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Ramsey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 28, 2017

FRANKIE RAMSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Frankie Ramsey seeks review of the decision of the Social Security Commissioner, Nancy Berryhill, denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under the Social Security Act.[2] Because the Court finds that substantial evidence supports the decision to deny benefits, the Court affirms the denial of Plaintiff's application.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         On June 27, 2012, Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income alleging he was disabled as of April 1, 2003 as a result of a psychological disorder, an identity disorder, depression, and a learning disability.[3] (Tr. 68, 191-97, 198-203). The Social Security Administration (SSA) denied Plaintiff's claims, and he filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). (Tr. 103-07, 108-12, 113-15).

         The SSA granted Plaintiff's request for review, and an ALJ conducted a hearing on March 10, 2014, at which Plaintiff, Plaintiff's mother, and a vocational expert testified. (Tr. 33-65). At the hearing, Plaintiff testified that he was born on March 1, 1968. (Tr. 40). Plaintiff was single and lived with his parents. (Tr. 41). In elementary school, Plaintiff attended special education classes. (Tr. 52). He earned a Bachelor's degree in 2002 and “had some EMT training” but “failed the exams.” (Tr. 41-42). He most recently worked for approximately one year for RGIS Inventory and prior to that, he “did some stocking” at Target, but was fired because he “wasn't doing the job fast enough or - correctly.” (Tr. 42-43). In 2002 and 2003, he worked approximately nine months for Procter & Gamble “packaging tissue.” (Tr. 43). Plaintiff also worked for a clothing manufacturer for a period of time, where he was “on the assembly line . . . cleaning the jackets and shipping them out.” (Tr. 43).

         When the ALJ asked Plaintiff “what is it that makes it difficult for you to work?, ” Plaintiff answered, “Now I'm less motivated and I feel depressed a lot, crying and not feeling good.” (Tr. 44). Plaintiff testified that he visited his psychiatrist every two months and took medication for depression. (Tr. 44, 51). In regard to his medication, Plaintiff stated, “[s]ome days it helps and other days they have no effect, ” and it made him “very, very tired.” (Tr. 44, 51). Plaintiff stated that, on a typical day, “I'll wake up around noon and I sit down and basically do nothing all day.” (Tr. 47). He had no hobbies and, although he had a driver's license, he did not drive. (Tr. 47).

         At the prompting of his attorney, Plaintiff stated “The memories of Jack Kennedy's [sic] is branded in my mind. I have flashbacks. I have memories of his life . . . .” (Tr. 47). As an example, Plaintiff described a memory he had of traveling to Scotland with “Bobby and Joey . . . to see dad, who was the ambassador to Scotland.” (Tr. 48). Plaintiff testified that these “memories and flashbacks” occurred daily, and he would momentarily forget his true identity, but he “can put this aside when [he] need[s] to.” (Tr. 49).

         Plaintiff testified that he began receiving vocational rehabilitations services during his second year of college, and that service helped him get his job at RGIS Inventory. (Tr. 50). When Plaintiff's counsel asked him whether he continued to receive vocational rehabilitation services, Plaintiff answered, “they keep trying to find me work, but I just can't seem to find work.” (Tr. 50).

         Plaintiff's mother, Linda Ramsey, testified that she saw Plaintiff frequently because “[s]ometimes he comes and stays for, I don't know, a week maybe or so . . . he's always in and out” but he “has his own place.” (Tr. 53). Mrs. Ramsey described Plaintiff's house as “cluttered and a mess.” (Id.). Sometimes Plaintiff went grocery shopping with Mrs. Ramsey and sometimes he went by himself. (Id.). According to Mrs. Ramsey, Plaintiff was placed in “a learning disability class” in first grade and “he was in it until he did get in high school and then I guess they just put him in a regular class, I don't know.” (Tr. 54). When Plaintiff stays at her house “he doesn't do anything” and, some days, he does not leave his bedroom. (Tr. 56).

         Finally, a vocational expert testified at the hearing. (Tr. 60-64). The ALJ asked the vocational expert to consider a hypothetical individual “able to perform work at all exertional levels, but that work [sic] mentally, the individual would be able to understand, carry out and remember only simple/routine/repetitive tasks involving only simple work-related decisions with few, if any, workplace changes; no interaction with the public; could be around co-workers throughout the day, but with only brief/incidental interaction with co-workers and no tandem tasks.” (Tr. 61). The vocational expert stated that such an individual could perform Plaintiff's past work as hand trimmer, or lint remover. (Id.). In the alternative, that individual could perform the jobs of floor waxer, laundry laborer, and machine feeder. (Tr. 62). When the ALJ added that the hypothetical individual suffered “delusions of being the former president, John F. Kennedy” and “those delusions . . . made him off task more than 15 percent of the workday, ” the vocational expert stated that the individual could not perform the jobs he previously identified. (Id.). Additionally, if the individual were absent from work one day per month, “it probably would eliminate these unskilled [jobs].” (Tr. 63). Finally, when Plaintiff's counsel added that the hypothetical individual “was moderately impaired in his ability to understand and remember instructions” and “markedly impaired in his ability to sustain concentration” and “in his ability to persistent in tasks, ” the vocational expert stated that such individual could not work. (Id.).

         In a decision dated April 23, 2014, the ALJ applied the five-step evaluation set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920[4] and found that Plaintiff “has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 23, 2009, through the date of this decision[.]” (Tr. 11-21). The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: psychotic disorder, not otherwise specified; personality disorder; and depression. (Tr. 13). Additionally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the non-severe impairments of migraine headaches and hypertension. (Tr. 14).

         After reviewing Plaintiff's testimony and the medical records and finding that Plaintiff was “not entirely credible, ” the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity

         (RFC) to:

perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: He would be able to understand, carry out and remember simple, routine and repetitive tasks involving only simple work-related decisions with few, if any, workplace changes. He should not interact with members of the public but could be around co-workers throughout the day with only brief, incidental interaction and no tandem tasks.

         (Tr. 15). Finally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was capable of performing his past relevant work as a hand trimmer or, in the alternative, could perform other occupations that existed in significant numbers in the national economy, such as the jobs of floor waxer, laundry laborer, or machine feeder. (Tr. 19-20).

         Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision with the SSA Appeals Council, which denied review on September 23, 2015. (Tr. 1-6). Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies, and the ALJ's decision stands as the SSA's final decision. Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         II. Standard of Review

         A court must affirm an ALJ's decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence ‘is less than a preponderance, but enough so that a reasonable mind might find it adequate to support the conclusion.'” Cruze v. Chater, 85 F.3d 1320, 1323 (8th Cir. 1996) (quoting Boerst v. Shalala, 2 F.3d 249, 250 (8th Cir. 1993)). In determining whether the evidence is substantial, a court considers evidence that both supports and detracts from the Commissioner's decision. Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 942 (8th Cir. 2009). However, a court “do[es] not reweigh the evidence presented to the ALJ and [it] defer[s] to the ALJ's determinations regarding the credibility of testimony, as long as those determinations are supported by good reason and substantial evidence.” Renstrue v. Astrue, 680 F.3d 1057, 1064 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Gonzales v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 890, 894 (8th Cir. 2006)).

         “If, after reviewing the record, the court finds it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the ALJ's findings, the court must affirm the ALJ's decision.” Partee v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 789 (8th Cir. 2005)). The Eighth Circuit has repeatedly held that a court should “defer heavily to the findings and conclusions” of the Social ...


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