United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of Defendant's final decision denying Plaintiffs
applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the
decision of the Commissioner.
March 9, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability beginning March 15, 2010 due to bipolar
and tendonitis in hands and arms. (Tr. 184, 281-289) The
application was denied, and Plaintiff filed a request for a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALT").
(Tr. 152, 184-88, 192) On September 13, 2012, Plaintiff
testified before an ALJ. (Tr. 53-102) On October 11, 2012,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not been under a
disability from March 15, 2010, through the date of the
decision. (Tr. 157-71) Plaintiff then filed a request for
review, and on November 13, 2013, the Appeals Council granted
Plaintiffs request for review and remanded the case to the
ALJ for additional proceedings. (Tr. 177-78) On February 10,
2014, the ALJ held a supplemental hearing, and on April 17,
2014, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr.
29-47, 103-45) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request
for review on September 22, 2015. (Tr. 1-4) Thus, the
decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the
Evidence Before the ALJ
second hearing before the ALJ, held on February 10, 2014,
Plaintiff was represented by counsel. She testified that she
had a GED plus additional vocational training in home health,
office machines, collections, and administrative. While
unemployed, Plaintiff looked for jobs in the areas of
customer service, collections, and fast food preparation.
Plaintiff previously worked for Clean Uniform, but she was
let go because there were no light duty jobs available.
Plaintiff testified that the machines broke her down and
caused issues in her arms and shoulder and her whole body.
Plaintiff denied ever being self-employed. She had gone
through rehab for drugs in 1991 and 1993. (Tr. 105-111)
questioning from Plaintiffs attorney, Plaintiff stated she
currently worked at McDonald's as a fast food worker. She
worked five hours a day, five days a week, cleaning and
taking orders. Plaintiff experienced some problems at work,
including fighting with one of the workers. She had to switch
restaurants as a result. Plaintiff had worked at the current
location for 4 Vi months. Plaintiff took a cab to
work. She returned to work in order to pay for psychiatric
treatment and medication. When Plaintiff was at home alone,
she heard voices and saw shadows. The voices told her to hurt
herself. Plaintiff saw Dr. Partap for mental health treatment.
She had been seeing Dr. Partap for two years. Plaintiff
stated that she took her medication consistently but
acknowledged she did not take medications for a year due to
lack of funds. When Plaintiff took her medication regularly,
she still had some symptoms, but the medicines suppressed her
thoughts. While she saw improvement, she would become
aggravated with people and go from zero to 100. She continued
to have problems sleeping and recently began taking a new
sleep prescription. Plaintiff testified that her energy level
was normal during the day, but sometimes the medication made
her sleepy. (Tr. 111-17)
stated that she experienced neck and back pain from either a
herniated or bulging disc. Plaintiff testified that if she
sat too long, she would feel pain from her neck down into her
back on the right side. Her current job required Plaintiff to
stand for five hours without a break. She stated, however,
that she had to force herself to stand longer than three
hours. Plaintiff also had spasms in her right and left
shoulder, and the pain went into her back. In addition,
Plaintiff experienced pain when using her arms and hands. She
previously saw Dr. Padda for pain management. Plaintiffs
current primary care physician ("PCP") was Dr.
Ghani, and her prior PCP was Dr. Buck. Plaintiffs attorney
indicated that Plaintiff would submit updated medical
records. With regard to her hands and arms, Plaintiff
testified that she had neuropathy which affected the bottom
of her feet and her hands. The top of her hands hurt, and she
had difficulty grasping and holding things. Plaintiff was
unable to lift and carry anything heavy. She testified that
she could lift 10 to 15 pounds. Plaintiff also had arthritis
in her knees. She previously received injections. If
Plaintiff stood too long, her knees would swell. Plaintiff
was able to do some housework such as fixing the bed and
washing a few dishes. Her husband did the vacuuming, mopping,
grocery shopping, and cooking. Plaintiff stated that she was
unable to squeeze a mop or lift grocery bags. She went to
church but did not visit with friends or family. (Tr. 117-25)
at home, Plaintiff talked with her husband when she was not
sleeping or eating. Plaintiff worked from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00
a.m. When she returned home, she went back to bed until 4:30
p.m. Plaintiff stated that she was tired, and the medicine
made her sleepy. On the weekends she spent time with her
husband. Plaintiff testified that she was able to get along
with people at the new work location. However, she has
experienced some conflicts with current employees. Plaintiff
stated that she had medical insurance through her
husband's work. He had been employed for over 20 years.
