United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
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 Joanna Marie Hunt's (“Hunt”)
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401,
13, 2012, Hunt protectively filed her application for
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq.,
alleging disability beginning on June 25, 2012. (Tr. 262-63)
The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied
Hunt's claim on September 6, 2012. (Tr. 190-94) She filed
a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) on October 25, 2012. (Tr. 199-200)
Following a hearing held on October 21, 2013, the ALJ issued
a written decision on November 20, 2013, upholding the denial
of benefits. (Tr. 11-25) Hunt requested review of the
ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 7) On May 20,
2015, the Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr.
1-6) Thus, the decision of the Appeals Council stands as the
final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
filed this appeal on July 22, 2015. (Doc. No. 1) The
Commissioner filed an answer on September 28, 2015. (Doc. No.
9) Hunt filed a Brief in Support of her Complaint. (Doc. No.
11) The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer.
(Doc. No. 12) Hunt filed a Reply Brief. (Doc. No. 13)
Decision of the ALJ
determined that Hunt meets the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017, and has
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 25,
2012, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 15)
found Hunt has the severe impairments of affective disorder
not otherwise specified (NOS), anxiety disorder NOS, and
obsessive-compulsive disorder, but that no impairment or
combination of impairments meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 17) The ALJ further found
Hunt's additional medical impairments of cardiac
impairment, seizure disorder, sleep apnea, and restless leg
syndrome, were nonsevere impairments. (Tr. 15-16)
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Hunt has
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work except that she can never climb ladders,
rope or scaffolding. She can climb ramps or stairs up to one
story at a time. She should avoid working with dangerous
machinery or at unprotected heights. In addition, she can
perform simple tasks and tolerate superficial contact with
the general public. (Tr. 19) The ALJ found Hunt unable to
perform any past relevant work, but that jobs exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that she can
perform, such as cleaner/housekeeper, marking clerk, and
small products assembler. (Tr. 23-24) Thus, the ALJ found
that a finding of “not disabled” was appropriate.
following is a summary of the relevant evidence before the
held a hearing in this matter on October 21, 2013, and heard
testimony from Hunt and Roni Lenore, a vocational expert.
was 36 years old at the time of hearing and living with her
boyfriend and her fifteen year old twin sons. (Tr. 34-35) She
last worked in June 2012 as a certified nursing assistant
(CNA), staff coordinator and activities director at Elder
Care of Mid-Missouri. It was Hunt's testimony that she
was out on a doctor's note that said she couldn't
work. (Tr. 41, 45) In 2008 she worked as CNA staff
coordinator at Lifecare Centers of America. (Tr. 42-44) In
2004 she managed a fast food restaurant called Taco Time.
(Tr. 43) She also worked some part-time jobs at Walmart and
Denny's. (Tr. 43-44)
testified that she was unable to work primarily due to her
psychological symptoms, impairments and limitations.
Specifically, she reported suffering from post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) with severe emotional reactions, i.e.,
crying, shaking, etc., two to three times a week. (Tr. 46)
These reactions are caused by fear of other people, and
particularly her abusive ex-husband. (Id.) Hunt has
been diagnosed with bipolar disorder which affects her
interactions with other people. She experiences symptoms of
manic behavior, poor sleep, and poor concentration. She goes
into a manic stage two to three times a week. When she is in
one of the depressive stages of her bipolar disorder, she
sleeps all of the time. (Tr. 48-49) She neglects her personal
hygiene when she finds herself in a depressive state. (Tr.
61) Hunt also testified about the symptoms she experiences
with obsessive-compulsive disorder, sleep apnea, fainting
spells, hand tremors and lingering tightness in her chest
following an alleged heart attack. (Tr. 49-57)
family assists her with household chores because she drops
things and can't concentrate to finish a task. (Tr.
57-58) She is able to cook on a daily basis; however, it
sometimes takes her an extra half hour or longer because she
forgets about cooking things. (Tr. 60-61) Hunt testified she
has difficulty leaving her house or traveling alone due to
her fears and psychological symptoms. (Tr. 59-60)
Testimony of Vocational Expert
expert Roni Lenore characterized Hunt's past work as
nurse assistant, Dictionary of Occupational Titles
(“DOT”) No. 355.674-014, medium, semiskilled,
with a specific vocational preparation (“SVP”) of
4, performed as heavy. This job was also performed as part of
a composite, which also included recreational therapist, DOT
No. 074.124-014, light, skilled with an SVP of 6; personnel
scheduler, DOT No. 215.367-014, sedentary, semiskilled, with
an SVP of 4; and personnel clerk, DOT No. 209.362-026,
sedentary, semiskilled, with an SVP of 4. (Tr. 68) Hunt's
past work also included fast food worker, DOT No.
311.472-010, light, unskilled, with an SVP of 2; and manager
trainee, fast food services, DOT No. 189.167-018, light,
skilled, with an SVP of 6. (Id.) Lastly, Lenore
characterized Hunt's work as a storage laborer, DOT No.
922.687-058, as medium, unskilled, with an SVP of 2; and
waiter/waitress, informal, DOT No. 311.477-030, as light,
semiskilled, with an SVP of 3. (Tr. 69)
first hypothetical, the ALJ asked Lenore to assume an
individual of the same age, educational background and
vocational history as Hunt who has no exertional limitations
and can climb ramps or stairs of up to one story; never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; never work at unprotected
heights or with dangerous machinery; with relatively simple
tasks and superficial contact with the public. Lenore opined
that such an individual could perform his/her past work as a
storage laborer. (Tr. 69) In addition, there are other jobs
that exist locally and nationally that such an individual
could perform such as a cleaner/housekeeper, DOT No.
323.687-014, light, unskilled, with an SVP of 2, with
approximately 292, 600 such jobs nationally and 5, 200
locally; marking clerk, DOT No. 209.587-034, light,
unskilled, SVP of 2, with approximately 140, 700 such jobs
nationally and 2, 800 locally; and assembler, small products,
DOT No. 739.687-030, light, unskilled, SVP of 2, with 34, 400
nationally and 630 locally. (Tr. 69-70)
second hypothetical assumed the same individual as in
hypothetical one, who is limited to light work, i.e., lifting
up to 20 pounds occasionally, lifting or carrying up to 10
pounds frequently, standing or walking for approximately six
hours per eight-hour day and sit for approximately six hours
per eight-hour day with normal breaks. (Tr. 70) In that case,
the individual could perform the same jobs discussed above.
third hypothetical assumed the same individual with the same
functional capacity as in the second hypothetical who would
miss two or more days of work per month and be off-task 20
percent or more of the work day. Lenore opined that such an
individual would not be able to retain any job.
summarized Hunt's medical records at Tr. 15-21. Relevant
medical records ...