United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision
denying Jacqueline Fern Lipp's ("Lipp")
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401,
31, 2012, Lipp filed an application for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401, et seq., alleging disability
beginning October 1, 1998 (Tr. 125-131). The Social Security
Administration ("SSA") denied Lipp's claims on
August 17, 2012 (Tr. 56-61). Lipp made a timely request for a
hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ")
(Tr. 62-65). After a hearing held on January 29, 2014 (Tr.
47-51) and continued to May 15, 2014 (Tr. 20-46), the ALJ
issued a written decision on July 15, 2014, upholding the
denial of benefits (Tr. 7-19). Lipp requested review of the
ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council (Tr. 5-6). On
August 5, 2015, the Appeals Council denied her request for
review (Tr. 1-4). Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the
final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).
filed this appeal on October 5, 2015 (Doc. 1). The
Commissioner filed an Answer (Doc. 10). Lipp filed a Brief in
Support of her Complaint (Doc. 12), the Commissioner filed a
Brief in Support of the Answer (Doc. 16), and Lipp filed a
Reply Brief (Doc. 17).
following is a summary of the relevant evidence before the
administrative hearing, Lipp's counsel indicated that he
had requested medical records from a pain management clinic,
but had not yet received them. At counsel's request, the
ALJ agreed to keep the record open for thirty days to allow
counsel to acquire the records (Tr. 22-23). The ALJ then
heard testimony from Lipp and Dr. Magrowski, a vocational
was 61 years old at the time of the hearing and living with
her husband and 13-year-old grandson (Tr. 24-25). She
completed the tenth grade and has a GED; she has no
additional professional or vocational training (IdJ. She
testified that she last worked full-time in 1998 as a machine
operator at a factory (Tr. 25-26). In 2000, she worked as a
part-time cook at a daycare for one week before the business
closed (Tr. 27-28).
Lipp's testimony that her shoulder, neck, and back pain
affected her ability to work as of December 31, 2003 (Tr.
29-30, 39). According to Lipp, prior to December 31, 2003,
her doctor had not given her any specific limitations, and on
a typical day, she would have done housework-including
cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping-but she did not have
any other activities (Tr. 30-31). It was Lipp's testimony
that before December 31, 2003, "mainly [she] did a
little at a time to get through some of the pain" (Tr.
also testified that she first reported her back pain to Dr.
Kraenzle, her primary care physician, having suffered for
"a long, long time before it got to the point where
[ibuprofen] wasn't helping anymore." (Tr. 29-30,
35). After taking an x-ray, Dr. Kraenzle recommended that
Lipp try physical therapy (Tr. 35-36). Lipp testified that
she participated in physical therapy for five or six weeks,
but it made her symptoms worse; she "got to the point
where [she] couldn't even make it, drive home from the
physical therapist, [she] was in so much pain" (Tr.
36-37). Dr. Kraenzle then sent Lipp to a neurosurgeon. The
neurosurgeon referred her to a pain management clinic, where
she underwent a series of injections. The injections did not
help her pain, and in December 2004, Lipp had her first
surgery (Tr. 37-40). According to Lipp, the first surgery
"didn't fix the problem" and "didn't
help anything" (Tr. 33, 40). Lipp testified that, after
her first surgery, she continued to suffer from back pain,
leg pains, and "shooting pains" down her legs; that
she was unable to put on her own socks; and that her husband
"was more or less dressing [her]" (Tr. 33).
the May 15, 2014 hearing, none of Lipp's treating
physicians had limited her activities, other than instructing
her to "do what you can do." (Tr. 29). She
testified that she still experiences back pain and
"shooting pains in [her] bottom" (Tr. 40). Lipp is
able to clean her house, although it usually takes her all
day, working an hour or so at a time (Tr. 41). Lipp also
testified that her pain continues to prevent her from
performing a job, even if a job allowed her to sit
intermittently and stand intermittently (Tr. 42). Lipp had
stopped taking Vicodin a few weeks prior to the May 15, 2014
hearing, but was still taking muscle relaxers-which cause her
fatigue but no other side effects-because her neck and
shoulders were bothering her (Tr. 42-43).
Testimony of the Vocational Expert
Magrowski classified Lipp's past work as "a medium
job" and "unskilled with an SVP of ...