United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH, Magistrate Judge.
This is an action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Teresa Baskett's application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., and application for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. All matters are pending before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Because the Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, it is affirmed.
I. Procedural History
On March 6, 2013, the Social Security Administration denied plaintiff Teresa Baskett's November 5, 2012, applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI), in which she claimed she became disabled on August 15, 2011, because of back, shoulder, and knee pain; hand and wrist pain; seizures; and an eye condition. (Tr. 96-97, 100-04, 153-66, 189.) At plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on April 29, 2013, at which plaintiff and a vocational expert testified. (Tr. 23-65.) On July 22, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiff's claims for benefits, finding plaintiff able to perform work as it exists in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 5-18.) On September 25, 2013, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-3.) The ALJ's determination thus stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
In the instant action for judicial review, plaintiff claims that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, arguing that his determination of plaintiff's mental residual functional capacity (RFC) is not supported by some medical evidence and indeed is contrary to substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Plaintiff also claims that the ALJ posed an inadequate hypothetical to the vocational expert given the inadequate nature of the RFC determination. For the reasons that follow, the ALJ did not err in his determination.
II. Relevant Testimonial Evidence Before the ALJ
A. Plaintiff's Testimony
At the hearing on April 29, 2013, plaintiff testified in response to questions posed by the ALJ and counsel.
At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was fifty years of age. (Tr. 26.) Plaintiff earned her GED and has an associate's degree in combination welding. (Tr. 27.)
Plaintiff's Work History Report shows that plaintiff worked as a truck driver and laborer for Meyer Pallet and Container from October 1992 to May 2005. From August 2000 to December 2006, plaintiff worked at various companies as a welder and/or fitter. From January 2007 to May 2009, plaintiff worked as a welder/fitter at J.B. Marine Service. (Tr. 244-45.) Plaintiff testified that she was laid off from this job because of the poor economy. (Tr. 30.) Plaintiff then worked as a seasonal driver and deliverer for United Parcel Service (UPS) in December 2010. From August 8 to 11, 2011, plaintiff worked as a loader and package handler for UPS. (Tr. 244.)
Plaintiff testified that she was currently unable to work because of her back, shoulders, neck, and being "in a world of confusion." Plaintiff testified that she is able to concentrate when she is dealing with a person one-on-one, but is "at a loss" when "out in the real world." (Tr. 30-31.)
Plaintiff testified to a history of head injuries, with her most recent injury occurring in October 2012 when she twice fell off of a bike and hit the back of her head while not wearing a helmet. Plaintiff testified that she did not lose consciousness but was nauseous and had migraine headaches for three or four days. Plaintiff testified that she did not seek medical assistance because of being taught not to go an emergency room without insurance or money unless you are bleeding or dying. (Tr. 31.) Plaintiff testified that she also sustained a head injury the day before she started working at UPS in 2011. Plaintiff testified that she had difficulty concentrating during her training at UPS, that she made errors in her employment packet, and that her trainer commented that she looked confused during training. Plaintiff testified that she had an MRI and was cleared to return to work. (Tr. 32-33.) Plaintiff resigned from UPS for "personal reasons" after having become disoriented while driving to work and losing consciousness in a parking lot. (Tr. 34.) Plaintiff testified that she also sustained a head injury because of a fall in 2008 while at work. Plaintiff testified that she was wearing a hard hat at the time but experienced redness and swelling for four or five days. Plaintiff testified that she did not seek medical assistance because the emergency room told her that she was "probably fine" as long as she did not lose consciousness. (Tr. 32.) Plaintiff testified that she also sustained head injuries as a result of physical abuse from which she lost consciousness. (Tr. 35.)
Plaintiff testified that increased stress and depression causes her to have migraine headaches, and that such episodes currently occur three or four times a year. Plaintiff testified that she used to experience such episodes once or twice a month during which time she would vomit throughout the day and recover the following day. Plaintiff testified that the episodes were mentally and physically draining and that she would lie still during them. (Tr. 36.)
Plaintiff testified that she is angry and depressed and feels overwhelmed and hopeless. Plaintiff is unable to sleep because of her depression. (Tr. 38, 40.) Plaintiff testified that she also procrastinates and has memory lapses when performing tasks. Plaintiff testified that simple household tasks, such as doing laundry or taking a shower, is like work. Plaintiff no longer showers or changes her clothes on a daily basis. (Tr. 38-39.) Plaintiff testified that she does not want to talk to anyone - even on the telephone. She does not want to be outside and will wait until dark to leave the house. (Tr. 48.) Plaintiff testified that she recently visited a counselor and was on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist. (Tr. 37.) Plaintiff currently takes Zoloft for her condition. (Tr. 40.)
Plaintiff testified that she last drank alcohol in 2002 and last used illegal substances in 1997. (Tr. 48.) Plaintiff testified that laboratory tests in November 2012 showed the presence of methamphetamine because she had taken pseudoephedrine for a sinus infection and also lived near a place where methamphetamine is cooked and she may have "breathed [it] in." Plaintiff also testified that the tests showed the presence of opiates or morphine because she had taken medication for her back that had been given to her by a friend. Plaintiff testified that she also takes a friend's medication to control her blood pressure and to keep her "head shut up." Plaintiff uses such non-prescribed medication on occasion if someone gives it to her. (Tr. 49-50.)
As to her daily activities, plaintiff testified that she sits on the couch and writes. Plaintiff vacuums once or twice a month and keeps up with the laundry so that it does not pile up and become overwhelming. Plaintiff goes grocery shopping and tries to get "it all done" at one time so that she does not have to leave the house more often. Plaintiff does not lie down during the day ...