United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE, 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 Tammy Arnold's ("Arnold") application
for disability insurance benefits.
filed an application for disability benefits on August 24,
2011. The Social Security Administration ("SSA")
denied Arnold's application for benefits, and she filed a
timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ"). The SSA granted Arnold's request
and a hearing was held on September 17, 2013. The ALJ issued
a written decision on December 13, 2013, upholding the denial
of benefits. (Tr. 6-18). Arnold filed a timely Request for
Review of Hearing Decision with the Appeals Council (Tr. 5).
The Appeals Council denied Arnold'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). Arnold filed this appeal on May 8,
2015. (ECF No. 1). Arnold filed a Brief in Support of her
Complaint on August 11, 2015. (ECF No. 11). The Commissioner
filed a Brief in Support of the Answer on October 5, 2015.
(ECF No. 14).
Decision of the ALJ
found that Arnold had the following severe combination of
impairments: bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder,
post-traumatic stress disorder, and history of marijuana
abuse. (Tr. 11). The ALJ, however, determined that Arnold did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 13).
The ALJ found that Arnold had the residual functional
capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at
all exertional levels except for performing more than simple,
routine, repetitive tasks with no more than superficial
interaction with the public or co-workers and no more than
occasional changes in routine work setting. (Tr. 14). The ALJ
found that Arnold has no past relevant work. (Tr. 16). The
ALJ determined that, based on Arnold's RFC, jobs exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Arnold could
perform. (Tr. 17). Consequently, the ALJ found that Arnold
was not disabled since August 24, 2011, the date the
application was filed. (Tr. 17).
following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ.
testified on April 11, 2013, as follows:
appeared at the hearing without representation. (Tr. 26-27).
The ALJ did not have any medical evidence since March 2011.
(Tr. 27-28). Arnold stated that she has been seeing her
regular primary doctor every month since March 2011. (Tr.
28). Arnold decided that she needed representation to
continue pursuing her claim. (Tr. 30-33).
testified on September 17, 2013, as follows:
attorney stated that Arnold has anxiety attacks at least
twice a week. (Tr. 39). Arnold has been diagnosed with
bipolar disorder, suicidal ideations, major depression,
posttraumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), and has
crying spells. (Tr. 39). She has hypothyroidism, which causes
weight gain and lethargy. (Tr. 39). She has high blood
pressure, which causes her to get dizzy. (Tr. 39). She takes
two medications a day. She gets headaches about twice a week.
was born in 1965 and is 48 years old. (Tr. 40). The highest
grade she has completed was Eighth grade, and she did not get
a GED. (Tr. 40). She was in regular classes, not special
education. (Tr. 40). She can read. (Tr. 40). She can perform
basic math. (Tr. 40). She has a driver's license. (Tr.
41). She has not driven for two years because she gets
nervous. She lives with her daughter. (Tr. 41). She is
5'1" and weighs 180 pounds. (Tr. 41). She has not
worked anywhere since August 24, 2011. (Tr. 41). She has
mental problems. She was sexually and physically abused when
she was younger. (Tr. 41). Her brother had intercourse with
her and she was abused by her children's father. (Tr.
42). She has nightmares three times a week and flashbacks
that cause panic attacks. (Tr. 42). She has panic attacks
twice a week on average. (Tr. 41-42). The panic attacks last
30-40 minutes, when she feels like she cannot breathe. (Tr.
43). She takes Klonopin for panic attacks. (Tr. 43). She was
prescribed Klonopin by Dr. Corwin at Ripley County. (Tr. 43).
Dr. Corwin left the Ripley County office. Arnold she sees a
different doctor at Ripley County at least once a month for
medication. (Tr. 43-44).
been diagnosed as bipolar, which causes her to be unable to
concentrate. (Tr. 44). She gets depressed. She has manic
episodes where she bounces around from one activity to the
next. (Tr. 44). Sixty percent of the time she is in a deep
depression; she is manic thirty percent of the time; and she
is normal ten percent of the time. (Tr. 44). Her medication
helps prevent her from being extremely depressed. (Tr. 44).
She has no side effects from medication. (Tr. 45).
she gets out of breath trying to do things. (Tr. 45). She has
problems with her thyroid, which causes her weight gain,
makes her tired, and causes her to become easily agitated.
(Tr. 45). She takes medication to regulate her thyroid. (Tr.
45). She takes medication to control her high blood pressure.
She has had panic attacks for a few years. (Tr. 46).
lives with her daughter in a house. (Tr. 46). She helps her
daughter with the cooking. Arnold can sweep and mop
"when the mood hits [her]." (Tr. 47). She does not
go to the grocery store "if [she] can get out of
it." (Tr. 47). She has a friend that will take her to
the grocery store. (Tr. 47). She has no outside activities.
(Tr. 47). She watches whatever is on television. (Tr. 47).
She cannot concentrate on what is on TV. (Tr. 47). Dr. Corwin
has not recommended that Arnold see a counselor. (Tr. 48).
She has been taking Klonopin every day for a couple of years.
(Tr. 48). She is not taking Xanax any more. (Tr. 48). She
takes Celexa for her depression. (Tr. 48). Arnold is alright
physically. (Tr. 48-49). Her educational level would prevent
her from working because she cannot comprehend reading very
well. (Tr. 49).
cannot cook or clean on a consistent basis. (Tr. 49). She has
times that she is so depressed that she cannot perform any
household work. (Tr. 50).
expert Roxane Minkus testified as follows:
first hypothetical person would be the same age as Arnold,
with a limited eighth-grade education and no past work
experience. (Tr. 51). This individual would be limited to
simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, and would be unable to
perform tasks requiring more than a superficial interaction
with the public or coworkers. (Tr. 51-52). The individual
would be unable to deal with more than occasional changes in
a routine work session. (Tr. 52). This individual would have
no external limitations. (Tr. 52). This individual could
perform work as a janitor, house cleaner for a hotel or
motel, and as an industrial cleaner. (Tr. 52-53).
second hypothetical person would have the same limitations as
the first hypothetical person, except the individual would
have less than occasional contact with the general public and
coworkers. (Tr. 53). The second hypothetical person would
still be able to perform work as an industrial cleaner and a
house cleaner. (Tr. 53). However, about 30-40% of the janitor
positions would require more interaction with the general
public and coworkers. (Tr. 53-54).
third hypothetical person would have the same limitations
noted in hypotheticals one and two, except would have the
additional limitation of no contact with the public or
coworkers. (Tr. 54). No jobs would be available for such a
person that had to work in isolation. (Tr. 54).
would be available for a person who would be off-task 20
percent of the time because of psychological problems. (Tr.