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Johnson v. Colvin

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

November 4, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's request for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383 (c)(3) of the final decision of Defendant denying Plaintiff's application for supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 et seq. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will reverse and remand the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's application.

         Facts and Background

         On January 16, 2014 Administrative Law Judge Julie K. Bruntz conducted a hearing in the matter in West Des Moines, Iowa and in Creve Coeur, Missouri. The hearing was recorded. Plaintiff appeared to testify. Plaintiff appeared with counsel. A vocational Expert, Carmen Mitchell, also appeared to testify. The Plaintiff was over 18 years old and IQ tests from 2009 revealed a full scale IQ of 74, verbal IQ of 77 and a full scale IQ of 75 on the WAIS-3.

         Plaintiff testified she lived with her mother and 7 month old son. She further testified that she suffers from neurofibromatosis. It bothers her right foot and causes difficulty in standing for periods of time and aches a lot. She testified she has neurofibromas on her back and left thigh area. The ones on her back cause her to have back problems. She testified the one on her thigh is really sensitive and aches and swells up. Plaintiff also noted that she has neurofibromas on her head which cause her to have headaches. These headaches last for about two hours and prevent her from doing her daily activities.

         Plaintiff further testified that she has difficulty focusing and completing tasks. As an example she cited sweeping the floor and cleaning the bathroom and noted that she might forget to sweep the floor even though that was her intent.

         The ALJ heard testimony from Ms. Mitchell, a vocational expert. The Vocational Expert testified her testimony would be consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and if not she would so advise the ALJ, as well as state the basis for her opinion. She further testified upon hypothetical of the ALJ that if an individual was limited to simple, routine tasks she could return to past relevant work. Furthermore, an individual with a high school education and younger and past work as noted in the record, had jobs available as a laundry worker which is medium unskilled, or housekeeper which is at the light unskilled level. There would also be jobs as a dining room attendant that is medium unskilled. The ALJ also included mental limitation and added the ability to push and pull, including the operation of hand and foot controls, would be unlimited within the weights of the exertional levels of medium, light, and sedentary. The ALJ also included that she could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, never climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds, occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl, avoid hazards such as heights and dangerous machinery. The Vocational Expert concluded there would be jobs as a cafeteria attendant in the light exertional level. Also available would be a job as an inserting machine operator, which is light, unskilled and document preparer, which is sedentary, unskilled. Jobs as an addresser, stuffing and putting labels on envelopes would be available at the sedentary, unskilled level. Another job noted as available by Ms. Mitchell was that of a touch up screener, of the sedentary, unskilled variety. Lastly, she testified that positions as packing machine operator in the medium, unskilled level, were available for Plaintiff.

         Finally, the Vocational Expert testified that if one had to work at a slow pace for one third of the day and /or was unable to concentrate for two hour segments none of the aforementioned jobs would be available and the person could not sustain the jobs or any work on a full time competitive basis.

         The ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff had the severe impairments of borderline intellectual functioning and a history of neurofibromatosis Type I. The ALJ further concluded Plaintiff was not disabled.

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 3, 2015. The decision of the ALJ is now the final decision for review by this court.

         Statement of Issues

         The issues in a Social Security case are whether the final decision of the Commissioner is consistent with the Social Security Act, regulations, and applicable case law, and whether the findings of fact by the ALJ are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. The issues in this case are whether the ALJ's credibility assessment is supported by substantial evidence, whether the ALJ's step three finding is supported by substantial evidence, and whether the ALJ's RFC assessment is supported by substantial evidence. Also for consideration is the issue of whether the ALJ failed to properly address sufficient limitations of concentration, persistence and pace in the RFC.

         Standard For Determining Disability

         The Social Security Act defines as disabled a person who is “unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); see also Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir.2010). The impairment must be “of such severity that [the claimant] is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such ...

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