United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Robert Harper brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405
seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision denying his claim for disability insurance benefits
(DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401, et seq. Because the
Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole, I will affirm the
26, 2012, the Social Security Administration denied
Harper's January 2012 application for DIB, in which he
claimed he became disabled on March 1, 2011, because of
blocked arteries, back pain, high cholesterol, and possible
cancer. He later amended his alleged onset date to December
19, 2011. At Harper's request, a hearing was held before
an administrative law judge (ALJ) on March 31, 2014, at which
Harper testified. Vocational and medical experts later
answered interrogatories put to them by the ALJ. On August
26, 2014, the ALJ denied Harper's claim for benefits,
finding that Harper could perform work as it exists in
significant numbers in the national economy. On October 7,
2015, the Appeals Council denied Harper's request for
review of the ALJ's decision. The ALJ's decision is
thus the final decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. §
action for judicial review, Harper claims that the ALJ's
decision is not supported by substantial evidence on the
record as a whole, arguing specifically that the ALJ
improperly found his subjective complaints not to be credible
and failed to include all of his limitations in the
hypothetical question posed to the vocational expert. Harper
requests that the matter be reversed and remanded for further
reasons that follow, the ALJ did not err in his decision.
Evidence Before the ALJ
hearing on March 31, 2014, Harper testified in response to
questions posed by the ALJ and counsel.
time of the hearing, Harper was forty-five years of age. He
lives alone in a small house with a pet. He completed the
eighth grade and never obtained his GED. (Tr. 33-34.)
Work History Report shows that Harper worked from 1992 to
1998 at A/U Max and in 2001 at Fabcon. He worked with
plumbing companies from May 2003 to September 2009 and
stopped working in November 2009 because he was laid off.
(Tr. 141, 163.) Harper testified that he cannot currently
work because of problems with his legs and hips and because
of the inconsistent nature of his good and bad days. (Tr.
testified that he went to the hospital in December 2011 with
suspected appendicitis but learned that he had clogged
arteries. He was placed on medication, given restrictions,
and was told that he needed surgery. (Tr. 34-35.)
testified that he experiences pain in his legs and hips every
day. The pain worsens with hills, stairs, extensive walking,
excessive sitting, and standing. He uses a heating pad for
pain two or three times a week for up to an hour and a half
each time. Sometimes the pain is so severe that he must sit
on the couch for two days with a heating pad. He takes no
pain medication. (Tr. 36-37, 39.)
testified that he experiences no symptoms of depression or
anxiety and gets along with people, depending “[o]n the
person.” (Tr. 40-41.)
testified that his exertional abilities change from day to
day, but he can usually stand for about one hour before
needing to sit. He can walk on a flat surface for about
twenty minutes. He can sit for half an hour to an hour but is
generally limited because of medication side effects,
including bleeding and hemorrhoids. (Tr. 37-39.)
his daily activities, Harper testified that he is able to go
grocery shopping and drives to and from the grocery store,
which is about a twenty-minute drive each way. After
unloading groceries, he is on the couch for about an hour and
a half. Harper does all of his household chores “for
the most part, ” but not regularly. His cousin mows his
lawn. He watches television during the day and occasionally
visits a friend or relative. Harper testified that he leaves
the house twice a week to go grocery shopping or visit with
family. (Tr. 40-42.)
Medical Treatment Records
June to September 2010, Harper received treatment in the form
of physical therapy, steroid injection, and medication
management for low back pain radiating down the right leg,
with associated numbness in the foot. (Tr. 238-40, 336-45.)
In May 2011, he visited his treating physician, Dr. George P.
Stachecki for an insect bite. He had no other complaints.
December 19, 2011, Harper was admitted to the emergency room
at SSM St. Joseph Hospital West with complaints of abdominal
pain and vomiting. He denied shortness of breath or chest
pain. He showed no signs of depression, and his affect and
judgment were normal. Physical examination showed tenderness
and pain about the lumbar back, but he had full range of
motion. It was noted that Harper took no prescription
medication. A CT scan showed moderate atherosclerosis with
extensive thrombus formation involving the abdominal aorta.
Moderately large perfusion defects were noted about the
spleen and right kidney, and a small cyst was noted in the
dome of the liver. Harper was diagnosed with right lower
quadrant abdominal pain, renal infarction, splenic infarct,
and atherosclerosis of the aorta and was admitted to St.
Louis University Hospital that same date. (Tr. 248-59, 264.)
Testing performed at SLU Hospital showed Harper to be at low
cardiac risk, preoperatively. He was started on Coumadin and
discharged on December 24 with the understanding that he
would return at a later date for surgery. (Tr. 265-67.)
visited Dr. Stachecki on December 30 for follow up, who noted
that Harper would be undergoing surgery the following month.
Harper currently felt well. Harper's blood pressure was
under good control and Harper reported that he had
significantly cut back on his cigarette smoking. (Tr.
returned to Dr. Stachecki on January 11, 2012, who noted that
surgery was scheduled later in the month. Dr. Stachecki noted
that Harper had cut back on his cigarette smoking, but he had
poor compliance with exercise and diet. Harper complained of
mild back pain but denied any other joint pain. Dr. Stachecki
prescribed medication for high cholesterol and instructed
Harper to continue with Coumadin. (Tr. 320-24.)
underwent an oncology consultation on January 24 for
polycythemia. Dr. Caron Rigden noted Harper's
medical history, including a report that he began
experiencing bilateral leg pain with walking in March 2011.
Dr. Rigden noted Harper's diagnosis from December 2011
with recommended surgery, but Harper reported being uninsured
and unable to make the required up-front payment for surgery.
He also reported that Dr. Stachecki was currently looking for
another surgical provider. Harper's current medications
were noted to be Warfarin, Pravastatin, Pepcid, and aspirin.
Harper reported being a heavy smoker in the past - up to
two-and-a-half packs per day - but that he was now down to
less than a pack a day. Harper reported having no
musculoskeletal pain, joint swelling, or muscle aches; and he
reported having no anxiety, depression, or sleep
disturbances. Upon review of laboratory results and imaging
studies, Dr. Rigden opined that Harper's polycythemia may
be secondary to tobacco use, and she encouraged Harper to
quit smoking. Dr. Rigden ordered more testing and instructed
Harper to return in a few weeks for reassessment. (Tr.
went to the emergency room at St. Peter's Hospital on
January 28 with complaints of sudden onset of hematuria.
Physical examination showed tenderness about the abdomen on
the right but was otherwise unremarkable. Harper had no
musculoskeletal tenderness, and range of motion was normal.
He was discharged that same date in good condition with
instruction to follow up with Dr. Stachecki to check Coumadin