United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
DOUGLAS R. ALLEN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.
D. NOCE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
action is before this court for judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security finding that
plaintiff Douglas R. Allen is not disabled and, thus, not
entitled to disability insurance benefits (“DIB”)
under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401 et seq. The parties have consented to the
exercise of plenary authority by the undersigned United
States Magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the
Commissioner is reversed and remanded.
was born in June 1951 and worked professionally as an
airplane pilot. (Tr. 123, 127, 150-61). Plaintiff's
insured status under Title II of the Act expired on March 31,
2017. (Tr. 9, 113). He filed his application for DIB in
December 2012, alleging a total disability onset date of
April 27, 2012. (Tr. 45, 51, 123-24). Plaintiff claims
that his irritable bowel syndrome (“IBS”) limits
his ability to work. (Tr. 47, 126, 135, 140, 216). His
application was denied on February 28, 2013, and he requested
a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 9, 54-58, 61). A hearing was held
in September 2014, where plaintiff testified. (Tr. 21-44). By
decision dated December 19, 2014, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act.
(Tr. 6-16). The ALJ determined that plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
jobs available in the national economy. Id. On
January 14, 2016, the Appeals Council of the Social Security
Administration denied plaintiff's request for review of
the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-5). Consequently, the
ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the
argues that the ALJ's decision is not supported by
substantial evidence. Specifically, he asserts that the ALJ
erred in finding that plaintiff's bathroom breaks can be
scheduled, failed to articulate the weight given to the
opinion of plaintiff's treating specialist and the
testimony of plaintiff's wife, produced an improperly
vague RFC finding, and relied on unreliable VE testimony.
Plaintiff asks that judgment be entered in his favor.
Medical Record and Evidentiary Hearing
court adopts plaintiff's unopposed statement of facts
(ECF No. 15), as well as defendant's unopposed statement
of facts. (ECF No. 20). These facts, taken together, present
a fair and accurate summary of the medical record and
testimony at the evidentiary hearing. The court will discuss
specific facts as they are relevant to the parties'
found that plaintiff suffered from the severe impairment of
gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”) and that
he had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his
alleged onset date. (Tr. 11). The ALJ concluded that
plaintiff's GERD did not meet or equal an impairment
listed in the Commissioner's regulations. (Tr. 14-15).
determined that plaintiff's impairment left him with the
RFC to “perform a full range of work at all exertional
levels, ” though “he must have access to restroom
facilities during all regularly scheduled breaks.” (Tr.
12). The ALJ considered plaintiff to be
generally credible in his allegations as the medical record
shows complaints to his medical providers that are consistent
with his allegations. Additionally, the [plaintiff] has a
strong work history and at the hearing expressed a sincere
regret that he was unable to fly due to his issues. This
suggests a positive desire to work and bolsters the
(Tr. 13) (bolding added). Nevertheless, the ALJ also found
that the objective medical evidence did not support the
severity of his allegations. Although plaintiff complained he
“has frequent bowel urgency, makes efforts to know the
location of and be near a restroom, and has been unable to
make it to a restroom before defecating, ” the ALJ
reasoned that “there is no objective medical evidence
to support these allegations and [his] medical providers have
not indicated his condition prevents him from working.”
noted that plaintiff passed his most recent pilot physical in
June 2014, has had normal colonoscopies, and has had negative
results for other related tests. (Tr. 13-14). The ALJ also
noted that his activities of daily living are those
associated with an able individual: “caring for pets,
tending to personal needs, preparing meals, driving, shopping
in stores, using a computer, attending church weekly, and
biking 10 to 15 miles several times a week.” (Tr. 14).
The ALJ did not discuss the weight given to any of the
plaintiff's previous work as a pilot would not give him
ready access to a restroom during breaks, the ALJ concluded
plaintiff is unable to perform his past relevant work. (Tr.
However, considering plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a
vocational expert (“VE”) to find there were jobs
in significant numbers in the national economy ...