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Goodnick v. Colvin

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

September 22, 2014



JOHN A. ROSS, District Judge.

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Callie A. Goodnick's ("Goodnick") applicatior for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Goodnick alleges disability due to impairments including fibromyalgia and memory loss. (ECF No. 17 at 2).

I. Background

On May 18, 2010, Goodnick completed her application for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning March 31, 2009. (Tr. 10.) The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Goodnick's application for benefits and she filed a timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Id.) The SSA granted Goodnick's request and a hearing was held on November 3, 2011. (Id.) The ALJ issued a written decision on March 1, 2012, upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 10-22.) Goodnick requested a review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. On April 19, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Goodnick's request for a review. (Tr. 1-6.) The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel , 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000). Goodnick filed this appeal on June 18, 2013. (ECF No. 1.) The Commissioner filed an Answer. (ECF No. 6.) Goodnick filed a Brief in Support of her Complaint. (ECF No. 12.) The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer. (ECF No. 17.) Goodnick did not file a reply brief in support of her Complaint, but the time for filing such a brief has run. See Case Management Order, ECF No. 5.

II. Decision of the ALJ

The ALJ found that Goodnick had severe impairments of fibromyalgia and lumbar degenerative disc disease. (Tr. 12-14.) The ALJ determined that Goodnick's mental impairments of depression and anxiety, considered singly and in combination, did not cause more than minimal limitation in the claimant's ability to perform basic mental work activities and are therefore non-severe. (Tr. 13.) The ALJ, however, found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in or medically equal to one contained in 20 C.F.R., part 404, subpart P, appendix 1. (Tr. 14.) The ALJ determined that Goodnick retained the capacity to perform the full range of light work, and that her impairments would not preclude her from her past work as a dental assistant. (Tr. 11-20.) Consequently, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 21-22.)

Goodnick appeals contending that the ALJ failed to give controlling weight to the opinion of the treating source, Dr. Elizabeth Ballard, on the issues of the nature and severity of Goodnick's impairments. (ECF No. 12 at 8-14.) The Commissioner contends that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, particularly because Goodnick is not credible and the ALJ properly gave little weight to the opinion of Dr. Ballard, who based her opinion upon Goodnick's reported problems.

III. Administrative Record

The following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ.

A. Hearing Testimony

1. Goodnick's Testimony

Goodnick testified on November 3, 2011 as follows.

Goodnick is 41 years old. (Tr. 34.) She is 5 foot, 3 inches, and weighs 143 pounds. (Tr. 34.) She has a driver's license and can drive. (Tr. 34-35.) Goodnick went to school until the 8th grade, but obtained her GED. (Tr. 35.) She had additional vocational training in office management about 20 years ago. (Tr. 36.) She last worked in March of 2009 as a dental assistant and office manager. (Tr. 37.) She was fired from her employment for being five minutes late. (Tr. 38.) She did not look for another job after that. (Tr. 39.)

Goodnick was a dental assistant and office manager for several dentists. (Tr. 38-41.) She worked at Golf Graphics in 2000 packaging shirts. (Tr. 41.) In 1997, Goodnick worked for a dog groomer and bathed dogs. (Tr. 42.)

Goodnick testified that she cannot work now because of the pain in her body. (Tr. 42.) She has back spasms and pain in her lower back that goes down her right leg and through her buttocks. (Id.) Her skin is hypersensitive to touch. (Id.) She has fibromyalgia and arthritis. (Tr. 42-43.) Her memory has not been good since her stroke. (Tr. 43.) She had a stroke in 2007; her face became paralyzed on her left side and became numb. (Tr. 43.) She went to St. Anthony's for treatment. (Tr. 44.) She has regained feeling in her left side but it is periodically numb and tingly. (Tr. 44-45.)

Goodnick did not look for other employment after she left Dr. Shadoffs office because she was unable to perform the job. (Tr. 45.) She said that Dr. Shadoff made allowances for her weaknesses due to her illness, particularly her stroke, which other employers would not do. (Tr. 45-46.) In addition, Goodnick noted that Dr. Shadoffs office was a slower office and that she would not be able to keep up with a busy dentist's office. (Tr. 46.)

