United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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
Because the Court finds that substantial evidence supports
the decision to deny benefits, the Court affirms the denial
of Plaintiff's application.
Background and Procedural History
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. (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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.).
decision dated April 23, 2014, the ALJ applied the five-step
evaluation set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920 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).
reviewing Plaintiff's testimony and the medical records
and finding that Plaintiff was “not entirely credible,
” the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual
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.
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.
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
Standard of Review
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.
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 ...