United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Hinderhan (“Plaintiff”) seeks review of the
decision of the Social Security Commissioner, Carolyn Colvin,
denying his applications for Social Security Income and
Disability Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act.
The parties consented to the exercise of authority by the
United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c). (ECF No. 9). Because the Court finds that substantial
evidence supports the decision to deny benefits, the Court
affirms the denial of Plaintiff's applications.
Background and Procedural History
January 2012, Plaintiff filed applications for Social
Security Income and Disability Insurance
Benefits. (Tr. 178-84, 187-94). The Social Security
Administration (SSA) denied Plaintiff's claims, and he
filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative
law judge. (Tr. 88-89, 98-99). The SSA granted
Plaintiff's request for review and conducted a hearing on
September 6, 2013. (Tr. 35-59). In a decision dated December
13, 2013, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “has not been
under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act,
from July 27, 2011, through the date of this decision.”
(Tr. 27). The SSA Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
subsequent request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr.
1-3). Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies,
and the ALJ's decision stands as the Commissioner's
final decision. Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07
Evidence Before the ALJ
appeared with counsel, via video conference, at the
administrative hearing on September 6, 2013. (Tr. 35).
Plaintiff testified that he completed school through the
eighth grade and did not earn a GED. (Tr. 38). Since his most
recent employment ended in July 2011, Plaintiff had applied
for two part-time dishwasher positions for which he was not
hired. (Tr. 38).
regard to his medical care, Plaintiff stated that he had
begun treatment for his depression, bipolar disorder, and
anxiety at Pathways the previous month, and he had an
appointment to see a physical therapist in two weeks. (Tr.
39-40). Plaintiff explained that he experienced frequent mood
swings and angered easily. (Tr. 41-42). On his bad days,
which occurred about four days per week, he slept all day
and, on better days, he loaded the dishwasher and cleaned the
house. (Tr. 42-43, 52). Plaintiff did not have any friends
and did not attend family gatherings. (Tr. 53). Plaintiff
also watched movies and played “brain games” on
the computer, which are “kind of like chess.”
(Tr. 53, 55). He was taking Seroquel and Prozac, which helped
with the depression, but “keep me pretty close to
almost down. Like a zombie almost[.]” (Tr. 43).
testified that his bipolar disorder manifested itself in
anger and caused “difficulty getting along with other
people[.]” (Tr. 44). Plaintiff explained that his most
recent job was as a meat clerk at Kroger's where his boss
“mess[ed] with” and “antagonize[d]”
him. (Tr. 44). According to Plaintiff, two days after he and
his boss had an argument about Plaintiff's health
benefits, Plaintiff's boss “told me that I had to
start doing things differently and I had to clean more and
help [with] other people's jobs.” (Tr. 45).
Plaintiff felt that his boss was “picking on”
him, so he “told him it was unfair and he wasn't
going to treat me like crap.” (Id.). Shortly
thereafter, Plaintiff's boss summoned him to a meeting
with the assistant manager and union representative, who were
“just sitting there talking crap to me.”
(Id.). Plaintiff stated that he “started
shaking and  turned red” and he “was ready to
hurt [his boss].” (Tr. 46). Plaintiff told his boss to
get out of his way, threatened to “put his head through
the glass door, ” and stormed out, slamming the door
and breaking the glass. (Tr. 45-46). Plaintiff testified that
he quit later that day. (Tr. 46).
regard to his anxiety, Plaintiff testified that he suffered
anxiety attacks that felt “like I'm having a heart
attack.” (Tr. 47). “Negative drama” and
“[i]nteracting with other people” triggered the
attacks. (Tr. 47). Plaintiff avoided crowds, shopping, and
leaving the house. (Tr. 48).
testified that he began experiencing back problems when he
was eighteen years old. (Tr. 48). In the last twelve years,
the pain had intensified to the point that Plaintiff had
“gotten on my knees and cried…[a]nd like prayed
to God…to make the pain go away[.]” (Tr. 49).
Plaintiff stated that “it's been that extreme for
about 12 years now” and he “would wolf down
Ibuprofen and Aspirin, Motrin, Tylenol…like it's
candy just to take the pain away.” (Id.).
Plaintiff recently started taking Voltaren, which helped.
Plaintiff stated that he suffered memory problems that
prohibited him from working. (Tr. 51). Plaintiff had an
appointment to see a neurologist the following month.
(Id.). He explained, “I can't tell you
what I ate for dinner last night. . . . It's like I have
the memory of an 80-year-old man with whatever that memory
thing is called[.]” (Tr. 52). Plaintiff's
caseworker at Pathways assisted him with keeping his
the vocational expert, Susan Hullender, was not present at
the hearing, the ALJ issued her interrogatories. (Tr. 58).
The ALJ asked Ms. Hullender to consider a hypothetical
individual with Plaintiff's age (thirty-six years),
education, and work history, and the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform work at all exertional levels
“except is able to perform work at up to General
Education Development reasoning level of two in the
OT.” (Tr. 320). Ms. Hullender opined that such
individual could perform all of Plaintiff's past work,
except that of a cashier, which required interaction with the
public. (Tr. 320-21). Ms. Hullender stated that Plaintiff
could also work as a racker, bottling line attendant, or egg
Relevant Medical Records
December 11, 2011, the day after his wife left him for
another man, Plaintiff presented to the emergency room at
Phelps County Regional Medical Center with suicidal
ideations. (Tr. 223-35). Doctors transferred Plaintiff to
Jefferson Regional Medical Center, where Plaintiff was
admitted for treatment. (Tr. 342-55). On December 12, 2011,
Dr. Ahmad Ardekani completed a psychiatric evaluation for
Plaintiff, noting that Plaintiff's insight and judgment
were impaired, but his general knowledge and intellectual
function were “okay.” (Tr. 342). Dr. Ardekani
diagnosed Plaintiff with bipolar affective disorder, mixed;
panic anxiety; and possible dependent personality. (Tr. 343).
