United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY, District Judge.
Marilyn Bodine has Parkinson's disease. She applied for benefits from the Social Security Administration. Although the Administrative Law Judge assigned to her case agreed that Bodine was disabled, he concluded that her onset date for benefits purposes was after her date last insured. Because this decision was not supported by substantial evidence, I will reverse the decision of the Commissioner and remand this case for further proceedings.
This is an action for judicial review of the Commissioner's decision denying Bodine's application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq., and application for supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 et seq. Section 205(g) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), provides for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner. Bodine filed her applications for benefits on February 10 and 17, 2009. She claims that she has been disabled from Parkinson's disease beginning October 1, 2006. Bodine's insured status under Title II of the Act expired on June 30, 2007. On July 2, 2012, following a hearing, the ALJ issued a decision partially favorable to Bodine. Although the ALJ concluded that Bodine was disabled beginning in February of 2011, he found that she was not disabled from October of 2006 through February of 2011. Because Bodine was determined not to be disabled before her date last insured, she was denied disability insurance benefits. The Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied her request for review on May 5, 2014. Therefore, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
Evidence Before the Administrative Law Judge
Application for Benefits
Bodine completed an Adult Disability Report in conjunction with her application for benefits. In it, she states that she can do "less and less." Bodine reports having difficulty taking care of herself. She states that her hands hurt, and she shakes all the time and moves very slowly. Bodine also claims that her medications cause fatigue, so she must rest frequently. (Tr. 222).
Bodine started having tremors in 2004 at age 56. On June 1, 2005, Bodine went to the emergency room at the Boone Hospital Center in Columbia, Missouri because her family said she had been "acting funny all day." She had slurred speech and an unsteady gait. Bodine reported that she had Parkinson's disease and was taking Sinemet and Primidone. David L. McLaren, M.D., examined Bodine and diagnosed a right-sided Bell's palsy. (Tr. 320). He told her it would resolve, and Bodine was discharged the same day. (Tr. 316-18). Bodine's Bell's palsy lasted one week. (Tr. 335).
On June 17, 2005, Bodine was evaluated by neurologist Irving Asher, M.D., for Parkinson's disease. Bodine reported a shaking of her left hand that began one year prior and was present at rest and with use. She stated that it interfered with her piano playing and with holding a paper. Dr. Asher reviewed Bodine's treatment to date. According to Bodine, she was treated with Mysoline, which helped her tremor, but made her "loopy." She was given Requip, which caused vomiting and headaches. Topomax caused her to lose a significant amount of weight, and Artane gave her dry mouth and "turned her teeth to chalk." Dr. Asher noted that a report of an MRI performed on December 22, 2004, showed mild periventricular white matter changes and probable inferior right prominent Virchow-Robin space versus less likely chronic lacunar infarct. Bodine listed her current medications as Primidone, Sinemet, Plavix, Atenolol, fish oil, Niacin, and vitamins. Physical examination revealed mild rigidity, with no drift and normal strength, symmetric reflexes, and downgoing toes. Sensory examination was intact to primary and cortical modalities. Dr. Asher observed a mild-to-moderate left arm resting tremor, increased with contralateral activity, and a gait with diminished arm swing on the left side. Her handwriting revealed no evidence of micrographia and a smooth Archimedes spiral. Dr. Asher's impression was that Bodine's exam was consistent with a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Dr. Asher decided to try a titration of Mirapex slowly, a continuation of Sinemet 25/100 mg three times daily at 8 a.m., 12 p.m., and 5 p.m., and a changing of her current dosage of 250 mg of Primidone twice daily to 250 mg in the morning followed by 125 mg in the afternoon and evening, with a possibility of tapering down the dosage. (Tr. 335-36).
