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Ball v. Colvin

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

September 29, 2014

NORMAN R. BALL, JR., Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


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 Norman R. Ball, Jr.'s ("Ball") application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq., and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381-85.

I. Background

On April 29, 2010, Ball protectively filed applications for disability insurance benefits and SSI, alleging disability beginning April 6, 2010. (Tr. 148-158) The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Ball's applications on September 1, 2010. (Tr. 76-86) He filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on December 15, 2010. (Tr. 96-97) Following a hearing on March 9, 2012, (Tr. 36-61), the ALJ issued a written decision on March 28, 2012, upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 16-35) On May 13, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Ball's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-6) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel , 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).

The Court entered a case management order on July 22, 2013, directing Ball to serve and file a brief within thirty (30) days after the Commissioner's service of an answer and the administrative transcript. (Doc. No. 5) The Commissioner's answer was filed on September 18, 2013, together with the administrative transcript. (Doc. Nos. 10, 11) More than a year has passed and Ball has failed to file a brief in support of his Complaint or take any other action in this case. The Court has, therefore, ruled on Ball's appeal based on the record before it.

II. Decision of the ALJ

The ALJ determined that Ball had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of April 6, 2010. (Tr. 21) The ALJ found Ball had the severe impairments of obesity and knee and low back pain. (Id.) The ALJ found Ball's medically determinable mental impairment of major depression did not cause more than minimal limitation in his ability to perform basic mental work activities and was thus nonsevere. (Id.) Other non-severe impairments were hypertension and diabetes mellitus. (Id.) The ALJ found 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. 22)

After considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Ball has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work, except he cannot remain in a set position; he needs to alternate sitting and standing every 30 minutes. (Id.) The ALJ found Ball's impairments prevent him from performing his past relevant work as a welder and production worker; however, there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that he can perform, including unskilled bench assembler, order caller and contributions solicitor. (Tr. 29-30) Thus, the ALJ concluded that a finding of "not disabled" was appropriate. (Tr. 31)

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 March 9, 2012. Ball testified and was represented by counsel. (Tr. 39) Vocational expert Jeffrey F. McGrosky, Ph.D., also testified at the hearing. (Tr. 58-60)

1. Ball's testimony

At the time of the hearing, Ball was 44 years old; five feet, eleven inches tall and weighed 330 pounds. (Tr. 39-40) When he was working he weighed 220 pounds. He gained his weight over the past three years when he stopped working. (Tr. 57-58) He completed the eleventh grade. (Tr. 39-40) Ball worked most recently as a welder and also ran his own car detailing business for ten years. (Tr. 40-41)

Ball has back and knee problems. (Tr. 43) He had reconstructive surgery on his right knee when he was 16 or 18 after a motorcycle accident. (Id.) In addition, Ball has high blood pressure, diabetes and gout. (Tr. 44, 53) His legs tend to swell if he stands on his feet for over two hours at a time. (Tr. 43, 47) After resting for a while, Ball can get back up and stand. (Tr. 48) He is constantly changing positions during the day, i.e., sitting, standing, laying down, in order to take the pressure off his back. (Tr. 48-49) He can sit for about an hour before feeling the need to stand. (Tr. 54) It was Ball's testimony that he can alternately sit and stand for a maximum of three to four hours in a day. (Tr. 54-55)

Ball takes medication for his blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis. (Tr. 46) When his blood sugar gets too low, his vision becomes blurry and he gets dizzy and faint. (Tr. 47) He has no side effects from any of his medications that he is aware of other than diarrhea from the blood pressure medication. (Tr. 57) Ball has sleep apnea and uses a CPAP machine, which helps, but because he is up and down all night with back pain, he testified that he still doesn't get enough sleep. (Tr. 49)

In a typical day Ball will get up in the morning, and try to help out around the house by washing dishes, mopping, sweeping the floors, wiping down the counters and vacuuming, but he has to take constant breaks. (Tr. 55-56) He watches TV and occasionally cooks. (Tr. 56) He is unable to do yard work. (Tr. 56) His wife does the grocery shopping and the children help her carry the groceries into the house. (Tr. 50) He used to go grocery shopping with his wife, but stopped doing that about two years ago. (Id.) Ball is able to carry light bags of groceries and a gallon of milk with a handle on it. (Id.)

According to Ball, his depression is a big factor that affects his ability to work. (Tr. 51) He takes medication for his depression, which affects his motivation to do things. He used to love to hunt and ...

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