United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Derrick Moore seeks review of the decision of the Social
Security Commissioner, Nancy Berryhill, denying his
application for Supplemental Security Income under the Social
Security Act. 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
January 17, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for
Supplemental Security Income alleging he was disabled as of
October 15, 2006 as a result of bipolar disorder and
anxiety. (Tr. 69-79, 133-36). 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. 69-79, 88).
granted Plaintiff's request for review, and an ALJ
conducted a hearing on May 8, 2014. (Tr. 36-53). At the
hearing, Plaintiff testified that he was thirty-two years of
age, lived with his parents, and had completed high school
and some college. (Tr. 40-41, 47-48). Plaintiff stated he
last attended college in 2012, when he had “a mental, I
guess you would call, relapse….The next fall to get
back in, my psychiatrist had to write a letter saying that I
was able enough to return to school. And then I was - had
some more issues and had to drop.” (Tr. 41).
testified that he began taking medication for depression and
anxiety when he was fourteen years old, and he was diagnosed
with bipolar disorder when he was nineteen or twenty years
old. (Tr. 43). Since that, time Plaintiff “pretty much
stayed on the medications but never got any better.”
(Tr. 43). At the time of the hearing, he was taking Seroquel,
trazodone, Xanax, Lamictal, and Celexa. (Id.).
Plaintiff explained that, about two months ago, “after
fifteen years of not getting better, ” he had switched
psychiatrists. (Id.). Plaintiff's new
psychiatrist, Dr. Habib, took Plaintiff off Klonopin and
placed him on Xanax, which Plaintiff believed was more
helpful. (Tr. 45-46).
symptoms included sleepwalking, falling asleep “in
weird places, ” and social isolation. Plaintiff stated,
during his childhood, his father physically and verbally
abused him, and “[n]ow it's just full-on mental
[abuse].” (Tr. 48). Plaintiff had been addicted to
painkillers and was “working through” and almost
finished with a treatment program at a methadone clinic. (Tr.
explained that he had difficulty maintaining employment
because “[i]t's like I'll get this overwhelming
sensation in my head and body that's saying, you'd be
better off at home.” (Tr. 47). Plaintiff testified
that, when he worked as a cook at O'Charley's, he
“was fine with one or two orders. But as soon as it
started coming up, my brain would overload. And so…I
got demoted as far down as you can go without them directly
firing you.” (Tr. 48). Plaintiff was also terminated
from a “cook type” position at a “fair
job” because he was “mentally too slow to be
there[.]” (Tr. 49).
30, 2014, a vocational expert answered interrogatories posed
by the ALJ. (Tr. 250-52). The vocational expert stated that
Plaintiff had previously worked as a restaurant cook,
delivery driver, dishwasher, retail sales clerk, and
waiter/fast food worker. (Tr. 250). In accordance with the
interrogatories, the vocational expert considered a
hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's age, education,
and work experience that “is limited to jobs that
involve understanding, remembering, and carrying out only
simple instructions, and performing repetitive tasks.
Additionally, the claimant cannot perform jobs that require
contact with the public, and is limited to jobs that involve
only occasional interaction with coworkers and
supervisors.” (Tr. 251). The vocational expert stated
that such individual could not perform Plaintiff's past
relevant work “because all of [those jobs] require
contact with the public and all involve more than simple
repetitive tasks.” (Id.). However, the
vocational expert stated that such individual could perform
the following jobs: nursery laborer; salvage laborer; egg
washer; garment folder; puller through; and blower-stuffer.
counsel did not object to the vocational expert's answers
to interrogatories being entered into evidence. (Tr. 256-57).
However, Plaintiff's counsel sent the ALJ additional
interrogatories and requested they “be forwarded to the
vocational witness for a response.” (Id.).
Plaintiff's interrogatories added to the ALJ's
hypothetical question the limitations of being off-task
twenty percent of the day and missing two days of work per
month. (Id.). The ALJ declined to send
Plaintiff's questions to the vocational expert because
“the record…does not support those
limitations.” (Tr. 21).
decision dated August 26, 2014, the ALJ applied the five step
evaluation process set forth in 20 C.F.R. §
916.920 and found that Plaintiff “has not
been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security
Act, since January 17, 2013, the date the application was
filed[.]” (Tr. 14-22). The ALJ found that Plaintiff
suffered the severe impairments of depression and anxiety,
but his testimony “concerning the intensity,
persistence and limiting effects of [his] symptoms are not
entirely credible[.]” (Tr. 16, 17). In particular, the
ALJ noted that Plaintiff's medical records revealed
“a moderate amount of treatment for his mental health
impairments, ” which was limited to medication and
included neither “any type of psychotherapy on a
regular basis” nor “any type of inpatient
psychiatric treatment.” (Tr. 18). Additionally,
Plaintiff's mental status examinations showed only
“moderate abnormalities in his mental health
functioning, ” and his medical records revealed that
“his medications were not altered on a frequent basis,
” suggesting “that his treatment providers
believed he was receiving adequate symptom relief with his
determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform “a full range of work at all
exertional levels but with the following nonexertional
limitations: the claimant is limited to jobs that involve
understanding, remembering, and carrying out only simple
instructions, that do not involve providing services to the
public, and involve only occasional interaction with
coworkers and supervisors.” (Tr. 16-17). Finally, the
ALJ concluded that, while Plaintiff had no past relevant
work, “there are jobs that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy that [he] can perform[.]” (Tr.
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 ...