United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE 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 the application of Kevin Stewart
("Stewart") for disability insurance benefits.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on
October 2, 2012. The Social Security Administration
("SSA") denied Stewart's application for
benefits, and he filed a timely request for a hearing before
an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). The SSA
granted Stewart's request and a hearing was held on March
25, 2014. The ALJ issued a written decision on May 1, 2014,
upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 11-22). Stewart filed
a timely Request for Review of Hearing Decision with the
Appeals Council. (Tr. 7). The Appeals Council denied
Stewart's Request for Review on September 2, 2015. (Tr.
1-3). The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530
U.S. 103, 107 (2000). Arnold filed this appeal on May 8,
2015. (ECF No. 1). Stewart filed a Brief in Support of his
Complaint on February 1, 2016. (ECF No. 11). The Commissioner
filed a Brief in Support of the Answer on April 27, 2017.
(ECF No. 16). Stewart filed a Reply Brief on May 11, 2016.
(ECF No. 17).
Decision of the ALJ
found that Stewart had the following severe impairments:
history of carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis/tendonitis of
the right shoulder, mild degenerative disc disease of the
lumbar spine, anxiety and depression. (Tr. 13). The ALJ,
however, determined that Stewart did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals
the severity of one of the listed impairments 20 CFR Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 13). The ALJ found that
Stewart had the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform light work, except for the
following nonexertional limitations that further limit his
ability to perfect light work: occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, but should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; limited to
frequent (not constant) reaching in all directions with the
right upper extremity; limited to frequent (not constant)
handling and fingering bilaterally; should avoid concentrated
exposure to pulmonary irritants, unprotected heights,
excessive vibration, and hazardous machinery; and is limited
to the performance of unskilled work only. (Tr. 15). The ALJ
found that Stewart was not able to perform any past relevant
work. (Tr. 20). The ALJ determined that, based on
Stewart's RFC, jobs exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that he could perform. (Tr. 17).
Consequently, the ALJ found that Stewart was not disabled
since September 18, 2012, the date the application was filed.
following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ.
testified on March 25, 2014, as follows:
is 49 years old. (Tr. 32). He completed 12th grade
education. (Tr. 32). He lives alone in a camping trailer.
(Tr. 32). He last worked on February 7, but that caused him
to return to the hospital for 10 days because he could not
walk afterwards. (Tr. 32). His most recent employment was
construction work. (Tr. 33). In July 2012, Stewart fell off a
ladder. (Tr. 33). Stewart had no reported income in 2006.
back is the main reason he cannot work. (Tr. 33). The doctors
say it is arthritis in his back that causes his pain. (Tr.
33). He also has some mild disc narrowing at ¶ 4-5 and
L5-Sl. (Tr. 34). Stewart also suffers from anxiety and panic
attacks. (Tr. 34). He has been to the hospital several times
for panic attacks. (Tr. 34). He is not receiving any mental
health treatment from a mental health professional. (Tr. 34).
He has problems with his right shoulder from his fall. (Tr.
34). The doctors want to do surgery but his insurance will
not cover physical therapy so the doctors will not do the
surgery. (Tr. 34-35). He has trouble sleeping. (Tr. 35). He
takes hydrocodone and oxycodone for his pain; Xanax for
anxiety and panic attacks. (Tr. 35). He obtains his
medications through Medicaid and his mother pays the co-pays.
his bills with help from his mother. (Tr. 35).
smokes less than a pack a day. (Tr. 36). He watches TV and
walks around a bit during the day. (Tr. 36). He does light
housekeeping in his trailer and can fix himself something to
eat. (Tr. 36). He has a driver's license but does not
drive or have a vehicle. (Tr. 36). He can take care of his
personal needs, including bathing and dressing. (Tr. 36).
walk about 15 or 20 minutes before he needs to sit on an
average day. (Tr. 37). He can stand for 15 minutes on an
average day. (Tr. 37). He can sit for 15 minutes before he
must get up and stretch. (Tr. 37). He can lift around 20
pounds. (Tr. 37). His weighs around 216 pounds and is
6'1". (Tr. 37). His medications do not take away all
of the pain and the Xanax does not take away all of the
anxiety but they make it "bearable." (Tr. 37).
has carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists but it is worst in
his left wrist. (Tr. 38). He was prescribed wrist splints for
both hands, but does not wear them because they do not help.
