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 Callie Ginnise Johnson's (“Johnson”)
applications 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.
15, 2012, Johnson filed applications for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401, et seq. (Tr. 215), and for SSI
benefits under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§1381, et seq. (Tr. 207-219). In both
applications, Johnson alleged disability beginning March 1,
2012 (Tr. 207, 213). The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denied Johnson's claims on July 2,
2012 (Tr. 109). Johnson filed a timely request for a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on
September 7, 2012 (Tr. 115). After a hearing held on February
11, 2014 (Tr. 54-88) and continued to June 10, 2014 (Tr.
29-53), the ALJ issued a written decision on June 19, 2014,
upholding the denial of benefits (Tr. 7-23). Johnson
requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council (Tr. 24-28). On August 13, 2015, the Appeals Council
denied her request for review (Tr. 1). Thus, the decision of
the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).
filed this appeal on September 23, 2015 (Doc. 1). The
Commissioner filed an Answer (Doc. 10). Johnson filed a Brief
in Support of her Complaint (Doc. 14), and the Commissioner
filed a Brief in Support of the Answer (Doc. 20). Johnson did
not file a Reply Brief.
Decision of the ALJ
determined that Johnson meets the insured status requirements
of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2014, and had not
engaged in substantial gainful employment since March 1,
2012, the alleged onset date of disability (Tr. 12). The ALJ
found that Johnson had the severe impairments of degenerative
disc disease, obesity, bipolar disorder, personality
disorder, and substance dependence, 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 (Tr. 12-13).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Johnson had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work, except for the following nonexertional
limitations: can sit for six of eight hours per day; can
stand and walk for six of eight hours per day; can lift 20
pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; can
occasionally climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; and is
limited to simple, repetitive tasks with one-to-two step
instructions and occasional interaction with supervisors,
co-workers, and the public (Tr. 12-14). The ALJ found Johnson
unable to perform any past relevant work; however, based on
her age, education, work experience, and residual function
capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ concluded that there
are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that Johnson can perform, including bench assembler
and nut and bolt assembler (Tr. 18-19). Thus, the ALJ
concluded that Johnson had not been under a disability from
the alleged onset date of March 1, 2012 through the date of
his decision, June 19, 2014 (Tr. 19).
following is a summary of the relevant evidence before the
held a hearing in this matter on February 11, 2014, which was
continued to June 10, 2014. The ALJ heard testimony from
Johnson; Matt Lamply, a vocational expert; and Charles
Auvenshine, Ph.D., a psychological expert.
was 31 years old at the time of the hearing and living with
her 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son (Tr. 60-61). She
completed the tenth grade and has no further training or
education (Tr. 63-64). Johnson enrolled in GED preparation
classes in January 2014, and was attending those classes
three times per week (Tr. 35, 64, 71, 75). Johnson does not
have a driver's license (Tr. 62). She testified that she
has not worked since 2011 (Tr. 64).
Johnson's testimony that her ability to work was affected
after she was diagnosed with psychiatric disorders in March
2012 (Tr. 67-68). On a typical day, Johnson gets up at 7:00
in the morning. She usually takes her son to school, returns
home, and frequently goes back to sleep until it is time to
pick up her son at 3:00 in the afternoon (Tr. 68, 70). She
does housework, including cooking, laundry, washing dishes,
and cleaning. She goes grocery shopping once per month (Tr.
69). Johnson has friends, but stays home “90 percent of
the time” (Tr. 68). She is not active in any clubs or
organizations, and she does not attend church (Tr. 70).
had a drinking problem for several years; she had abstained
from alcohol for the eight months preceding the February 2014
hearing and had not consumed alcohol between the February and
June 2014 hearings (Tr. 36, 73, 81). She stopped drinking
because she “had an episode where [she] had been
drinking, and [her] children looked like demons to [her],
” and she was “afraid [she] might hurt
them” (Tr. 73). She attends weekly Alcoholics Anonymous
meetings (Tr. 71, 86).
has twice been hospitalized for treatment of her psychiatric
conditions: she was first hospitalized after she attempted
suicide at age fourteen, and she was later hospitalized when
she experienced psychotic tendencies while detoxifying from
alcohol (Tr. 76-77). Johnson also has depression and anxiety,
and she has experienced panic attacks in the past
(Id.). She testified that she had been diagnosed
with multiple personality disorder and posttraumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”), and that she suffers from
depression, anxiety, and recurring nightmares (Tr. 35-36, 68,
76-79, 82). Johnson takes Seroquel, an antipsychotic and
antidepressant, which makes her groggy and tired, and limits
her ability to focus (Tr. 74, 86-87). She testified that she
has flashbacks related to her PTSD, that she does not retain
information as well as she did when she was younger, that she
does not handle stressful situations very well, and that she
has difficulty completing big tasks (Tr. 34, 84-85).
time of the February 2014 hearing, Johnson was undergoing
chiropractic treatment for chronic back pain caused by
previous car accidents, and she completed those treatments in
May 2014 (Tr. 32, 79). She testified that she can stand or
walk for ten minutes at a time before she needs to sit down;
that she can only do housework in ten-minute increments; that
she suffers unbearable pain with bending and standing; and
that she could lift and carry at most fifteen pounds (Tr. 33,
80). She also experiences pain with stooping, crouching,
kneeling, and crawling (Id.).
Testimony of Psychological Expert
Auvenshine, Ph.D., a psychologist, was appointed by the ALJ
as an independent psychological expert. Dr. Auvenshine
reviewed Johnson's medical records and testified at the
hearing (Tr. 42, ...