Goodnick never regained the full strength in her hands, but it is better than it was immediately after her stroke. (Tr. 47.) Goodnick sees Dr. Maude, a pain specialist, and a chiropractor. (Id.) She does not have a general practitioner. (Id.)

Goodnick takes several medications, including fifteen milligrams of Percocet every day. (Tr. 47-48.) She said that the medications help but do not take all of the pain away. (Tr. 48.) Goodnick sees a chiropractor, who helps her neck and upper back but is unable to relieve the pain in her lower back, her spasms, or her fibromyalgia. (Tr. 49.) Her pain is constant and is a "7" on a scale of 1 to 10 when she takes her medicine. (Id.) Nothing makes her pain better. (Tr. 50.)

Goodnick sees a rheumatologist, Dr. Hamid Bashir, who diagnosed her with fibromyalgia and arthritis. (Tr. 50.) Goodnick requested a letter from Dr. Bashir that she was not able to work. (Tr. 50-51.) She claimed she needed this so her husband, who had been laid off, could collect his unemployment benefits. (Tr. 51.)

Goodnick has trouble standing and walking when she has spasms. (Tr. 51.) She has spasms several times a day for several minutes. (Id.) Her spasms can last from just seconds to several minutes. (Tr. 52.) Goodnick can walk but she has trouble standing still. (Id.) Goodnick began having this severe pain two years ago (in 2009) after she was in a motorcycle accident. (Tr. 52-53.) She fell off the back of a motorcycle and slid down the road, hit her head and got gravel on her back. (Tr. 53-54.) She did not go to the hospital. (Tr. 53-54.) The pain gradually came on after the accident. (Tr. 55.) She had her stroke before the motorcycle accident. (Tr. 55.)

Goodnick can climb a flight of stairs. (Tr. 55.) Her bedroom is on the second floor. (Id.) They put in two railings to assist her in climbing stairs. (Tr. 56.) She can bend over but has difficulty coming back up. (Id.) She can write with a pen or pencil. (Id.) She can pick up a gallon of milk with both hands but would drop it if she lifted it with one hand. (Id.) She can pick up a half gallon of milk. (Id.) She, her husband, and her six year old daughter moved in with her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law helps take care of the six year old daughter, and does the laundry, cleaning and cooking. (Id.) Goodnick does not do any household chores. (Tr. 57.)

Goodnick has trouble remembering what she is supposed to do. (Tr. 57.) She gets aggravated with people easily. (Id.) She can put dishes away. (Id.) She cannot pick up her Boston Terrier dog but she gives it food and water and takes the dog outside. (Tr. 58.) She cannot clean the cat's litter box. (Id.) She no longer crochets because it hurts her hands. (Tr. 58-59.) She leaves the house for family get togethers and rides with her daughter and mother-in-law. (Tr. 59.) She can walk to the grocery store. (Id.) She watches a lot of television. (Id.) She can make it through an entire television program if she changes positions frequently. (Id.) She does not read. (Tr. 60.) She could read a magazine article. (Id.) She can help her daughter with her schoolwork. (Id.)

Goodnick takes Meclozine for vertigo. (Tr. 60.) She has trouble with dizziness four to seven times a day, particularly when she walks up stairs. (Id.) She only has trouble with driving if there are cars on both sides of her; this affects her vertigo. (Tr. 60-61.) Most days, Goodnick picks up her daughter from school, which is just a couple minutes from her house. (Tr. 61.)

Goodnick falls down on the stairs a lot. (Tr. 61.) She last fell in May. (Id.)

Goodnick has a low energy level. (Tr. 62.) She has trouble staying awake during the day, which may be a side effect of her medicine. (Id.) She usually gets between four to six hours of sleep at night, off and on. (Id.)

Goodnick has no problem grooming herself. (Tr. 62.) She cannot pick up or play with her six year old daughter. (Tr. 62-63.) She sits outside with her daughter. (Tr. 63.)

2. Vocational Expert's Testimony

The vocational expert, Tracy Young, testified as follows:

Ms. Young testified that Goodnick has vocational experience as a dental assistant, DOT number 709.361-018, which is a light skilled job with an SVP ("Specific Vocational Preparation") of 6. The DOT description includes a clerical aspect of the dental assistant position, and it is not a separate title. (Tr. 65.) Goodnick also worked briefly as ...

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