United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
JOHN A. ROSS, District Judge.
This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Tamala Stidum's ("Stidum") application for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq.
On April 13, 2011, Stidum filed an application for disability benefits. (Tr. 186-92) The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Stidum's application on July 20, 2011. (Tr. 76-80) She filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on July 26, 2011. (Tr. 82-83) Following a hearing on July 19, 2012 (Tr. 9-39), the ALJ issued a written decision on August 15, 2012, upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 40-58) Stidum requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 7-8) On June 24, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Stidum's request for review. (Tr. 1-3) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel , 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).
Stidum filed this appeal on August 15, 2013. (Doc. No. 1) The Commissioner filed an Answer. (Doc. No. 9) Stidum filed a brief in support of her complaint (Doc. No. 11) and the Commissioner filed a brief in support of the answer. (Doc. No. 16) Stidum did not file a reply.
II. Decision of the ALJ
The ALJ determined that Stidum had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of June 1, 2010. (Tr. 45) The ALJ found Stidum had the severe impairments of genu vara of the right knee and obesity, but that no impairment or combination of impairments met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 45, 47) The ALJ found Stidum's medically determinable mental impairment of depression, not otherwise specified, did not cause more than minimal limitation in her ability to perform basic mental work activities and was thus nonsevere. (Tr. 46-47)
After considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Stidum has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the exertional demands of light work, except she can lift and carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently, stand and walk for at least two hours and sit for six hours in an eight-hour work day with normal breaks. In addition, the ALJ found Stidum cannot crawl or climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, but can occasionally balance or stoop. Finally, Stidum can rarely kneel, i.e., no more than 10% of the work day. (Tr. 48)
The ALJ found Stidum's impairments prevented her from performing her past relevant work as a casino cashier and cashier-checker; however, there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that she can perform, including assembler and product inspector. (Tr. 52-53) Thus, the ALJ concluded that a finding of "not disabled" was appropriate. (Tr. 53)
Stidum appeals, contending the ALJ's RFC and credibility findings are not supported by substantial evidence. The Commissioner maintains that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
III. Administrative Record
The following is a summary of the relevant evidence before the ALJ.
A. Hearing Testimony
The ALJ held a hearing in this matter on July 19, 2012. Stidum testified and was represented by counsel. (Tr. 11) Vocational expert James Israel also testified at the hearing. (Tr. 32-37)
1. Stidum's testimony
At the time of the hearing, Stidum was 36 years old. (Tr. 13) She has a high school education and works as a cashier at Shop N Save, four to five days a week, averaging twenty hours per week. (Tr. 14) Prior to that, Stidum worked full-time as a cage cashier at Riverfront Station, a casino. (Tr. 15-16) Stidum testified she has difficulty standing for more than an hour to an hour and a half due to back pain and pain in her right leg and knee. (Tr. 18-19) She stated she cannot kneel or carry something heavy when walking, and has to take frequent breaks because she gets out of breath. (Tr. 20) It was Stidum's testimony that she can walk for five to ten minutes at a time, but sits most of the time. (Id.) When she sits she gets tingling in her feet. (Tr. 20) Her ...