United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
D. NOCE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
action is before the court for judicial review of the final
decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security
denying the application of plaintiff Kelly Wallis for
disability insurance benefits under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434 and 1381
et seq. The parties have consented to the exercise of plenary
authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set
forth below, the decision of the defendant Commissioner is
was born on November 28, 1970. (Tr. 30). She filed her
applications for benefits in October 2011. (Tr. 93, 161). She
alleged an onset date of disability of January 14, 2011, due
to seizure disorder, left shoulder numbness, and back and hip
pain. (Tr. 214). Plaintiff's claims were initially denied
on February 7 and 8, 2012 (Tr. 93-101, 106-112). Thereafter,
she requested a hearing before an ALJ. (Tr. 113).
19, 2014, following a hearing, the ALJ issued a decision
concluding that plaintiff was not disabled under the Act.
(Tr. 20-32). The Appeals Council denied her request for
review on September 1, 2015. Thus, the decision of the ALJ
stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1).
MEDICAL HISTORY AND OTHER HISTORY
February 4, 2011, neurologist Bashar Mohsen, M.D. performed a
follow-up medical examination of plaintiff for her seizures.
Plaintiff denied having symptoms of depression, suicidal
ideations, hallucinations, or memory loss. (Tr. 323). Dr.
Mohsen noted that plaintiff did not appear nervous or
anxious; appeared oriented to person, place, and time; and
did not appear to be distressed. Id.
October 17, 2011, plaintiff started reporting being anxious
and depressed. (Tr. 338-40). However, Dr. David Lardizabal,
M.D., noted she continued to display a normal affect, normal
judgment and insight, and fluent speech, and she did not
appear to be distressed. (Tr. 338-40). She also appeared
alert and oriented to person, place, and date. (Tr. 340). She
could recall remote events and follow multi-step commands.
Id. The doctor assessed her with a mood disorder,
generalized anxiety, and nightmares. Id.
February 1, 2012, plaintiff visited James Felts, M.D., for a
well-woman examination and reported having panic attacks
first thing in the morning. (Tr. 365). The doctor prescribed
her anti-anxiety medication, but noted she did not appear to
be distressed and recommended she return one year later. (Tr.
February 7, 2012, Steven Akeson, Psy.D., reviewed
plaintiff's file. (Tr. 93-97). He did not perform a
consultative examination, but he found that plaintiff's
mental conditions were not severe impairments and only mildly
restricted plaintiff's daily living; social functioning;
and concentration, persistence, or pace. Id.
4, 2012, plaintiff reported having panic attacks three times
a week. (Tr. 368). Dr. Felts continued to indicate she did
not appear in distress. (Tr. 368). The doctor diagnosed
plaintiff with panic disorder with agoraphobia and prescribed
her an anti-depressant. (Tr. 368).
symptoms appeared to be managed beginning July 2012. (Tr.
370, 372, 376). During appointments on July 2, 2012; August
15, 2012; November 7, 2012; and May 15, 2013, Dr. Felts
continued plaintiff's medication for depression and
anxiety, but noted she consistently appeared to not be in
distress. (Tr. 370, 372, 376).
September 13, 2013, plaintiff returned to Dr. Felts for an
evaluation for depression, and reported feeling sad, crying,
having panic attacks, and generally not wanting to go
anywhere for the last few months. (Tr. 378). She also stated
that she had situational stress due to taking care of her
husband's grandmother “24/7.” (Tr. 378). The
doctor noted she did not appear in distress but diagnosed her
with depression and panic disorder with agoraphobia. (Tr.
378). Dr. Felts prescribed anti-depressant and anti-anxiety
medications. (Tr. 379).
October 7, 2013, plaintiff reported being in a better mood,
and that she went to a wedding and car races “without
problem.” She still reported being anxious when she
went to Walmart. She continued to report being stressed due
to caring for her husband's grandmother. Dr. Felts noted
she appeared in no acute distress, but increased her
anti-depressant medication and continued the anti-anxiety
medication. (Tr. 380).
November 13, 2013, plaintiff reported her moods were better
and she was able to go to Walmart, but she still had
situational stress because her grandmother was up at night.
Dr. Felts noted she did not appear to be in distress but
prescribed a sleep aid. (Tr. 382).
treatment records reflect that the only functional
restriction her treating providers imposed was that she could
not drive or ride her husband's motorcycle due to her
seizures, not her depression. (Tr. 29, 69, 382, 388).
Testimony at the ALJ Hearing
January 7, 2014, plaintiff, then 43 years old, appeared and
testified to the following at a hearing before the ALJ. (Tr.
complained of daily “overwhelming” panic attacks
with increased heart rate, racing thoughts, and an inability
to sleep. Id. She complained that her panic attacks
affect her ability to concentrate, though she is able to work
through panic attacks to prepare breakfast and get her
husband and son out of the door because “[i]t's
only for a half hour, and I have to.” (Tr. 59-61, 79).
a seizure, plaintiff testified she may become “kind of
wishy-washy in the head” for 24 to 36 hours. (Tr. 75).
She can become groggy and forgetful and may slur her words or
say them backwards, though she is still able to follow and
understand a story plot when watching TV. (Tr. 75, 79).
plaintiff stated that she does not want to go anywhere and
becomes anxious when shopping at Wal-Mart, but admitted that
she shops at Wal-Mart weekly with her sister. (Tr. 46, 60,
these complaints, plaintiff acknowledged that on a bad day,
she could still make breakfast daily, pack her husband's
and son's lunches, do the laundry, watch TV, get her son
a snack after school, cook “Hamburger Helper” or
chicken and dumplings for dinner, attend her son's
baseball games during the summer, wash dishes by hand, text
and talk to others on her cell phone, and sometimes help her
son with his homework. (Tr. 59-67). She noted that over
several good days, she vacuums, dusts, mops and sweeps for
hours at a time. (Tr. 54-55). Though she described a need to
lie down often, this appeared to be due to pain rather than
depression or anxiety. (Tr. 55, 66-67).
of the ...