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 Scott Sessums
("Sessums") for disability insurance benefits.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on May
24, 2012. The Social Security Administration
("SSA") denied Sessums' 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 May
1, 2014. The ALJ issued a written decision on August 12,
2014, upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 9-26). Sessums
filed a timely Request for Review of Hearing Decision with
the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied Sessums'
Request for Review on September 25, 2015. (Tr. 1-4). The
decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final decision of the
Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107
(2000). Sessums filed this appeal on November 9, 2015. (ECF
No. 1). Sessums filed a Brief in Support of his Complaint on
February 8, 2016. (ECF No. 10). The Commissioner filed a
Brief in Support of the Answer on May 6, 2016. (ECF No. 16).
Decision of the ALJ
found that Sessums had the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease of the lumber spine with residuals
of surgical open reduction and internal fixation and anxiety
disorder. (Tr. 14). 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. 16).
The ALJ found that Sessums had the residual functional
capacity ("RFC") to perform sedentary work as
defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except for lifting or carrying
more than 10 pounds occasionally and less weight frequently;
standing or walking more than 2 hours in an 8-hour workday;
sitting more than 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; stooping,
kneeling, crouching, or crawling more than occasionally; and
performing more than simple, routine, repetitive work. (Tr.
17). The ALJ found that Sessums had no past relevant work.
(Tr. 19). The ALJ determined that, based on Sessums' RFC,
jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that he could perform. (Tr. 20). Consequently, the ALJ found
that Sessums was not disabled since May 24, 2012, the date
the application was filed. (Tr. 20).
following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ.
testified on May 1, 2014, as follows:
was 41 years old. (Tr. 33). He lives in Hornersville,
Missouri. (Tr. 33). He finished ninth grade but never got a
GED. (Tr. 33). He attended resource classes in seventh and
eighth grades. (Tr. 33). He can read and write but he forgets
most of what he reads. (Tr. 34). He had 2 back surgeries.
(Tr. 34). On September 5, 2012, he had a fusion. Later, he
had a screw removed and replaced from L5. (Tr. 34). He still
has lower back pain and pain that runs from his back to both
legs. (Tr. 34). He can stand or walk for a half an hour
before he has to sit down. (Tr. 35). He has pain while
sitting. (Tr. 35). He has to stand up or lie down after
sitting for 15-20 minutes. (Tr. 35). He has pain while moving
from side-to-side because it twists his back. (Tr. 35-36). In
January 22, 2013, after his last surgery, the nurse told him
to stay with his current restrictions. (Tr. 36). He
wasn't supposed to lift anything 5-10 pounds; no bending,
stooping, climbing. (Tr. 36). He was taking Percocet then.
(Tr. 36). He currently takes some muscle relaxers, pain
medications, and Xanax. (Tr. 37). The medication "throws
[him] off balance" and makes him drowsy. (Tr. 37).
typical day, Sessums has to lie down and rest or prop his
feet up and rest. (Tr. 37). He constantly has to move to
relieve pressure on his back. (Tr. 38).
takes Xanax for an anxiety disorder. (Tr. 38).
can make small meals and can clean for 15-20 minutes at a
time. (Tr. 38). He does not have a driver's license. (Tr.
would not be able to perform a sedentary job because he would
not be able to perform the twisting. (Tr. 39).
has problems with pain radiating down his legs. (Tr. 39). He
is constantly in pain. (Tr. 40).
cannot afford physical therapy. He would go to physical
therapy and go through pain management if he had medical
benefits. (Tr. 40). The neurosurgeon told Sessums that pain
management is the only thing that would help his condition.
went to the Advanced Pain Center in Kennett before and after
his surgery. (Tr. 41).
primary care doctor prescribed the Xanax and the pain
medications. (Tr. 41). His primary care physician did not
indicate that Sessums should see a mental health
professional. (Tr. 42). Sessums no longer takes Percocet. He
takes Tramadol, Xanax, a muscle relaxer, and blood pressure
longest employment was in 1998 at Emerson Electric in
Kennett, Missouri as a machine operator. (Tr. 43-44). He
carried lightweight items and stood the whole time. In 2006,
Sessums performed temporary work for a gun cleaning service.
(Tr. 44). He previously worked at a saw mill in Campbell,
Missouri on and off from 2004-2005. (Tr. 45).
expert Susan Shay testified as follows:
first hypothetical person would be the same age as Sessums,
who was limited to light work activity; only occasionally
stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl; and limited to simple,
routine, repetitive tasks. (Tr. 46). Such an individual could
perform Sessums' past work as a light machine operator.
(Tr. 45-46). This person also could perform work as a light
housekeeper, light laundry worker, and light machine tending
worker. (Tr. 46-47).
second hypothetical person is the same age, education and
work experience. (Tr. 47). This second person is limited to
sedentary work; limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks:
can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl. This person
could not perform Sessums' past work, but he could work
as a sedentary table worker, sedentary final assembly worker,
and sedentary machine feeder. (Tr. 47-48).
third hypothetical person had the same limitations as the
person in hypothetical number two, but also required up to
three extra, unscheduled breaks, during an eight-hour day to
lay down for up to 30 minutes. (Tr. 48). No jobs would be
available for this person. (Tr. 48).
hypothetical persons numbers one and two could only
occasionally reach with either arm then they would not be
able to perform the jobs mentioned. If hypothetical persons
numbers one and two would miss two days of work per month on
a consistent basis, then they could not perform any of the
jobs mentioned. (Tr. 48). If hypothetical persons numbers one
and two were off-task 15 percent of the day due to the side
effects of mediation and pain, then they would not be able to
perform any of the jobs identified. (Tr. 49).