Plaintiff was able to see a counselor through her
husband's insurance. (Tr. 125-29)
vocational expert ("VE") also testified at the
hearing. Plaintiff answered questions about her past job
duties. The ALJ then asked the VE to assume an individual
functionally limited to light exertional work. Due to alleged
mental impairments, she was limited to unskilled work that
did not include more than infrequent handling of customer
complaints. In addition, the person should avoid ropes,
ladders, scaffolding, and hazardous heights. She could
frequently do push and pull with her upper extremities. With
these limitations, the individual could not perform any of
Plaintiff s past relevant work. However, she could work as a
marker, assembler of small products, and motel cleaner. (Tr.
attorney also questioned the VE and limited the individual to
only occasionally use her right upper extremity. Further, she
could not deal with the public, and interaction with
co-workers would be seldom. She could not handle close
supervision, and the work would need to be low stress with no
aggressive production pace. The person was limited to no
changes in the work routine; no more than simple, routine
changes; and no decision making. In light of these
limitations, the VE testified that the person could still
work as a marker and small products assembler. If the
individual were limited to only occasional stooping and
bending, and no kneeling or crawling, the marker and
assembler jobs remained. Finally, if the person had to change
positions and required a sit/stand option, the individual
could perform the marker and assembler positions. (Tr.
Function Report - Adult, Plaintiff described her daily
activities as not doing much because of her aching arms and
numb fingers. She would wake up; brush her teeth; bathe; make
coffee; sometimes cook breakfast; and look for jobs on the
internet. She took her pain medication and napped for about 2
to 3 hours. Plaintiff would try to tidy up, and then cook
something to eat. She had good days and some bad days when
she did not want to be a bother. Plaintiff was able prepare
meals twice a week; do a little laundry and ironing; clean;
and mop. She could shop for necessities such as toiletries
and a little food. She enjoyed reading and watching TV.
Plaintiff had problems getting along with others. She
reported that her conditions affected her ability to lift,
squat, bend, stand, reach, walk, sit, kneel, stair climb,
see, remember, concentrate, understand, follow instructions,
use hands, and get along with others. (Tr. 377-84)
husband also completed a Function Report-Adult - Third Party.
He stated that Plaintiff could cook simple meals and dust the
house. She tried to help with housework but was in severe
pain most days. Plaintiff became angry very easily, and she
had trouble with many functional abilities due to back and
shoulder pain, knee pain, and swelling of hands and feet.
Plaintiff testified to physical impairments including back
and shoulder pain, knee pain, and pain and swelling in her
hands and feet, Plaintiff only disputes the ALJ's
findings with respect to her psychological impairments.
Therefore, the Court will set forth the medical evidence
regarding her mental health treatment.
began treatment with Mohinder Partap, M.D., at Psych Care
Consultants on April 29, 2011. Her diagnosis was
schizophrenia, paranoid type. (Tr. 505-07) On June 3, 2011,
Plaintiff reported some relief in hallucinations and paranoia
with medication. Plaintiffs husband noted improvement in
Plaintiffs attitude, and Dr. Partap was pleased with her
improvement. However, on July 5, 2011, Plaintiff denied
improvement. Plaintiffs auditory and visual hallucinations
were down by 15% on August 2, 2011, but Plaintiff reported
being irritable. Dr. Partap noted Plaintiff was coherent and
rational, and her medication dosages were increased. Her
hallucinations were subsiding on September 6, 2011, but
Plaintiff stopped taking her medications due to drowsiness.
In November 2011, Plaintiff reported improved hallucinations,
but she heard footsteps and saw dark shadows in her house.
She was depressed and tearful. On December 27, 2011,
Plaintiff stated that she heard voices telling her to cut her
wrist, and she had visual hallucinations of dark shadows.
Plaintiff declined hospitalization or IOP. (Tr. 580-81)
reported that she could not afford the medications during an
appointment with Dr. Partap on January 5, 2012. Dr. Partap
provided medication samples. On February 15, 2012, Plaintiffs
sister reported that she did not see any improvement. Dr.
Partap noted that Plaintiffs appearance, attitude, and affect
were good. On March 15, 2012, Plaintiff reported visual and
auditory hallucinations. She had delusions of someone behind
her and tactile hallucinations of being touched on the
shoulder. On April 17, 2012, Dr. Partap noted that Plaintiff
had been taking her medications only 50% of the time until
recently. Plaintiff was improved, with hallucinations down by
25%. Her appearance, attitude, and affect were good. Dr.
Partap noted Plaintiff was lively. (Tr. 578-79)
April 24, 2012, Dr. Partap completed an Assessment for Social
Security Disability Claim. Dr. Partap described Plaintiffs
psychiatric history as "[a]uditory hallucinations
consisting of her name, voices telling her to hurt people and
visual hallucinations of Jesus, demons and dead relatives for
last 12 years. Stabbed old lady friend in 1996 and beat a
coworker in 2009. Paranoid around people." (Tr. 576) Dr.
Partap noted that Plaintiff reported that treatment relieved
25% of hallucinations and delusions. ...