United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of Defendant's final decision denying Plaintiffs
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court reverses the
decision of the Commissioner and remands for further review.
8, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB
alleging disability beginning March 14, 2010 due to hearing
problems; migraines; vision loss right eye; neuropathy in
feet and right hand; hypertension; diabetes type II; and
exposure to agent orange. (Tr. 13, 83, 109-17) The
application was denied, and Plaintiff filed a request for a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ").
(Tr. 77-89) On June 25, 2014, Plaintiff testified before an
ALJ in a hearing held by video teleconference. (Tr. 47-76) On
July 1, 2014, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not been
under a disability from March 14, 2010, through the date of
the decision. (Tr. 13-22) Plaintiff then filed a request for
review, and on April 27, 2015, the Appeals Council denied
said request. (Tr. 1-4) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands
as the final decision of the Commissioner.
Evidence Before the ALJ
June 25, 2014 video teleconference hearing before the ALJ,
Plaintiff was represented by counsel. Plaintiff testified
that he joined the United States Air Force in 1967 and served
for 24 years as a criminal investigator and policeman.
Plaintiff then went to college and worked for the St. Louis
Housing Authority as director. He later worked for the
Department of Defense as an antiterrorism officer in Germany.
When he returned to Missouri, he worked for the State of
Missouri as an investigator of fraud. His last position was
as a criminal investigator for the Missouri Attorney
General's office. Plaintiff was let go following the
election of a new Attorney General and a dispute with his
supervisor. Plaintiff testified that he was in a lot of pain
toward the end of his career. His feet started to hurt, and
he experienced serious migraines. While Plaintiff enjoyed his
job, he did not believe that he could currently perform his
job. His pain and neuropathy had worsened, and he was unable
to use his right hand. (Tr. 49-54)
stated that his wife owned two horses, and he helped her
maintain them. He was able to bathe the horses but not feed
them bales of hay. Plaintiff further testified that his job
as an investigator involved research and traveling to perform
interviews. However, he could no longer travel because he had
difficulty feeling the gas pedal with his foot. His doctor
told him the neuropathy would never improve. Plaintiff also
testified regarding pain in his neck, shoulder, arms, hands,
legs, and feet. He described the pain as lightning bolts.
Plaintiff also had painful nodules on his feet, which had
decreased in size but were still present. The real pain was
in his entire foot, which was a shooting pain when he took a
step and even when he slept. (Tr. 54-60)
attorney also questioned Plaintiff about his conditions.
Plaintiff stated that he had problems with both his right and
his left hand. Specifically, Plaintiff stated that his left
hand had started to shake, and his doctor told him the
tremors were a result of the diabetes. He further testified
that he could possibly make a two-hour round trip drive
between St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri by stopping for
bathroom breaks and using the cruise control. However, he
would be unable to make a four-hour drive to Kansas City due
to the need to stop for water and weather-change headaches.
further testified that he took ten different medications on a
daily basis. The diabetes medication caused weight gain, and
Invokan caused dizziness. All of his drugs caused side
effects. Plaintiff stated that his wife administered his
insulin injections. (Tr. 62-64)
regard to daily activities, Plaintiff stated he could no
longer mow the grass. He paid someone to mow and to shovel
snow in the winter. Plaintiffs laundry room was in the
basement. He was unable to carry baskets of clothes up and
down the stairs. Instead, he threw the clothes down the
stairs, and his wife brought up the folded clothes. Plaintiff
had some hearing loss in both ears. He had an appointment
with the VA to look into a hearing aide. Although Plaintiffs
diabetes was not well-controlled, he had not been
hospitalized for symptoms related to his diabetes. However,
his diabetes caused him to become dehydrated and dizzy.
Plaintiff believed he could walk as far as he wanted so long
as he could stand the pain. Walking was never comfortable.
Aside from the painful nodules, Plaintiff experienced a
constant burning sensation in his feet that felt like
frostbite. He could walk on a treadmill and tolerate the pain
for up to 15 minutes. He then needed to get off the treadmill
because walking was too painful. (Tr. 64-69)
vocational expert ("VE") also testified at the
hearing. The VE stated that Plaintiffs past work included
antiterrorism officer and criminal investigator, which were
medium and skilled positions. His job as a manager of
security was sedentary and skilled. However, Plaintiff stated
that the job, as he performed it, required him to be out
patrolling the area with the other officers. The ALJ then
asked the VE to assume a hypothetical individual limited to
light exertional duties. The VE stated that this person could
not return to Plaintiffs past relevant work as an
investigator but could perform the director of security
position as described by the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles ("DOT") but not as Plaintiff performed it.
The ALJ then asked Plaintiff about his ability to type and
write with his right hand. Plaintiff stated that he was
taking on line college courses and could still type with both
hands, but not as well as before. He testified that one hand
shook, and the other hand was numb. (Tr. 69-74)
November 11, 2011, Plaintiff complained of nodules on the
bottom of his feet. Plaintiff reported that he experienced
pain when he walked barefoot on hard floors. He also had
numbness mid-calf to the sole of his feet secondary to
diabetic neuropathy. Plaintiff denied any weakness or
tingling distally. Erik V. Nott, M.D., assessed plantar
fibromatosis, also known as Lederhosen's disease. Dr.
Nott planned to treat Plaintiff non-operatively. (Tr. 242-43)
complained of right shoulder pain on December 3, 2012. He had
pain, spasm, and decreased range of motion. A CT of the
cervical spine showed no evidence of acute fracture.
Plaintiff had mild to moderate multilevel degenerative
disease, most pronounced at ¶ 5-C6. The report found
inter vertebral disc space narrowing at ¶ 3-C4, C4-C5,
C5-C6, and C6-C7, with osteophytosis. Plaintiff also had mild
diffuse disc bulge without central canal stenosis at ¶
3-C4, C4-C5, and C5-C6. Plaintiffs pain improved with ...