a month without taking medications in July of 2011. (Tr. 43.) Ms. O'Coin stated that she either refills Plaintiff's medications and picks them up herself, or she accompanies Plaintiff when she picks up her medication. Id.
The ALJ next examined the vocational expert, Ms. Gonzalez. (Tr. 44) The ALJ asked Ms. Gonzalez to assume a hypothetical claimant with Plaintiff's background and the following limitations: able to perform a full range of light work; able to understand, remember, and carry out at least simple instructions and non-detailed tasks; should not work in a setting that includes constant or regular contact with the general public; should not perform work that includes more than infrequent handling of customer complaints; and should not work in close proximity to alcohol or controlled substances. Id . Ms. Gonzalez testified that the individual would be unable to return to any of Plaintiff's past work. Id . Ms. Gonzalez stated that the individual could perform other light, unskilled work, such as housekeeping/cleaner (887, 890 positions nationally, 21, 660 in Missouri); and mail clerk (131, 750 positions nationally, 3, 430 in Missouri). (Tr. 44-45.)
Plaintiff's attorney asked Ms. Gonzalez to assume an individual with Plaintiff's background who, due to memory problems and poor concentration, is unable to remain on task in excess of 25 percent of the time. (Tr. 45-46) Ms. Gonzalez testified that the individual would be unable to perform any work in the national economy. (Tr. 46)
B. Relevant Medical Records
The record reveals Plaintiff received treatment at Anderson Hospital and St. Louis University in June 2003 after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head. (Tr. 441-62, 259-310.) Plaintiff suffered multiple facial fractures and underwent extensive facial reconstruction surgeries. (Tr. 240-306, 483-521.) Plaintiff ...