United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
D. NOCE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
action is before this court for judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security finding that
plaintiff Billy Corley was not disabled, and, thus, not
entitled to Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”)
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the
Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 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 Commissioner is affirmed.
born February 23, 1978, filed his application for SSI on May
17, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of February 1,
2008 due to mental problems, and neck and back
pain. (Tr. 200-20). On November 9, 2012, his
application was denied; thereafter, plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 88, 95). The hearing was held on
March 25, 2014. (Tr. 38, 171). Delores Gonzalez, a
vocational expert (“VE”), and plaintiff testified
at the hearing. (Tr. 20, 38, 189-92). The ALJ decided on July
1, 2014, that plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 416.967(b), with some exceptions. (Tr. 24). Considering
plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the
ALJ determined there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform,
and therefore found that plaintiff was not disabled under the
Act. (Tr. 29). Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals
Council of the Social Security Administration on August 30,
2014. (Tr. 20). The Appeals Council denied the request. (Tr.
1). Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies and
the ALJ's decision stands as the final agency action now
argues the ALJ's decision contained inaccuracies,
incomplete analysis, and unresolved conflicts of evidence
that demonstrate the ALJ's decision was not based on
substantial evidence. Specifically, he asserts the ALJ erred
in determining plaintiff's credibility by improperly
considering some factors and failing to cite to the record.
Plaintiff asks that the ALJ's decision be reversed and
the case be remanded for further evaluation of the record.
RECORD AND OTHER ADMINISTRATIVE RECORD
9, 2008, Karen Hampton, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist,
prepared a psychological evaluation of plaintiff. (Tr.
306-20). Plaintiff had reported concerns of mental problems,
anxiety, panic attacks, and memory problems. (Tr. 316).
Plaintiff stated anxiety made it difficult to be around
people; however, he continued to do his own basic shopping.
(Tr. 316). Plaintiff had placed job applications since his
discharge from the Army in December 2006, but had not worked
since the discharge. (Tr. 317).Plaintiff had previous employment
at a bowling alley, the Dollar Tree, and, immediately prior
to his enlistment in the Army, at a pizza place where he
worked for over two years. (Tr. 318). Plaintiff had not
attended outpatient counseling or psychotherapy, nor had he
been psychiatrically hospitalized at any time. (Tr. 319). Dr.
Hampton found plaintiff expressed signs of physiological
anxiety. (Tr. 317). Dr. Hampton diagnosed plaintiff with
bipolar disorder (type unspecified), learning disorder, and
dependent and avoidant personality traits. (Tr. 320). Dr.
Hampton listed plaintiff's GAF score at 53, consistent
with moderate limitations of functioning. (Id.).
Based on the results of the current evaluation, Billy is able
to understand and recall simple instructions. Concentration
is mildly impaired, and pace is adequate compared to other
same-age adults. Ability to adapt to social situations and
work-like settings is moderately impaired, in what sounds
like fairly chronic anxiety and paranoid thoughts, in what
may be a bipolar mood disorder or psychotic thought disorder,
Billy appears likely to decompensate in the face of increased
stressors. He is considered capable of managing funds
independently in his own best interest.
15, 2009, plaintiff reported feeling less depressed at a
meeting with Ginger Nicol, M.D., a psychiatrist at BJC
Behavioral Health Services. (Tr. 347). On July 29, 2009,
plaintiff told Dr. Nicol he denied feeling depressed or
anxious, and denied problems with sleep. (Tr. 346). Plaintiff
demonstrated the ability to consistently take oral medication
with assistance from his social worker and a pill box. (Tr.
August 19, 2009, Dr. Nicol noted improved hygiene, improved
social interactions (e.g., riding the bus on his own and
attending the Independence Center (“IC”)), and a
significant decrease in paranoia, anxiety, and depressive
symptoms. (Tr. 345). Dr. Nicol noted since taking prescribed
medication, psychiatric symptoms improved dramatically. (Tr.
September 9, 2009, Dr. Nicol noted the social worker checked
pill boxes during a home visit and verified plaintiff had
been taking prescribed medication; however, it was unclear
whether plaintiff took the medication consistently. (Tr.
343). Dr. Nicol found plaintiff's symptoms improved
somewhat since changing medication. (Tr. 344).
October 7, 2009, Dr. Nicol noted plaintiff took medications,
attended the IC regularly, and used public transportation
without problems. Plaintiff's symptoms were stabilized
under medication. (Tr. 342).
November 11, 2009, plaintiff reported tolerating medication
without problems and reported he had not missed any doses
since setting up a pillbox and alarm system for reminders.
Dr. Nicol noted plaintiff's psychotic and mood symptoms
were under good control and plaintiff participated well in
the psychosocial rehabilitation programming. (Tr. 341).
December 30, 2009, Dr. Nicol noted plaintiff went to the
grocery store and to primary care physician appointments
alone, remembered to fill his pill boxes weekly, denied any
mood or psychotic symptoms, attended the IC daily, and
expressed interest in the IC's temporary work program.
Dr. Nicol noted plaintiff did well on his current medication
without side effects, engaged in self-care activities, and
was fully engaged in psychosocial rehabilitation programming.
