United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
RONALD W. MAIS, JR., Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
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 Ronald W. Mais' (“Mais”)
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434.
April 17, 2012, Mais filed his application for disability
insurance benefits. (Tr. 120-123) The Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denied Mais'
application on May 25, 2012. (Tr. 58-62) He filed a timely
request for a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) on June 20, 2012. (Tr. 67-70) Following a
hearing, the ALJ issued a written decision on July 25, 2013
upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 10-30) The Appeals
Council granted Mais' request for review and on March 11,
2015, after adopting the ALJ's findings and conclusions,
found Mais was not disabled under §§ 216(i) and
223(d) of the Social Security Act. (Tr. 1-8) 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).
filed this appeal on April 27, 2015. (Doc. No. 1) The
Commissioner filed an answer on May 1, 2015. (Doc. No. 4)
Mais filed a Brief in Support of his Complaint. (Doc. No. 15)
The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer.
(Doc. No. 18)
Decision of the ALJ
determined that Mais last met the insured requirements of the
Social Security Act on December 31, 2011, and had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity during the entire period from
his alleged onset date of July 1, 2011 through his date last
insured of December 31, 2011. (Tr. 15) The ALJ found that
Mais has the severe impairments of obesity, degenerative disc
disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, mild chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, and major depressive disorder,
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.
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined that Mais
has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
lift and carry 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds
occasionally, stand or walk six hours out of an eight-hour
work day, sit six hours out of an eight-hour work day, never
climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds and occasionally climb
stairs and ramps, stoop, kneel, and crouch. (Tr. 18) The ALJ
found Mais should avoid concentrated exposure to vibration,
extreme cold, fumes, odors, dust, gases, and unprotected
heights. (Tr. 18-19) The ALJ further found that Mais is able
to understand, remember, and carry out at least simple
instructions and non-detailed tasks. (Tr. 19) The ALJ found
Mais unable to perform any past relevant work, but that jobs
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he
can perform, including cashier II and mail sorter. (Tr.
24-25) Thus, the ALJ found that a finding of “not
disabled” was appropriate. (Tr. 26) Because the
decision was unfavorable, the ALJ determined that an
examination of whether Mais' alcohol or substance abuse
was material was unnecessary. (Id.)
Decision of the Appeals Council
Appeals Council (“Council”) adopted the ALJ's
statements regarding the pertinent provisions of the Social
Security Act, Social Security Administration Regulations,
Social Security Rulings and Acquiescence Rulings, the issues
in the case, and the evidentiary facts, as applicable. (Tr.
4) The Council also adopted the ALJ's findings or
conclusions regarding whether Mais is disabled.
(Id.) The Council agreed with the ALJ's findings
under steps 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the sequential evaluation
through December 31, 2011, and further adopted the findings
through September 30, 2012. (Id.)
Council agreed with the ALJ that Mais has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2011.
(Id.) Further, the Council agreed with the ALJ that
Mais has severe impairments which do not meet or equal in
severity an impairment in the Listings of Impairments, that
he is not capable of performing past relevant work, but that
there is a significant number of jobs in the national economy
that he is capable of performing. (Tr. 4-5)
Council found Mais met the requirements for disability
insured status through September 30, 2012 and that the period
between December 31, 2011 and September 30, 2012 was
previously un-adjudicated. (Tr. 5) After considering all of
the evidence of record, the Council found there was no
significant worsening in Mais' condition from December
31, 2011 to September 30, 2012. (Id.)
Council agreed with the ALJ's assessment of the medical
opinions of Javed Qasim, M.D., William Sill, D.O., and Robert
Holloway, M.D., noting “issues of timing, lack of
objective support, opining outside one's field of
expertise, contradictory daily activities, and reliance on
subjective complaints in determining the weight assigned to
these opinions.” (Id.) Based on these
findings, the Council found Mais was not under a disability
as defined in the Social Security Act from July 1, 2011, the
alleged onset date, through September 30, 2012, the date last
insured. (Tr. 6)
following is a summary of the relevant evidence before the
held a hearing in this matter on July 17, 2013 and heard
testimony from Mais and Delores Gonzalez, a vocational
was fifty-three years old at the time of the hearing and held
a master's degree in business. (Tr. 33) In 1998, he
worked as a cook and later as an assistant manager for
Lee's Chicken. (Tr. 34) There, he lifted as much as 75-80
pound bags of flour. (Id.) In 1999, Mais worked at
Hollywood Motor Company as a used car salesman.
(Id.) From 2000 to 2001, he worked as an assistant
service manager at Heartland Automotive, an owner/operator of
a Jiffy Lube franchise, a job which required lifting less
than 10 pounds. (Tr. 34-35) From 2003 to 2004, Mais worked as
a retail sales manager at Millbrook Distribution, a specialty
food business. (Tr. 35) Mais reported no income from 2007 to
2009 as the result of a back injury and issues with
depression. (Id.) In 2011, Mais reported working at
a hobby store assisting customers with remote control
vehicles and airplanes and replacement parts. (Tr. 35-37) At
the time of hearing, Mais was working an average of 8 to 12
hours a week at the hobby shop, normally split between
Wednesdays and Saturdays. (Tr. 37) It was his testimony that
he was unable to work full time because of his back issues
and a lack of energy. (Id.)
an MRI in 2006, Mais was diagnosed with a herniated disc in
his lower back by Dr. Stanley Martin. (Tr. 38) He received
pain management injections from Dr. Ellis Taylor, at the
recommendation of Dr. Martin. (Id.) Mais smokes
about half a pack of cigarettes a day, but has transitioned
to electronic cigarettes. (Tr. 39) Mais testified he saw Dr.
Qasim for depression and anxiety that began in the early
2000's and received psychiatric care from Dr. Qasim every
three to four months, at no expense, in order to receive
updated medications. (Id.) Mais further testified he
suffers from mood swings and low energy on a daily basis, and
experiences difficulty interacting socially with people. (Tr.
regard to sleep issues, Mais stated that sometimes he sleeps
very well, but other times will have three-to-four-day
periods of restless sleep. (Tr. 40-41) He reported using a
CPAP machine, but stated that even with the use of the CPAP,
he still has problems sleeping on an average of twice a week.
(Tr. 41) Further, he stated that his neck and back pain
affects his sleeping. (Id.) Mais testified he
received surgery on his neck by Dr. Martin a few years prior.
(Tr. 41-42) Mais further stated he did not receive x-rays ...