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Brown v. Colvin

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

July 9, 2015



RONNIE L. WHITE, District Judge.

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Latasha Brown's ("Brown") application for disability insurance benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act.

I. Background

The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Brown's application for benefits (Tr. 111-22) and she filed a timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). The SSA granted Brown's request and a hearing was held on October 1, 2012. The ALJ issued a written decision on January 17, 2013, upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 10-21.) Brown filed a timely Request for Review of Hearing Decision with the (Tr. 6). The Appeals Council denied Brown's Request for Review. (Tr. 1-3). The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000). Brown filed this appeal on March 28, 2014. (ECF No. 1). Brown filed a Brief in Support of her Complaint. (ECF No. 18). The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer. (ECF No. 25). Brown has not filed a reply brief but the time for filing such a brief has run. (ECF No. 5).

II. Decision of the ALJ

The ALJ found that Brown had a recurrent major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder controlled by medication, possible asthma, and a history of polysubstance dependence, but no impairment or combination of listed in or medically equal to one contained in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4. (Tr. 18-19). The ALJ determined that Brown's allegations of impairments, either singly or in combination, producing symptoms and limitations of sufficient severity to prevent the performance of any sustained work activity was not credible. (Tr. 19). The ALJ found that Brown had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform physical exertional and nonexertional requirements of work except probably for lifting or carrying more than 10 pounds frequently or more than 20 pounds occasionally; having concentrated or excessive exposure to dust fumes, chemicals, temperature extremes, high humidity or dampness, and other typical allergens, pollutants, and atmospheric irritants; doing more than simple, routine, repetitive, unskilled tasks; or having more than occasional interaction with co-workers, supervisors, or the general public. (Tr. 19). The ALJ found that Brown had no past relevant work. (Tr. 19). The ALJ acknowledged that although Brown's limitations do not allow the performance of the full range of light work, there exist a significant number of jobs in the local and national economies which the claimant could perform, including as a housekeeper and handpackager. (Tr. 19). Consequently, the ALJ found that Brown was not disabled. (Tr. 19).

Ill Administrative Record

The following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ.

A. Hearing Testimony

1. Brown's Testimony

Dr. David Biscardi, a licensed psychologist, testified on October 1, 2012, as follows:

Dr. Biscardi reviewed Brown's medical file but never personally examined Brown. (Tr. 30). Dr. Biscardi opined that Brown suffers from either major depressive disorder recurrent or bipolar affective disorder, depressed. (Tr. 31). Dr. Biscardi also indicated that Brown has a history of cocaine abuse and history of heroin use. (Tr. 31). Dr. Biscardi stated that he does not believe that any of these impairments meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment. (Tr. 31-32). Dr. Biscardi admitted that there was evidence in the record of self-harm and that Brown was abused as a child. (Tr. 32). Dr. Biscardi did not believe that Brown attempted suicide and noted that in 2008 Brown was diagnosed as malingering. (Tr. 32). Dr. Biscardi indicated that Brown's mental state did not have much effect on her functioning. (Tr. 32). Dr. Biscardi discounted Brown's self-reported statement in the medical records that she attempted to harm herself at least five times, had mood swings, and had a global assessment functioning (GAF) of 25. (Tr. 32-33). Dr. Biscardi noted that Brown also received a GAF of 45 by the same tn;:atment source. (Tr. 33).

Brown testified on October 1, 2012, as follows:

Brown lives with her sister in her sister's second floor apartment. (Tr. 34-35). There are approximately 12-14 steps to get to the apartment. (Tr. 36). Brown is 5'4" and weighs 155 pounds. (Tr. 35). Brown is single and has eight children-the oldest is nineteen and the youngest is 3 months. (Tr. 35). Brown only lives with the baby. (Tr. 35). She took the bus to today's hearing. (Tr. 36). She receives food stamps but is not on any aid for rent or utilities. (Tr. 36). She has been on Medicaid-Missouri Health Net-since 2004. (Tr. 36). She collected unemployment benefits in 1999. (Tr. 36). The farthest she got in school was the tenth grade. (Tr. 36). She left school because she had a baby and due to problems between her mom and the baby's father. (Tr. 36-37). She was too scared to take the GED. (Tr. 37). She has not received any vocational training. (Tr. 37). She does not have a driver's license. (Tr. 37). She can read and write. (Tr. 37). She last worked for four months in 2008 at Proctor and Gamble in warehousing. (Tr. 37-38). The most she lifted there was 20 pounds. Prior to that, she worked for six months as a cashier and food trainer at McDonald's. (Tr. 38). The most she lifted there was 10 pounds. She stopped working because she started hearing voices and was going back and forth to the hospital due to suicide attempts. (Tr. 38). She heard male and female voices telling her to harm herself. (Tr. 39). She has been hearing the voices for years and prior to her working at McDonald's. (Tr. 39). She tried to harm herself by taking pills prescribed to her as a muscle relaxant. (Tr. 39-40). Since 2008, she has tried to work. She worked at Sims Service at a warehouse for a couple of weeks. (Tr. 40). She stopped working because she heard voices and because she was pregnant. (Tr. 40). She applied for a job at Kohl's a year ago, but she didn't get the job. (Tr. 40-41). She has experience as a warehouse worker in 2007 and 2008, as a cleaning person in 2006 and 2007, as a prep cook in 2006, as a cashier in 2005 and 2006,, and as a babysitter. (Tr. 41-42). Her alleged onset of disability occurred on December 31, 2006, when she was going to slit her wrists but instead the voices told her to set her child's father on fire. (Tr. 42).

