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Robinson v. Colvin

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

September 26, 2016

GRALING ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is an action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Graling Robinson's (“Robinson”) application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. and supplemental security income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq.

         I. Background

         On August 27, 2012, Robinson protectively filed applications for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. and for SSI benefits under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. (Tr. 137-149) In both applications, Robinson alleged disability beginning March 9, 2008. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied Robinson's claims on October 22, 2012. (Tr. 80-81, 84-88) He filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on November 30, 2012. (Tr. 89-90) Following a video hearing held on December 16, 2013, the ALJ issued a written decision on January 28, 2014, upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 13-21) Robinson requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council (Tr. 5-9) On March 23, 2015, the Appeals Council denied his request for review. (Tr. 1-4) Thus, the decision of the Appeals Council stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-7 (2000).

         Robinson filed this appeal on May 22, 2015. (Doc. No. 1) The Commissioner filed an answer on August 3, 2015. (Doc. No. 9) Robinson filed a Brief in Support of his Complaint. (Doc. No. 11) The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer. (Doc. No. 12)

         II. Administrative Decisions

         A. Decision of the ALJ

         The ALJ determined that Robinson meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2017, and had engaged in substantial gainful activity between March 9, 2008, the alleged onset date, and October 14, 2011. (Tr. 15) The ALJ's remaining findings addressed the period from October 15, 2011 through the decision date, when Robinson did not engage in substantial gainful activity. (Tr. 16)

         The ALJ found that Robinson has the severe impairments of status post left leg amputation, mild chondromalacia[1] and mild degenerative changes of the right knee, but that no impairment or combination of impairments met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id.)

         After considering the entire record, the ALJ determined that Robinson has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work in that he can lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally and frequently, stand and walk for two hours in an eight-hour day, and sit for six hours in an eight-hour day. (Id.) However, the ALJ found that Robinson must be able to alternate positions every 45 minutes for brief position changes while continuing to work. He retains the ability to occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but may never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. (Id.) The ALJ found Robinson unable to perform any past relevant work, but that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he can perform, such as document preparer, cutter/paster, and pharmacy processor. (Tr. 20-21) Thus, the ALJ found that a finding of “not disabled” was appropriate. (Tr. 21)

         III. Administrative Record

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

         A. Hearing Testimony

         The ALJ held a video hearing in this matter on December 16, 2013, and heard testimony from Robinson and Alissa Smith, a vocational expert.

         1.Robinson's testimony

         Robinson was twenty-seven at the time of the hearing and living with his wife. (Tr. 32-33) He is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs approximately 190 pounds. (Tr. 52) He completed high school. (Tr. 32-33) In March of 2008 Robinson was injured in a motorcycle accident. His left leg was amputated above the knee and he was fitted with a left leg prosthesis. His right ankle was also injured and he wears an ankle brace every day for support. (Tr. 38-39) It was Robinson's testimony that the pain from his prosthesis prevents him from working a full-time job. (Tr. 44, 53)

         Robinson has no difficulties driving and needs no special accommodation for his car. (Tr. 33) He is able to do housework including cooking and laundry, and usually sits on a stool by the sink to do the dishes. (Tr. 34, 49) In terms of his personal care, Robinson has to sit in a shower chair because he can't wear his prosthesis in the shower. (Id.) He sleeps between six and eight hours a night with occasional difficulty when the nerves in the residual limb start acting up. (Tr. 35-36)

         In a typical day Robinson watches television, reads, helps pick up a little around the house. (Tr. 36, 50-51)) He is able shop for groceries once or twice a month. (Tr. 49) He goes to church occasionally (Tr. 49-50) Robinson goes fishing three or four times a year and deer hunting 5 or 6 times during the season. (Tr. 50) He uses a computer at home. (Id.)

         Robinson last worked in September 2013 stocking groceries for a period of two and a half weeks for 18 hours a week. He was able to wear his prosthesis most of the time. He had three absences during that time because his leg was swollen and he couldn't wear his prosthesis, and one day he went home early because his right knee was swelling. He has trouble lifting because he is not able to squat down to pick up things. (Tr. 36-37) It was Robinson's testimony that his knees swell about twice a week. (Tr. 38) He was laid off from his job in the machining department of Briggs and Stratton in October 2011 because of attendance issues with his left leg and his prosthesis. (Tr. 46) He averaged five absences a month - all related to his leg issues. (Tr. 53-54)

         Robinson is able to climb stairs with his prosthesis and with his crutches. (Tr. 34) He cannot walk foot over foot to climb stairs; he climbs them one at a time using his right leg because he lacks the muscle strength to push up with his left leg. (Id.) His body weight is supported on his right leg. (Id.) Robinson testified that he can stand comfortably with his prosthesis for 25-30 minutes. (Tr. 39-40) If he uses his crutches, he can stand for about 45 minutes. (Tr. 40) He starts to develop pain in his right ankle and knee and into his back and shoulders. (Id.) He also experiences pain in his left leg where the socket for the prosthesis sets. (Id.) In terms of sitting, he experiences pain in his lower back, shoulder, and right hip, especially if he is wearing his prosthesis because the socket goes all the way up his hip. (Tr. 41) He can walk a few hundred feet without stopping when wearing his prosthesis; with his crutches he can walk 300 to 400 feet before stopping to rest. (Tr. 49) At that point, he has pain in his right knee and ankle as well as his shoulders from the crutches themselves. (Id.) Robinson complained that he couldn't afford medical treatment for this pain. (Tr. 41-42, 45) He has some difficulty with balance when he reaches out in front of himself or overhead. (Tr. 42) If he had to lift something for two and a half hours a day, five days a week, he could lift between 25 and 30 pounds if it was at table height so he wouldn't have to stoop or bend down to get it. (Id.) He takes a generic form of Flexeril, cyclobenzaprine and tramadol for pain. (Tr. 43) Robinson smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. (Tr. 52, 266, 269)

         2.Testimony of ...


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