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Shoemate v. Colvin

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

February 2, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


DAVID D. NOCE, Magistrate Judge.

This action is before the court for judicial review of the final decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security denying the application of plaintiff Cynthia L. Shoemate for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq., and supplemental security income under Title XVI of that Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381, et seq. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is affirmed.


Plaintiff was born on December 11, 1961. (Tr. 35.) She filed her Title II application on October 4, 2011, alleging an onset date of June 6, 2011, and alleging disability due to back pain and depression. (Tr. 78, 134-35, 157.) She protectively filed her Title XVI application on October 10, 2011. (Tr. 80, 136-41.) Her applications were denied initially, and she requested a hearing before an ALJ. (Tr. 78, 80.)

On March 25, 2013, following a hearing, the ALJ denied her applications. unfavorable decision. (Tr. 11-23.) The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-6.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.


Plaintiff was voluntarily admitted to Mid Missouri Mental Health Center for depression from August 19-22, 2005. (Tr. 403.) From January 22, 2007 to November 17, 2009, she was treated for outpatient medication management at the University of Missouri Health System's Psychiatry Clinic. (Tr. 502-17.) By November 17, 2009 she was doing well in terms of her mood and she denied any symptoms of depression. (Tr. 502.)

On April 23, 2010, an x-ray of plaintiff's lumbar spine showed mild degenerative changes in her lumbar spine with disc space narrowing and facet arthrosis or degenerative joint disease. (Tr. 239.)

On July 15, 2010, plaintiff saw family practitioner Andrea Eden, M.D. She increased plaintiff's gabapentin, an anticonvulsant and analgesic, for paresthesia or numbness or tingling in her left leg. (Tr. 313-15.)

On July 16, 2010, plaintiff underwent an MRI of her lumbar spine which showed mild lumbar spondylosis or degenerative osteoarthritis. (Tr. 230-31.)

On July 27, 2010, plaintiff saw orthopedist John D. Miles, M.D., for lower back pain that radiated down her right hip and lower extremity to her mid-calf, and that was more pronounced on the left side. Dr. Miles noted that plaintiff had developed a little instability in her lower spine with some facet arthropathy or arthritis, particularly on the left side with some resultant low back, left buttock, and leg pain. Her symptoms were of short duration, about seven or eight months. She received an epidural steroid injection and was instructed to return as needed. Dr. Miles strongly encouraged core strengthening exercises, weight loss, and aerobic conditioning. (Tr. 232-33.)

On September 27, 2010, plaintiff saw Steven Street, D.O., at the Boone Hospital Center Pain Management Clinic for a new patient evaluation. His impression was lumbar facet joint pain and left sacroiliac joint dysfunction and she was given steroid injections. (Tr. 271-72.) Plaintiff underwent another steroid injection on the left sacroiliac joint performed by Dr. Street on October 7, 2010 and was instructed to return as needed. (Tr. 267.)

On November 1, 2010, plaintiff underwent a radiofrequency ablation, a procedure used to reduce pain in which an electrical current is used to heat up a small area of nerve tissue, thereby decreasing pain signals from that specific area. (Tr. 262.)

Plaintiff was given additional steroid injections by Bradford Ross Noble, D.O., at Boone Hospital on December 20, 2010, March 21, 2011, and May 11, 2011. (Tr. 247, 252, 257.)

On January 19, 2012, plaintiff saw Randy Foster, D.O., for a physical examination for Disability Determination. Dr. Foster stated because plaintiff had subjected herself to an epidural steroid injection, he believed that she had some lower back pain. He further stated "however, she is clearly dramatizing this to a greater or lesser degree." (Tr. 375.) Dr. Foster opined that plaintiff's rehabilitative potential was good, and therefore any disability would be minimal to none. In response to the State's specific questions regarding function, Dr. Foster saw no impairment in sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying or handling objects, hearing, speaking, or traveling. (Id.)

On January 25, 2012, plaintiff saw licensed psychologist Ruthie Moccia, Ed.S., for a psychological consultation for Disability Determinations. Ms. Moccia described plaintiff, among other things, as well oriented with intact memory and concentration abilities. Her impression included chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), moderate major depressive disorder, and a history of sibling sexual abuse. She assigned a Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score of 60, indicating moderate symptoms. (Tr. 382-84.)

On January 31, 2012, medical consultant Michael Stacy, Ph.D., completed a mental RFC assessment. Dr. Stacy opined that plaintiff was moderately limited in 5 of 20 areas of functioning and had no limitations in 15 of 20 areas of functioning. Specifically, Dr. Stacy opined that plaintiff retained the ability to understand, remember, and carry out simple to moderately complex instructions; maintain attendance and sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision; interact adequately with peers and supervisors; and adapt to changes in a work setting. (Tr. 400-02.)

On February 14, 2012, plaintiff saw licensed psychologist Mark W. Schmitz, M.S., for a psychological examination at the request of the Family Support Division of the Department of Social Services. Mr. Schmitz believed that plaintiff was suffering from a major depressive disorder, characterized by sad mood, frequent tearfulness, feelings of worthlessness, sleep and appetite disturbance, irritability, and concentration difficulties, and that she appeared to qualify for a diagnosis of social phobia. Mr. Schmitz believed that plaintiff had a mental disability that would significantly interfere with her ability to successfully maintain employment. He opined that plaintiff's poor ...

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