Brown wakes up around 6:00 or 6:30 a.m. (Tr. 43). Mondays and Fridays she goes to drug and alcohol treatment. (Tr. 43). Tuesdays she goes to Thrive where she prays and has Bible study classes. (Tr. 43). At her apartment, she cleans, watches TV, cooks, does laundry, washes dishes, vacuums, mops and sweeps. (Tr. 43-44). Her sister makes the bed, changes the sheets, and does the grocery shopping. Brown does not go grocery shopping because she gets nervous and hears things when she is in a crowd. (Tr. 44). She has three friends, but hasn't talked to them in over a year. (Tr. 44). She gets along with her sister. (Tr. 44). She does not see her other children, who are either in custody or have been adopted. (Tr. 44-45). Her nineteen year old stays with his paternal grandmother. (Tr. 45-46). She doesn't talk to her neighbors. (Tr. 45). She has been in narcotics anonymous since March. (Tr. 45). She watches a lot of TV, she reads but has trouble with her concentration. (Tr. 45). She doesn't go out in the evening or on weekends. (Tr. 45-46). Her father is dead and she doesn't get along with her mom. (Tr. 46). She has no hobbies. (Tr. 46). She doesn't have problems taking a shower or bath. (Tr. 46). She doesn't smoke or drink. (Tr. 46). She hasn't used drugs for five months. (Tr. 46). She had been taking half a gram to a gram of heroin a day, which she got from her children's father. (Tr. 47). She is on Risperdal for sleep and to stop the voices, Wellbutrin to control her mood swings, ProAir and Symbicort for her asthma, and Acyclovir for genital herpes. (Tr. 47-48). Perfume and ammonia and bleach can affect her asthma. (Tr. 49).

Brown states that she is bipolar. (Tr. 49). She experiences mood swings, crying spells. (Tr. 49). The Risperdal calms her down. (Tr. 49-50). She was in a mental hospital for one day when she tried to commit suicide by taking a bunch of pills. (Tr. 50). She has tried to harm herself several times. (Tr. 50). The last time was when she was pregnant with her baby. (Tr. 50). She has been seeking psychological care at Hope Well since 2004. (Tr. 51). She has difficulty with her concentration. (Tr. 51). For example, it would take her a day to read a 200 page book. (Tr. 51). She has no problems sitting, standing or walking. (Tr. 51-52). She can lift about 20 to 30 pounds. (Tr. 52). She does not have problems bending, stooping, crouching, kneeling, and crawling. (Tr. 52). She can climb steps. (Tr. 52). She did not attend the consultative examination requested by the Social Security Administration because she didn't know anything about it. (Tr. 52).

Prior to living with her sister, Brown was in treatment at Queen of Peace from the end of February until last week. (Tr. 52). She went to treatment as a requirement of her probation. (Tr. 53). She had a relapse in May but has been clean otherwise. (Tr. 53). She provides urine samples to her probation officer, and all of her samples have been clean. (Tr. 53). She ended up living at her sister's house after there was some "foul up" in her transitional housing after her treatment at Queen of Peace. For a while, she was at the "pregnant house" at St. Philippine, where they helped her with housing, job leads, and schooling. (Tr. 54).

Brown was molested as a young girl by her uncle and her aunt's husband. (Tr. 54). This abuse was not reported to the police. (Tr. 55). Her aunt did not believe her. (Tr. 55). This abuse affects her because she always feels like people are trying to hurt her. (Tr. 55). She feels like she failed her children as a mother and it makes her want to commit suicide. (Tr. 55). She last tried to harm herself when she was pregnant with her youngest child. (Tr. 55). She has mood swings every day associated with being bipolar. (Tr. 55). She can only take her medicine once a day so she often holes herself in her room when she has the mood swings. (Tr. 56). She only hears voices about once a week now that she is on medication. (Tr. 56).

Brown is currently on probation. (Tr. 56). She pleaded guilty in August 2011 to forgery. (Tr. 57). She has only ...

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