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Niemeyer v. Berryhill

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

March 28, 2017

VICTORIA NIEMEYER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Victoria Niemeyer's (“Niemeyer”) application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq.

         I. Background

         On August 14, 2012, Niemeyer protectively filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging a disability onset date of May 18, 2011, due to stress, anxiety, and depression (Tr. 139-147, 203). The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied Niemeyer's claim on October 23, 2012 (Tr. 85-89). Niemeyer filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on January 22, 2013 (Tr. 90). After a hearing held on April 21, 2014 (Tr. 36-74), the ALJ issued a written decision on June 3, 2014, upholding the denial of benefits (Tr. 18-35). Niemeyer requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council (Tr. 16-17). On October 20, 2015, the Appeals Council denied her request for review (Tr. 1-6). Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).

         Niemeyer filed this appeal on December 22, 2015 (Doc. 1). The Commissioner filed an Answer (Doc. 11). Niemeyer filed a Brief in Support of her Complaint (Doc. 23), and the Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer (Doc. 28). Niemeyer did not file a Reply Brief.

         II. Administrative Record

         The following is a summary of the relevant evidence before the ALJ.

         A. The Hearing

         At a hearing held in this matter on April 21, 2014, the ALJ heard testimony from Niemeyer, and Denise Waddell, a vocational expert.

         1. Niemeyer's testimony

         At the time of the hearing, Niemeyer was 60 years old, and living with her husband and 26-year-old son (Tr. 41, 55). She described the symptoms associated with her stress and depression, discussed the medications she had taken for her psychological problems, and explained how she believed her psychological symptoms impacted her ability to maintain fulltime employment (Tr. 42-67). She also testified that, while working in a school cafeteria, her knees had started hurting, but that she had not been treated for her knee pain because she did not have insurance (Tr. 45-46, 62). She further testified that her current part-time employer allows her to sit down and take breaks when her knees start hurting (Tr. 62, 67).

         2. Testimony of the Vocational Expert

         The ALJ asked the vocational expert, Denise Waddell, to assume an individual of Niemeyer's age, education, and work history with the ability to perform “a full range of exertional work, ” but with the following limitation: “limited to performing simple and routine tasks throughout the workday with no more than occasional interaction with supervisors and co-workers which I'll define as cumulatively comprising no more than one third of their workday in . . . a[n] occupation setting where they would not be required to communicate and interact with the general public on behalf of the employer.” (Tr. 68-69). Waddell opined that such an individual would be able to work as a linen room attendant, Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) number 222.387-030, with 530 such jobs available in Missouri, and 38, 900 nationally (Tr. 69). Waddell further opined that such an individual would be able to work as a lamination assembler, DOT number 726.687-026, with 850 such jobs in Missouri, and 65, 000 nationally (Tr. 69-70). Waddell initially opined that such an individual would also be able to work as an order filler, DOT number 922.687-058, with 3, 400 jobs in Missouri and 102, 000 nationally; however, she later determined that such employment would be precluded because such an individual would not be able to maintain the necessary production pace (Tr. 70-72). Notably, the ALJ did not include any physical limitations in the hypothetical posed to Waddell, and all three proposed jobs required a “medium” exertional level (Tr. 68-69).

         3. Counsel's Request for ...


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