United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
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 Arlis Helms is not disabled and, thus, not entitled
to either disability insurance benefits (“DIB”)
under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401 et seq, or Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-1385. 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
was born on January 26, 1962. (Tr. 153). He worked as a
cotton picker from June 1983 to July 2008. (Tr. 182). He
filed his applications for DIB and SSI on November 27, 2013,
alleging an onset date of July 3, 2008. (Tr. 153, 160).
Plaintiff claimed that the following conditions limited his
ability to work: an irregular heartbeat, a hearing
impairment, asthma, bronchitis, his gall bladder, and a bad
back. (Tr. 180). Plaintiff's application was denied on
January 23, 2014, and he requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 87-91,
94-98, 101). A hearing was held in April 2015, where
plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”)
testified. (Tr. 22-61). At the hearing, plaintiff amended his
alleged onset date to May 25, 2012. (Tr. 28).
decision dated May 12, 2015, the ALJ found that plaintiff was
not disabled under the Social Security Act. (Tr. 9-18). The
ALJ determined that plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform jobs
available in significant numbers in the national economy.
Id. On June 10, 2016, the Appeals Council of the
Social Security Administration denied plaintiff's request
for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-3).
Consequently, the ALJ's decision stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner.
argues that the ALJ's decision is not supported by
substantial evidence. Specifically, he asserts that the ALJ
erred in failing to consider plaintiff a “worn out
worker” and improperly determining plaintiff's RFC.
(ECF No. 14). Plaintiff asks that the ALJ's decision be
reversed and the case remanded for an ALJ to consider the
“worn out worker” vocational profile, re-assess
plaintiff's RFC, and for plaintiff to receive any
necessary psychological testing.
Medical Record and Evidentiary Hearing
court adopts plaintiff's unopposed statement of facts
(ECF No. 14), as well as defendant's unopposed statement
of facts. (ECF No. 19). 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 met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012, and had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his amended
alleged onset date of May 25, 2012. (Tr. 11). He also found
that plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of
coronary artery disease, mild asthma, and hearing loss. (Tr.
11-12). However, the ALJ concluded that none of these
impairments, individually or in combination, met or equaled
an impairment listed in the Commissioner's regulations.
(Tr. 12-13). The ALJ determined that plaintiff's
impairments left him with the RFC to “perform light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b),
” except that he should not climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds and should only occasionally climb stairs and
ramps. (Tr. 13). He should also “avoid concentrated
exposure to pulmonary irritants, such as odors, fumes dusts,
and gases;” avoid exposure to hazards like unprotected
heights and heavy machinery; and work in a quiet environment.
considered all of plaintiff's symptoms and the extent to
which the symptoms could reasonably be accepted as consistent
with the objective medical evidence and other evidence. (Tr.
13). The ALJ determined that plaintiff's treatment record
was inconsistent with his allegations of the severity of his
impairments, “as he has had very little
treatment.” (Tr. 14). The ALJ acknowledged that
plaintiff had a heart attack in 2008, but that after he
underwent a stent placement, he had only rare follow-up
treatment. (Tr. 14). Similarly, although plaintiff testified
he was diagnosed with asthma, the medical records do not
reflect any pulmonary diagnosis, and plaintiff was not
prescribed any medication typically used to treat asthma.
(Tr. 14; 227). Finally, although there is evidence that
plaintiff has some hearing impairment, he has never worn
hearing aids. (Tr. 15).
also considered plaintiff's activities of daily living:
he is able to take care of his personal and hygienic needs,
he prepares meals for himself, he goes out daily, and he
drives and shops in stores. (Tr. 16, 192-99). Plaintiff also
testified that he “probably” could pick cotton
again if someone would hire him. (Tr. 42). The ALJ gave
significant weight to plaintiff's admission that he could
likely work if he could get hired. (Tr. 16). He also noted
that plaintiff's hearing loss allegedly began when
plaintiff was 16, but he worked for several years despite
this limitation. (Tr. 16, 43).
the ALJ relied on the testimony of a VE to find that
plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work as a farm
machine operator, but that there were jobs in significant
numbers in the national economy that a person with
plaintiff's RFC and age, education, and work experience
could perform, such as a ticket taker, deli cutter, or survey