Dr. Ardekani stated that Plaintiff required “some
medicine” and “extensive psychotherapy.”
(Tr. 346). Dr. Ardekani observed on December 14, 2011 that
Plaintiff's mood had improved such that he was no longer
suicidal, and the following day, Plaintiff was
“smiling, interacting.” (Tr. 348, 349).
Nurses' notes from Plaintiff's hospitalization state
that, on December 13, 2011, Plaintiff was “interacting
with peers and has spent a great deal of time with one select
female peer.” (Tr. 353). Dr. Ardekani assessed a GAF
score of 40,  indicating serious symptoms, and
discharged Plaintiff on December 16, 2011 with prescriptions
for Seroquel and Clonazepam. (Tr. 350).
January 17, 2012, Plaintiff went to Mercy St. John's
clinic and requested a refill on his medications. (Tr. 361).
Plaintiff received a refill and a referral to a psychiatrist
at Pathways. (Id.).
April 12, 2012, Dr. Heather Derix, Psy.D., completed a
consultative psychological evaluation for Plaintiff at the
request of the SSA. (Tr. 380-88). Plaintiff informed Dr.
Derix that he received Social Security as a child, but he
lost coverage when he married at age twenty-three. (Tr. 380).
He stated that he received some special education and dropped
out of school in tenth grade. (Tr. 382-83). Plaintiff
explained that he participated in individual and family
therapy when he “used to get social security” but
“can't afford therapy now.” (Tr. 383). He was
currently taking Citalopram, which “used to work”
and Klonopin, which “works great.”
informed Dr. Derix that he suffered pain related to
“three broken discs in my spine.” (Id.).
He also had “titanium in [his] arm” because he
shattered it when he “got mad and flipped over a 2, 000
pound soda machine.” (Id.). He explained that
he had not “seen a doctor in a good 20 something years,
” and he did not take medications for physical
regard to his employment history, Plaintiff explained that he
had difficulty maintaining employment because “I have a
problem getting along with others, I don't play nice, I
like to do things on my own. I don't like someone to tell
me what to do.” (Tr. 384). His daily routine involved
awaking at 7:00 or 8:00 a.m., taking his antidepressant, and
going back to sleep until “1 or 3 or 4 if I'm
tired.” (Tr. 385). Defendant reported that he did
housework when his mother left him a to-do list and stated,
“I do like to keep the floors clean, and my laundry
summation, Dr. Derix observed:
The claimant was able to understand and remember simple
instructions; had no difficulty with concentration and
persistence on simple tasks; demonstrated extreme impairment
in his capacity to interact in limited contact situations
with the general public; demonstrated extreme impairments in
his capacity to interact in limited contact situations with
supervisors and coworkers, is likely to struggle with
adapting to a simple environment (due to difficulties with
socialization and subsequent anxiety); was capable of
managing funds independently and appeared to be a generally
(Tr. 387). Dr. Derix diagnosed Plaintiff with: bipolar
disorder I, most recent episode depressed; panic disorder
with agoraphobia; and nicotine dependence. (Tr. 386). She
assessed a GAF score of 40-45. (Id.).
March 10, 2012, Plaintiff presented to the emergency room
claiming that he “was at the bar last night and then
‘woke up in the dirt at the courthouse' ~ 3
a.m.” after he “was beat up.” (Tr. 416-21).
Plaintiff was intoxicated and complained of pain in his face
and neck. (Tr. 416).
April 16, 2012, Dr. Deborah Doxsee, PhD, a state agency
psychological consultant, completed a psychiatric review
technique based upon her review of Plaintiff's records
and adult function report. (Tr. 65-74). Dr. Doxsee determined
that Plaintiff suffered an affective disorder and anxiety
disorder, which caused moderate restrictions or difficulties
in activities of daily living, social functioning, and
concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 69). Dr. Doxsee
also noted “one or two” episodes of
decompensation of extended duration. (Id.). Dr.
Doxsee deemed Plaintiff's reports of limitations
“partially credible.” (Tr. 71).
Doxsee assessed Plaintiff's mental RFC and found
Plaintiff was either “not significantly limited”
or “moderately” limited in all four categories of
limitations (i.e., understanding and memory, sustained
concentration and persistence, social interaction, and
adaptation). (Tr. 71-73). Dr. Doxsee noted that Dr. Derix
assessed more restrictive limitations, but she believed that
Dr. Derix “relie[d] heavily on the subjective reports
of symptoms and limitations provided by the individual”
and “overestimate[d]…the severity of the
individual's restrictions/limitation . . . .” (Tr.
73). Dr. Doxsee concluded that Plaintiff was “limited
to unskilled work because of the impairments” but was
not disabled. (Tr. 74).
April 24, 2012, Plaintiff attempted to establish care with
and obtain a mental and physical disability determination
from Dr. Bohdan Lebedowicz. (Tr. 471-73). Dr. Lebedowicz
declined to complete Plaintiff's disability papers and
referred him to a psychiatrist. (Tr. 472). When Dr.
Lebedowicz asked Plaintiff “if he needs any help with
his back pain, ” Plaintiff “said that he
doesn't and he does not want to have any medication for
August 1, 2012, Plaintiff presented to the emergency room
complaining of “mid and lower back pain” and
requesting medication. (Tr. 412). Dr. Earl Scott wrote that
“[u]pon further investigation, ” he learned that
Plaintiff had “received tramadol from his PCP for
treatment of chronic back pain.” (Tr. 415). Plaintiff
admitted he received a prescription on ...