January 2 through 9, 2010, plaintiff was admitted to the
DePaul Health Center because of self-harming behavior, unsafe
behavior, suicidality symptoms, and mood symptoms. Plaintiff
stated when he thought about the past he wanted to hurt his
siblings. (Tr. 547). Plaintiff presented signs of homicidal
ideation towards his brother, whom he would like to shoot,
although plaintiff did not own a gun but stated guns are for
sale at a local store. Plaintiff also claimed he would like
to throw acid into his sister's face. (Tr. 547). At the
time of admittance, plaintiff had aggressive and
self-mutilating behaviors, suicidal symptoms, and homicidal
ideas. (Tr. 548). Plaintiff was provided inpatient
psychiatric treatment. At the time of discharge, plaintiff
had no suicidal ideas, no homicidal ideas, no aggressive
thoughts, no endangering behavior, and no debilitating
adverse effects. (Tr. 548).
January 13, 2010, Dr. Nicol found plaintiff suffers from
schizoaffective disorder. (Tr. 323). Dr. Nicol found a Global
Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) of 65,
consistent with only “mild” impairment. (Tr.
January 18, 2010, Alyssa Trimble, M.A., C.M., prepared a
clinical psychological assessment of plaintiff. (Tr. 324-29).
Plaintiff reported his current goal was “to get a
job.” (Tr. 324). Plaintiff attended the IC five days a
week, helped out on the third-floor, and communicated with
acquaintances at the center. (Tr. 327). Plaintiff was
compliant with treatment. (Tr. 328). Plaintiff was to
continue community support services from
Barnes-Jewish/Christian Behavioral Health
(“BJCBH”), continue to see Dr. Nicol every two
months, and attend the IC five days a week to increase
socialization and to obtain employment. The assessment
referred plaintiff to the BJCBH employment specialist should
he be unable to obtain employment thorough the IC. (Tr. 328).
February 3, 2010, plaintiff reported not sleeping for days.
Dr. Nicol noticed plaintiff did not look as if he was sleep
deprived. (Tr. 337).
March 3, 2010, plaintiff reported doing custodial work
through the IC work program for approximately 4 hours per
day, five days a week. Plaintiff went to the IC and worked
out and did well on his current medications. Dr. Nicol
recommended he attend social outlets, such as book clubs, to
meet people. (Tr. 336).
November 2, 2010, Aqeeb Ahmad, M.D. of Jennings Medical
Center Inc. prepared a consultative psychiatric evaluation of
plaintiff. (Tr. 352). Plaintiff complained he was unable to
work because of anxiety and his schizoaffective disorder.
(Tr. 352). Dr. Ahmad noted plaintiff was never
psychiatrically hospitalized. (Tr. 353). Dr. Ahmad gave
plaintiff a GAF of about 50, consistent with serious
limitations of functioning. (Tr. 354). Dr. Ahmad stated
plaintiff would probably not be able to hold a job on a
consistent basis because of anxiety, paranoia, social
isolation, difficulty getting along with people, and
suspiciousness. (Tr. 354).
December 2 to 9, 2010, plaintiff was hospitalized for
suicidal and homicidal thoughts, self-harming behavior,
unsafe behavior, suicidality, and mood symptoms. (Tr.
544-60). At admission, he made specific statements of harming
his brother and his sister, who he said abused him when he
was growing up. (Tr. 547). Plaintiff received therapeutic
care. His discharge diagnoses were schizoaffective disorder,
unspecified schizophrenia, generalized anxiety disorder,
depressive disorder, and unspecified psychosis. (Tr. 548).
The discharge summary stated in part:
The patient's depression, anxiety, stress management
skill, impulse/anger control, motivation, understanding of
disease and compliance to treatment are improved. The patient
continued to have difficulty in motivation. At the time of
discharge, the patient had no suicidal ideas, no homicidal
ideas, no aggressive thoughts, no endangering behavior and no
debilitating adverse effects. The patient agreed on the
treatment plan, understood the risk, benefit, alternative
treatment, potential consequence of no treatment, and gave
February 3, 2011, Dr. Nicol noted plaintiff, while still
dating his girlfriend, began having sexual relations with a
man he met at a metro station a few weeks ago. (Tr. 391). Dr.
Nicol referred plaintiff for regular psychotherapy. (Tr.
March through June of 2011, Dr. Nicol noted plaintiff
tolerated medications with some residual anxiety and needed
assistance linking to alternate psychosocial rehabilitative
resources and therapy. (Tr. 396). Dr. Nicol found no acute
evidence of psychosis or mood symptoms, found symptom
stability with respect to mood and psychotic symptoms, and
found plaintiff had ongoing issues with sexual identity. (Tr.
400, 403, 415). Dr. Nicol encouraged plaintiff to schedule an
intake for trauma-focused therapy, to do dialectical behavior
therapy,  and to work with his case manager on
identifying appropriate social outlets such as a book club or
joining the local YMCA. (Tr. 400, 409, 415). Dr. Nicol stated
plaintiff was on the waitlist to receive a dialectical
behavior therapist assignment. (Tr. 409).
plaintiff's visits in July and August 2011, Dr. Nicol
noted plaintiff tolerated medications well, had no frank
psychotic symptoms, and was stable overall, but continued to
struggle with wanting social interaction and had ongoing
issues with cognitive function. (Tr. 422, 425). Dr. Nicol
suggested plaintiff join the local YMCA for exercise and
social engagement and continue attendance at the IC. (Tr.
422). Plaintiff was ...