(Tr. 39). Stewart's doctors recommended he receive the
carpal tunnel release surgery but Stewart is too scared. (Tr.
had cancer removed from his left arm. (Tr. 40). He continues
to have pain in his left arm from the surgery. (Tr. 40). His
right shoulder has continuously hurt since he fell off a
ladder in 2011. (Tr. 40). He cannot afford the physical
therapy so he takes hydrocodone and oxycodone to treat the
pain. (Tr. 41).
could not lift 20 pounds if he had to lift 20 pounds five
days a week. (Tr. 42). He could lift a gallon of milk-around
8 pounds-every day. (Tr. 42). He has lost his ability to
grasp objects because of his carpal tunnel syndrome. (Tr.
42). He drops things two or three times per week. (Tr. 43).
Campbell, M.D., a physician at Smith Street Clinic in
Sikeston, Missouri, prescribed Xanax to Stewart. (Tr. 43).
Dr. Campbell diagnosed Stewart with depression and anxiety.
(Tr. 43). Stewart tried counseling about 7 years ago but it
was not helpful. (Tr. 43). He has crying spells or emotional
outbursts bi-weekly. (Tr. 43). Stewart has constant feelings
of being overwhelmed. (Tr. 44). He gets very nervous in
crowds. (Tr. 44). He leaves his trailer daily to visit his
neighbor, who lives about 100 feet from him. (Tr. 44). He
visits his mom, who lives 4 miles away from him, on occasion.
(Tr. 44). Other than his mom and his neighbor, Stewart does
not like to be around people . (Tr. 45). He has gone to the
hospital around 8 times over the last 4-5 years because of
panic attacks. (Tr. 45-46). He has been taking Xanax for a
year and a half. (Tr. 46).
has difficulty concentrating or staying focused. (Tr. 46). He
can concentrate for 10-15 minutes before he gets distracted.
(Tr. 46). He has poor short-term and long-term memory. (Tr.
back pain in his lower back that radiates down his legs. (Tr.
47). Dr. Campbell prescribed a cane for Stewart to help his
balance and with his back pain. (Tr. 47). He uses his cane
every day. (Tr. 48).
noted that Stewart's October 2012 MRI showed no tear on
his right shoulder. (Tr. 48). Stewart, however, states that
the doctor said there was a tear and wanted to do surgery.
expert Janice Haskert testified as follows:
noted that Stewart's primary profession was as a
commercial painter. (Tr. 49). He previously worked for CMK
Building Materials as a delivery driver. (Tr. 50). This past
work as a delivery driver is classified as medium,
semi-skilled work. (Tr. 50).
number one assumes an individual of Stewart's age,
education, and work experience, who is limited to only light
exertion level work, can occasionally climb stairs and ramps,
but never climbs ropes, ladders, and scaffolds, can
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl, can reach in
all directions but is limited to frequent-not constant-on the
right; can reach overhead but is limited to occasionally on
the right, handling and fingering is limited to frequent, not
constant; individual should avoid concentrated exposure to
pulmonary irritants, unprotected heights, excessive
vibration, hazardous material, and unskilled work only.
Haskert testified that such an individual could perform a
wide range of unskilled light occupations, including
inserting machine operator, shipping/receiver weigher, and
bakery conveyor worker. (Tr. 51).
number two assumes an individual of Stewart's age,
education, work experience, who is limited to performing
sedentary exertional level work, can occasionally climb
stairs and ramps, but never climb ropes, ladders and
scaffolds, occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl, can
reach in all directions but is limited to frequent with the
right upper extremity, can reach overhead but is limited to
never with the right upper extremity; can handle and finger
but is limited to frequent, not constant; must avoid
concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritant, unprotected
heights, excessive vibration, hazardous machinery; limited to
performing unskilled work only, that requires no more than
occasional contact with the public and coworkers; must avoid
high production rate jobs (although medium and low ...