United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision
denying Linda Derryberry's ("Derryberry")
applications for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401,
et seq. and supplemental security income
("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381, et seq.
February 18, 2013, Derryberry protectively filed applications
for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et
seq. (Tr. 214-218), and for SSI benefits under Title XVI
of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq.
(Tr. 206-213). In both applications, she alleged disability
beginning June 9, 2009, due to, inter alia, back pain,
chronic migraines, asthma, and depression (Tr. 206, 214,
235). The Social Security Administration ("SSA")
denied Derryberry's claims on April 29, 2013 (Tr.
149-153). Derryberry filed a timely request for a hearing
before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on June
10, 2013 (Tr. 156). After a hearing held on May 7, 2014 (Tr.
96-121), the ALJ issued a written decision on August 19,
2014, upholding the denial of benefits (Tr. 77-95).
Derryberry requested review of the ALJ's decision by the
Appeals Council (Tr. 75-76). On November 6, 2015, the Appeals
Council denied her request for review (Tr. 1-7). Thus, the
decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the
Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel 530 U.S. 103, 107
filed this appeal on January 7, 2016 (Doc. 1). The
Commissioner filed an Answer (Doc. 9). Derryberry filed a
Brief in Support of her Complaint (Doc. 11), and the
Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer (Doc.
18). Derryberry did not file a Reply Brief.
Decision of the ALJ
ALJ determined that Derryberry met the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31,
2014, and had not engaged in substantial gainful employment
since June 9, 2009, the alleged onset date of disability (Tr.
82). As relevant to this appeal, the ALJ determined that
Derryberry had the severe impairments of asthma, lumbar
degenerative disc disease, cervical osteoarthritis, and
migraines; but that no impairment or combination of
impairments met or medically equaled the severity of one of
the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (Tr. 82-85). Notably, the ALJ determined that
Derryberry's depression and anxiety were not severe
impairments, as they did not cause more than a minimal effect
on her ability to perform basic work activities (Tr. 83-84).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Derryberry
had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to
perform less than the full range of sedentary work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967. More
specifically, the ALJ found that Derryberry had the following
limitations: can stand and walk 2 hours per day but at times
may have to limit her standing and walking to 30 minutes at a
time; can sit 6 hours per day but at times may be limited to
sitting for 30 minutes and have to get up for a short time
and then sit back down; can lift 10 pounds occasionally and
less than 10 pounds frequently; can occasionally bend, stoop,
crouch, squat, kneel, and crawl; should avoid climbing
ladders or working at heights or around hazardous unprotected
moving equipment; needs to avoid extreme temperature,
humidity, dust, fumes, poor ventilation, and vibrations; and
at times, due to symptoms from physical impairments, may be
limited to a simple routine or simple repetitive tasks and
could not sustain a higher level of concentration such as
work requiring sustained attention to detail (Tr. 85-89). The
ALJ specifically noted that, although he was not persuaded by
Derryberry's statements regarding the frequency and
severity of her migraines, he would nevertheless give her the
"benefit of the doubt, " and include in the RFC a
limitation to only simple routine or simple repetitive tasks
and a limitation on higher levels of concentration to account
for possible distractions caused by her migraines (Tr. 88).
found Derryberry unable to perform any past relevant work;
however, based on her age, education, work experience, and
RFC, the ALJ concluded that there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Derryberry
can perform, including final assembler and table worker (Tr.
89-90). Thus, the ALJ concluded that Derryberry had not been
under a disability from the alleged onset date of June 9,
2009 through the date of his decision, August 19, 2014 (Tr.
following is a summary of the relevant evidence before the
held a hearing in this matter on May 7, 2014. The ALJ heard
testimony from Derryberry, and George Home, M.S., a
Derryberry was 46 years old at the time of the hearing and
living with her 14-year-old and 16-year-old sons (Tr. 100).
She completed high school, and has a driver's license
(Tr. 100, 107). She testified that she has not worked since
2009, when she quit her job as a driver for a meal-delivery
service because exposure to her clients' cigarette smoke
caused her to have asthma attacks (Tr. 100-102).
Derryberry's testimony that, due to her back pain, she
could not lift more than 15 pounds, she had difficulty
standing for long periods of time, she can stand for no more
than 10 minutes before needing to sit down, she cannot finish
washing a full sink of dishes, and she has difficulty cooking
(Tr. 103-104). When her back hurts, Derryberry sits down and
puts her feet up; when she has migraines, she lies down (Tr.
104). Derryberry does grocery shopping with her husband, but
she becomes sore afterward (Tr. 106). When she is able, the
goes to church and sings (Tr. 107, 112). She sometimes misses
church because of migraines or pain (Tr. 107).
testified that she does household chores "at [her] own
pace." (Tr. 111). She does not vacuum or mop because of
her back pain (Id.). She is able to dust, but wears
a mask on her doctor's advice (IdJ. She cannot mow the
lawn, but she and her husband planted a garden with 30 tomato
plants (Tr. 111-112). She likes to read, and has "been
getting out in the evening and walking around" (Tr.
112). Derryberry likes to fish and camp, but has missed out
on a few trips because of her asthma and back pain (Tr.
also testified that she takes Topamax for migraines, that her
headaches had decreased in intensity and frequency since she
started taking the medication, but that they had
"started in again" in the prior few months (Tr.
105, 110). She testified that she had "probably had
three [migraines]" during the week of the hearing (Tr.
105). Derryberry also testified that she had quit jobs in the
past because her migraines "got to the point where [she]
just couldn't take it anymore."
also testified that she takes medications for depression, and
that the medications have helped (Tr. 108-109). She reported
having fewer days where it is hard for her to get motivated
to get out of bed, that she sometimes feels helpless and
hopeless at night, and that she has periods of tearfulness
(Id.). Derryberry testified that she sleeps
approximately 6 hours per night (Tr. 109).
Testimony of Vocational Expert
first hypothetical, the ALJ asked Mr. Home, a vocational
expert, to assume an individual of the claimant's age,
education, and work history who is limited to "needing
to sit for some time during the [day] with her feet elevated
to the level of the waist and for as much as three times a
week needs to lie down because of headaches. The person will
be unable to stand for more than ten minutes at a time."
(Tr. 117). Mr. Home opined that there would be no full-time,
competitive employment available for such a person
(Id.). For the second hypothetical, the ALJ asked
Mr. Home to assume the individual was limited to sitting less
than two hours per day and standing ...