United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER 
M. BODENHAUSEN United States Magistrate Judge.
Goforth ("Plaintiff) appeals the final decision of the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
("Defendant") denying his application for
supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"). See
42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. Substantial
evidence does not support Defendant's decision, and it is
therefore REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
Procedural History & Summary of Memorandum
applied for SSI benefits on October 15, 2013, alleging that
he became disabled on July 1, 2005, due to bipolar manic
depression, anxiety, a pinched nerve in his shoulder, panic
attacks, insomnia, trouble concentrating, stress, and eczema.
(Tr. 115) The Social Security Administration
initially denied Plaintiff s application on November 27,
2013. (Tr. 55-58) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge ("ALJ"), and that hearing
took place on October 8, 2014, with Plaintiffs counsel
present. (Tr. 59, 25-44) Plaintiff and Theresa Wolford, a
Vocational Expert ("VE"), testified at the hearing.
(Tr. 42-44) In a decision dated October 24, 2014, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (Tr.
9-21) The Social Security Administration Appeals Council
denied Plaintiffs request for review, leaving the ALJ's
decision as the final decision of the Commissioner in this
matter. (Tr. 1-3) Plaintiff filed the instant action on
August 4, 2016 and the matter is properly before this Court.
(ECF No. 15); see42U.S.C. § 405(g).
Evidence Before the ALJ
conducted a hearing on October 8, 2014. (Tr. 27) Plaintiffs
attorney did not request any additional examinations or to
seek expand or clarify the record. (Tr. 43)
Plaintiffs Testimony (Tr. 26-44)
hearing, Plaintiff explained that he had trouble standing on
his feet for long periods of time, that he could not sleep at
night, that he felt trapped on a time clock or in a work
environment, and that he could not stand to be around crowds
of people. (Tr. 32-34) To address his physical symptoms,
Plaintiff sought treatment with Dr. Karl Killion, a primary
care physician who had treated Plaintiff for fifteen or
twenty years. (Tr. 35) At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff
had a prescription for Percocet from Dr. Killion. (Tr. 35)
According to Plaintiff, Dr. Killion first prescribed Percocet
eight or ten years earlier. (Id.)
the psychiatric issues Plaintiff described, at the time of
his hearing Plaintiff had no current mental healthcare
provider and had stopped taking psychiatric medicines
prescribed to him by his previous counselor at Resolutions
Behavioral Health ("RBH") roughly a year before.
(Tr. 33-34, 150) Plaintiff testified that he did not agree
with his treatment plan because a nurse practitioner treated
him rather than a doctor and because the medicines prescribed
did not work. (Tr. 34) Plaintiff also testified that he lost
Medicaid "right after" seeing the nurse
practitioner at RBH. (Id.) Plaintiffs medical
records do not clarify his reasons for ceasing treatment.
Notes from his last appointment, on April 17, 2013, recommend
another appointment in four weeks and contain no reference to
closing his file. (Tr. 152)
stated that because he had no insurance at the time of the
hearing, no psychiatrist would treat him (Tr. 34)
Additionally, Plaintiff represented that he had been approved
for Medicaid coverage recently but that every psychiatrist he
spoke with had a two month wait until their first available
appointment. (Id.) Plaintiff offered no
documentation of psychiatrists' refusal to treat him
without insurance, his search for a psychiatrist, or the
waiting period to see a psychiatrist.
time of the hearing, Plaintiff lived in a house with his wife
and his mentally disabled daughter. (Tr. 35) Plaintiff
testified that during the day, he watches TV or tries to keep
active by visiting his mother or his daughter. (Tr. 36)
Plaintiff testified that he performs no yard work and
"hardly any" household chores, but that he shops at
the store when he has to, accompanied by his wife or son.
(Tr. 36, 40)
Vocational Expert's Testimony (Tr. 40-43)
Wolford testified as a vocational expert ("VE") at
the hearing. The ALT asked the VE to consider a hypothetical
person of Plaintiff s age, education, and work experience who
could work at the light exertion level. (Tr. 42) This
hypothetical person should avoid concentrated exposure to
vibration, could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop
and crouch, but could never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. (Id.) This person could perform simple
routine tasks in a low stress work environment.
(Id.) The ALJ defined a low stress work environment
as one with "only occasional workplaces change" and
one with occasional contact with supervisors, coworkers or
the general public. (Id.)
testified that this hypothetical person could perform several
jobs, including: (1) housekeeping; (2) routing clerk; and (3)
assembler production. (Tr. 42) If the hypothetical person
with the same limitations was also off task in excess of 20
percent of the day, the VE testified that no jobs would exist
for them in the economy. (Tr. 43)
Plaintiffs Work History and Function Reports (Tr.
30, 32, 100-110, 128-137)
has work experience as a building maintenance worker. (Tr.
30, 32, 110) In the function report he filled out, Plaintiff
indicates that he does not need special reminders to take
care of personal needs and grooming, and that he shops for
groceries about once a month. (Tr. 130, 131) The report also
indicates that Plaintiff needs reminders to take medicine,
does not prepare his own meals, and does not perform house or
yard work because he has no energy and because he experiences
heightened pain when he stands for a long time.
(Id.) Plaintiff also reported that he has trouble
getting along with other people because he "can't
stand to be around a lot of people or sometimes just
one" and that he does not handle changes in routine
well. (Tr. 133, 134) Finally, Plaintiff indicated that he can
pay attention for "not long, " that he can follow
written instructions "somewhat, " and that he can
follow spoken instructions "some." (Tr. 133)
record before this Court does not include medical records
from the time of Plaintiff s alleged onset date of July 1,
2005, through January 23, 2013. On January 23, 2013,
Plaintiff began treatment at Rehabilitative Behavior Health
("RBH") with Nancy McNail, a psychiatric-mental
health nurse practitioner. He reported anxiety, decreased
sleep (two hours per night), and at times not wanting to be
around others. (Tr. 157, 158) Treatment notes from that visit
indicate that Plaintiff had not taken any psychological
medication for several years prior to his initial visit. (Tr.
157) Ms. McNail diagnosed Plaintiff with bipolar affective
disorder and prescribed Depakote and counseling. (Tr. 158)