United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Paul Busby brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying his application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., and application for supplemental security income (SSI) 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 final decision is not supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, it is reversed.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On April 20, 2011, the Social Security Administration denied plaintiff's February 10, 2011, applications for DIB and SSI, in which he claimed he became disabled on May 1, 2006, because of stents in his heart; hypertension; recurrent chest pain; back, shoulder, knee, and foot pain; depression; and diabetes. (Tr. 94-95, 140-47, 200-13, 259.) Plaintiff subsequently amended his alleged onset date to September 11, 2009. (Tr. 225.) At plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on July 13, 2012, at which plaintiff and a vocational expert testified. (Tr. 25-71.) On December 28, 2012, 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. 5-19.) On December 20, 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 this action for judicial review, plaintiff claims that the final decision is not supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, arguing that the ALJ erred in determining his residual functional capacity (RFC) by failing to provide a rationale that is supported by some medical evidence; by improperly relying on plaintiff's daily activities and opinions of non-examining physicians; and by failing to consider medical evidence that demonstrated plaintiff's heart condition to be disabling. Plaintiff also claims that the ALJ posed an inadequate hypothetical to the vocational expert given the inadequate nature of the RFC assessment. For the reasons that follow, the matter will be remanded for further consideration.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
At the time of the hearing before the ALJ, plaintiff was fifty-two years of age. Plaintiff stands five feet, nine inches tall and weighs 207 pounds. (Tr. 29-30.) Plaintiff lives with his daughter, having moved in with her four months prior to the hearing. (Tr. 50, 54.) Plaintiff left school in the eighth or ninth grade. He attempted to earn his GED but failed numerous times. He learned automotive repair from his father and uncle. (Tr. 29-31.) Plaintiff testified that he can read but does not understand what he reads. (Tr. 31-32.)
Plaintiff worked as an auto mechanic at car dealerships and at an automotive center from June 1984 to May 2006. (Tr. 272.) Plaintiff testified that he cannot work because he has back problems caused by bad discs. Plaintiff testified that his doctor has recommended surgery, but he is reluctant because of his diabetes condition. (Tr. 35-36.) Plaintiff testified that he cannot lift more than thirty or thirty-five pounds. He cannot bend over longer than ten to fifteen minutes. (Tr. 37, 63.) Plaintiff is limited to walking a block or two because of pain and then must sit for fifteen or twenty minutes. (Tr. 37.) He can sit up to half an hour at a time. (Tr. 63.) Plaintiff testified that he is limited by his back pain to standing for about five to ten minutes. He has taken Vicodin and Norco for his back pain for six or seven years. Plaintiff testified that the medication makes him tired and that he has irregular sleep patterns. (Tr. 38-39, 61-62.)
Plaintiff testified that he also experiences swelling in his knees once or twice a month so significant that he must wear shorts because his pants legs will not fit over the swelling. Plaintiff testified that swelling occurs if he stands or walks too much and that he sometimes experiences discoloration in his legs. Plaintiff testified that his doctors do not know what causes the problems, but they give him medication that decreases the swelling. Surgery has been recommended. Plaintiff testified that he sometimes needs help getting up from a seated position because of pain in his back and legs. (Tr. 35-36, 39, 53-54.)
Plaintiff also testified that he sustained a concussion when he fell off of a two-story roof as a child and was unconscious for a period of weeks. Plaintiff testified that his aunt told him that the fall "affected [him] a lot, " and his school performance and ability to pay attention declined after the fall. Plaintiff quit school so that he could work. Plaintiff testified that he never underwent an educational evaluation. (Tr. 36, 41-42.) Plaintiff testified that his memory continues to be affected because of the fall. (Tr. 43.)
Plaintiff testified that he also has uncontrolled diabetes that makes him sweat, feel "weird, " and feel about to pass out. (Tr. 36, 43-44.) Plaintiff takes medication for the condition. (Tr. 47.)
Plaintiff testified that he also has heart problems and experiences numbness in his hands and feet three or four times a week. Plaintiff testified that the numbness lasts for about twenty to thirty minutes during which time he cannot move his hands and is unable to grip or grasp things. Plaintiff testified that he becomes afraid during such episodes because he thinks he is having a heart attack, which then elevates his blood pressure. Plaintiff testified that he calls his daughter who then comes to check on him. (Tr. 36, 44-46.) Plaintiff testified that his heart condition also causes him to be tired and short of breath. He has had two stents placed in his heart. (Tr. 47.) Plaintiff currently experiences chest pains two or three times a week that last fifteen minutes or longer, but they go away. Plaintiff testified that he is unable to do anything when he is having chest pain. He takes additional aspirin during these episodes. (Tr. 49.)
Plaintiff testified that he also has problems with his nerves, gets angry easily, and sometimes has suicidal tendencies. (Tr. 36.) Plaintiff has crying spells two or three times a week. Plaintiff testified that he is constantly nervous and snaps for no reason. Plaintiff testified that he becomes agitated and yells during periods when he forgets to take his medication. Plaintiff's children manage his medication for him because of his forgetfulness. Plaintiff testified that no one can calm him down when he has anger outbursts. (Tr. 50-51.) Plaintiff testified that he does not have good people skills and had difficulty on the job with management because he does not take orders well. (Tr. 33.)
Plaintiff testified that he joined Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in November 2011 because a woman he was dating thought he had a drinking problem. Plaintiff attends AA meetings every other Wednesday. (Tr. 55-56.) Plaintiff testified that he went to the hospital in April 2011 because he was tired of living and thought he would be better off dead, but his girlfriend at the time told hospital personnel that he drank twenty-four to thirty beers. Plaintiff testified that the girlfriend was a liar. (Tr. 60-61.) Plaintiff testified that he has not ...