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Moore v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

October 24, 2014

ANGELA R. MOORE, Plaintiff,


NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, District Judge.

The Commissioner of Social Security's decision regarding Plaintiff Angela Moore's appeal of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for disability insurance benefits is affirmed.

I. Background

A. Moore's Medical History

Moore's attempt to procure Social Security benefits has been ongoing since 2009. Tr. at 106. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) first heard Moore's case in 2010. Id. Moore's request was subsequently denied. Thereafter, an Administrative Appeals Judge reviewed the denial and remanded Moore's case for further development of the record regarding medical evidence of the extent of Moore's impairments, Moore's subjective complaints and mental impairments, and Moore's maximum residual functional capacity (RFC). Tr. at 120-123. This case comes to the Court on appeal from the ALJ's second determination that Moore is not entitled to disability benefits.

Moore argues that since September 1, 2008, she has been unable to work due to her alleged impairments. Tr. at 17. She exhibits persistent pain in her hip, lower back, upper back, and neck, and suffers from a number of mental health problems.

In 2006, Moore fell from a height of nearly twelve feet. Tr. at 85. The fall resulted in hip, neck, arm, and back pain for which she has since received consistent chiropractic and medical treatment. Tr. at 522-525, 509-512. As a result of her fall, Moore now needs hip replacement surgery. Tr. at 591.

In September 2008, Moore began seeking treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems. Tr. at 390. From 2008-2010, Moore received treatment from Grant Piepergerdes, M.D. Dr. Piepergerdes saw Moore nineteen times over the course of three years. Tr. at 558. At his first appointment with Moore, Dr. Piepergerdes began treating her for depressive and anxiety symptoms, noting that a primary goal of treatment was to stop Moore's substance abuse and increase her insight and coping abilities. Tr. at 398. From September 2008 through January 2009, Moore continued to suffer from diagnosed bipolar disorder, substance abuse, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. Tr. at 423, 426-428, 431.

In January 2009, Moore began to see a licensed counselor for anger and substance abuse management. Tr. at 472. Throughout her counseling visits in 2009, Moore reported a series of "stressors" in her life, ranging from her mother taking out a credit card in Moore's name, to her car being repossessed, to her friend dying. Tr. at 467-468, 489. During this time Moore also received continuing treatment from Dr. Piepergerdes.[1] Tr. at 400, 403, 478, 486, 489, 494. Moore reported being sober for various spans of time throughout 2009, but continually relapsed to using marijuana and methamphetamine. Tr. at 403, 412, 466-467.

Dr. Piepergerdes' evaluations of Moore throughout 2008 and 2009 noted the murkiness of her diagnosis, given her ongoing substance abuse. Tr. at 20. In the doctor's first evaluation, he noted Moore's good grooming and hygiene, cooperative and polite demeanor, fair eye contact, and normal speech patterns. Tr. at 19. He conveyed to her the importance of getting sober. Id. The doctor's assessments remained relatively similar throughout 2008 and 2009, with an eventual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and continual recommendations to Moore to "get clean." Id. At a few of her visits with Dr. Piepergerdes, Moore noted that she had been sober for some period of time. For example, in January 2009, Moore noted that she had been sober for about a month and that her symptoms had improved. Tr. at 20-21. By February, Moore had relapsed and her symptoms had worsened. Id. Dr. Piepergerdes' notes suggest that this pattern continued throughout March, April, May, and June 2009, with the effectiveness of Moore's treatment plan correlating with Moore's sobriety. Id. Throughout the remainder of 2009 and 2010, Dr. Piepergerdes noted that Moore continued to struggle with substance abuse. Tr. at 22-23.

In June 2009, Glen D. Frisch, M.D., completed a Psychiatric Review Technique and Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment of Moore. He concluded that Moore met the qualifications of Listing 12.04(A)-(B), but that absent substance abuse she would be capable of simple work, be able to maintain adequate attendance, sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision, interact adequately with peers and supervisors, and adapt to minor changes in a work setting.

In June 2010, Dr. Piepergerdes concluded that Moore's diagnosis prevented her from working full time. Tr. at 552. He also stated that Moore would not be able to work even if she did not have substance abuse problems and had a long period of sobriety. Id. Dr. Piepergerdes referenced listing 12.04(A) and concluded that Moore suffers from medically documented persistence of depressive syndrome, pressure of speech, flight of ideas, and inflated self-esteem, is easily distractible, and has bipolar disorder. Tr. at 554-555. He also concluded that she is extremely limited in her ability to attend work and maintain employment, interact with others, and carry out basic job functions. Tr. at 557-559.

Dr. Piepergerdes' last documented visit with Moore in the record is from 2010. Since Moore's 2010 hearing with the ALJ, parties and the ALJ have been working to flesh out the record in this case, and Moore has seen and had her file reviewed by additional doctors. Notably, Moore changed treating psychiatrists in October 2010 and now sees David Vlach, M.D. Since 2010, Moore has struggled to remain sober and has continued receiving treatment for substance abuse and bipolar disorder. Moore states that she has now ...

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