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Deshay v. Colvin

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

September 30, 2014

MICHELE L. DESHAY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

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 Michele Deshay's ("Deshay") application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq.

I. Background

On January 11, 2010, Deshay filed an application for disability insurance under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. (Tr. 142-159). The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Deshay's claim on April 8, 2010. (Tr. 87) She filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on June 8, 2010. (Tr. 92) Following a hearing on March 8, 2011 (Tr. 40-78), the ALJ issued a written decision on April 21, 2011 upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 18-37) Deshay requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 15) On September 11, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Deshay's request for review. (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).

Deshay filed this appeal on November 14, 2012. (Doc. 1) The Commissioner filed an Answer. (Doc. No. 10) Deshay filed a Brief in Support of her Complaint. (Doc. No. 20) The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer. (Doc. No. 25) Deshay filed a Reply Brief. (Doc. No. 26)

II. Decision of the ALJ

The ALJ determined that Deshay meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 1, 2008, the alleged onset date of disability. (Tr. 23) The ALJ found Deshay had the severe impairments of spinal stenosis with radiculopathy and fibromyalgia, 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. (Id.)

After considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Deshay had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform sedentary work as defined in the regulations, except that she is limited to only frequent reaching and fingering with the dominant upper extremity. (Tr. 24) The ALJ found Deshay unable to perform any past relevant work, but that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that she can perform. (Tr. 31) Thus, the ALJ concluded that a finding of "not disabled" was appropriate. (Tr. 32)

Deshay appeals, contending the RFC and the credibility findings are not supported by substantial evidence. She also contends the ALJ failed to give controlling weight to the opinions of the treating physicians. 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 March 8, 2011. The ALJ heard testimony from Deshay and Gary Weimholt, a vocational expert.

1. Deshay's testimony

Deshay was 48 years old at the time of the hearing and living with her husband. (Tr. 60) She is a high school graduate with one year of college. (Tr. 47-48) Deshay worked as a truck driver for Gate Gourmet, an airplane catering service, for over 21 years. (Tr. 50-52) She was also the elected mayor of Moline Acres, Missouri. (Tr. 48-49, 72) She was paid $600 a month. (Tr. 50) With respect to her mayoral duties, Deshay testified she did most of her work from home. There was one monthly meeting typically lasting two hours. She takes a couple of breaks and the mayor pro tem takes over for her while she goes out. (Tr. 49, 67-68)

In March 2008, while working for Gate Gourmet, Deshay injured her neck and right shoulder trying to pull open an aircraft door. (Tr 51-53) She had back and neck surgery on October 29, 2008 which helped with the immediate pain in her right shoulder and arm but didn't completely eliminate it. (Tr. 57) Her symptoms reoccurred, with pain radiating down her right arm. (Tr. 56, 61) She has had physical therapy and pain management treatment. (Tr. 56-57) In addition, her right vocal cord was paralyzed as a result of the surgery, causing her voice to be hoarse. (Tr. 57, 61) Deshay had ...


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