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Hampton v. Colvin

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

September 30, 2014

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 Sally Ann Hampton ("Hampton") application for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq.

I. Background

On January 6, 2010, [1] Hampton filed an application for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Hampton's claim initially on September 21, 2010. (Tr. 91) She filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on October 14, 2010. (Tr. 99-100) Following a hearing on August 31, 2011 (Tr. 32-79), the ALJ issued a written decision on November 25, 2011, upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 16-31) Hampton requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 7-8) On March 16, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Hampton's request for review. (Tr. 1-5) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel , 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).

Hampton filed this appeal on May 13, 2013. (Doc. No. 1) The Commissioner filed an Answer. (Doc. No. 9) Hampton filed a brief in support of her complaint (Doc. No. 13) and the Commissioner filed a brief in support of the answer. (Doc. No. 20) Hampton did not file a reply.

II. Decision of the ALJ

The ALJ determined that Hampton had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of February 1, 2008 through her date last insured of December 31, 2010. (Tr. 21) The ALJ found Hampton had the following severe impairments: residuals of a cervical fusion and degenerative disc disease, 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. 21-22) The ALJ found Hampton's medically determinable impairments of carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease of the knees, obstructive sleep apnea, fatty infiltration of the liver, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, trigeminal neuralgia and iron deficiency anemia, had no more than a minimal effect on her ability to perform basic work activities and were thus nonsevere.[2] (Tr. 21-22)

After considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Hampton had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b).[3] (Tr. 22) The ALJ found Hampton was capable of performing past relevant work as a chef and caterer and that this work did not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by her RFC. (Tr. 26) Thus, the ALJ concluded that Hampton was not under a disability at any time from February 1, 2008, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2010, the date last insured. (Tr. 27)

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 August 31, 2011. Hampton testified and was represented by counsel. (Tr. 34) Vocational expert Reva Payne also testified at the hearing. (Tr. 72-76)

1. Hampton's testimony

At the time of the hearing, Hampton was 47 years old. (Tr. 39) She lives with her husband and two children, ages five and twelve, both of whom have special needs. (Tr. 67-70) She has a GED and graduated from culinary school with a pastry degree and a culinary degree. (Tr. 40, 42) Over the past fifteen years, Hampton has worked as a sous chef, caterer and line cook. (Tr. 43-52)

Hampton testified that she can no longer work due to pain. (Tr. 52) She stated that every morning her pain starts in the top of her head and goes down to her upper jaw. (Id.) The pain also radiates down her left arm and into her elbows. She has to elevate her left arm at night and sleep with a special neck pillow. (Tr. 53) Hampton also testified she has pain in her left leg, that it will drag if she does not keep moving, and that she cannot sit for extended periods of time or walk fast. (Tr. 54, 64) She also has pain in her knees, and her right knee needs to be replaced. (Tr. 54, 59) She sees a neurologist and a pain specialist. (Tr. 54) Hampton has also had some physical therapy. (Tr. 54-56)

Hampton had neck surgery in 2010 but doesn't think it helped her. (Tr. 61-62) She had a virus that resulted in some paralysis on her left side body for three days. (Tr. 62-63) She can move her left side now, but according to Hampton, she still has problems. (Tr. 63) She has numbness in her hands and cannot lift more than five pounds. (Tr. 65) She has trouble concentrating and has had some short-term memory loss. (Tr. 65-66) She has no trouble dealing with people. (Tr. 66)

On a typical day, Hampton rests and reads. (Tr. 66) She characterizes herself as a "slow reader." (Id.) She plays with her children and calls her parents. (Id.) Her husband does all of the housework and the shopping. (Tr. 70) She doesn't have any hobbies at this time. (Tr. 71)

2. Testimony of vocational expert

With respect to Hampton's vocational history, vocational expert Reva Payne testified that Hampton had past relevant work as a chef, Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) 313.131-014, specific vocational preparation (SVP) of 7, typically performed at light or medium duty; sous chef, DOT 313.131-026, SVP of 8, typically performed at medium duty; caterer, DOT 187.167-106, SVP of 7, typically performed at light to ...

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