Bodine saw Dr. Asher again on August 17, 2005. He reported that Bodine "experienced significant difficulty with tremor and it was unclear what part of this was essential tremor, though it seemed clear that she did indeed have Parkinson's disease." Bodine reported "a very significant improvement in her tremor" with the addition of Mirapex, so she elected on her own to taper herself off of the Primidone. Bodine stopped taking Primidone and stated that "her tremor has essentially disappeared." She reported being "thrilled with her response to the Mirapex." Bodine reported no significant side effects from Atenolol and Plavix. Physical examination revealed no rigidity, bradykinesia, or tremor. Her cranial nerves, strength, reflexes, and ambulation were normal. Dr. Asher found Bodine to be "cognitively quite intact." Dr. Asher continued Bodine's medications unchanged (Mirapex 1 mg three times daily, Atenolol 100 mg daily, Plavix 75 mg daily, and Sinemet 25/100 mg three times daily) and scheduled a follow-up visit in six months. (Tr. 334).
Bodine's next follow-up visit with Dr. Asher was on March 23, 2006. Dr. Asher noted that Bodine "continues to do well." He reported that she was awake, alert, and cognitively intact. Her cranial nerves, strength, and tone were normal, and she had symmetric reflexes. No tremor was evident, posturally or with intention. Dr. Asher continued her medication unchanged. (Tr. 333).
Bodine was evaluated by Dr. Asher on April 3, 2007. Dr. Asher noted that "[s]he does not complain of any particular difficulty with her Parkinson's. She has been under some significant stress related to minor turmoils related to the neighbors and various other issues, but no major illnesses on her part or immediate family." Bodine also told Dr. Asher that she was not noticing any significant wearing off of her medication and that she was sleeping okay. Upon examination, Bodine was noted to be awake, alert, and cognitively intact. Her cranial nerve exam was normal and she had normal tone and strength. Her reflexes were symmetric, and there was no tremor or bradykinesia. Bodine's gait was fluid. Dr. Asher continued her medications unchanged (including 25/100 mg Sinemet at 8 a.m., 12 p.m., and 5 p.m. and Mirapex 1 mg at 6 a.m., 2 p.m., and 10 p.m.) and told Bodine to return in six months for a follow-up visit. (Tr. 332).
Bodine returned for her follow-up visit on April 24, 2008. She reported doing well, with a little bit of tremor in the morning. Physical examination revealed mild rigidity in the left arm, but no bradykinesia or observable tremor at that time. Otherwise, Bodine was awake, alert, and cognitively bright, with intact postural reflexes and normal strength and gait. Dr. Asher decided to continue her medications unchanged, and recommended a follow-up visit in four months. (Tr. 331).
Bodine saw Dr. Asher again on February 27, 2009. At that time, Bodine reported mild wearing off of her medication. Physical examination revealed mild rigidity in her right upper extremity, but no significant bradykinesia or tremor. She was able to ambulate easily, had normal cranial nerves, and was cognitively intact. Dr. Asher changed the dosage of her Sinemet to four times daily and continued her current dosage of Mirapex. He recommended a follow-up appointment in three to four months. (Tr. 343).
Bodine returned for a follow-up visit with Dr. Asher on January 4, 2010. At that time, she reported that changing her dosage of Sinemet had been "of great benefit." Dr. Asher noticed that Bodine was showing some mild rigidity and bradykinesia of her upper extremities and mild bradykinesia in her left lower extremity and noted that she "continues to have wearing off and her symptomology seems to have increased perhaps just a bit." Dr. Asher observed no tremor or dyskinesia, and her cranial nerves were normal. Bodine reported that it took about an hour for her first dose of medication to "kick in" and it wore off about 15-30 minutes before her next dose, which then took about 30 minutes to work. Otherwise, Bodine reported no cognitive or sleeping difficulties. Dr. Asher recommended treatment with COMT inhibition and switching her from Sinemet to Stalevo 100 mg four times daily, with continuation on the Mirapex. (Tr. 383).
Bodine went back to Dr. Asher on June 15, 2010. Bodine complained of dysuria while on Stalevo, so he switched her back to Sinemet. Dr. Asher noted that "generally she does okay, perhaps some wearing of[f], but does not sound like she is necessarily regular in taking her medicine. I have given her a schedule today and I have asked her to take the Sinemet 25/100 at 6, 10, 2, and 6, and her Mirapex 1 mg at 6, 2, and 10." Bodine denied any excessive sleepiness, impulse control difficulties, confusion, or hallucinations. Physical examination showed Bodine to be awake and cognitively bright. Her cranial nerves were normal, but she had mild rigidity and bradykinesia of her left arm. No tremor was ...