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Pocklington v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division

August 4, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Mary A. Pocklington (“Plaintiff”) appeals the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant”) denying her applications for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, see 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq., and supplemental security income under Title XVI, see 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 et seq. Substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision, and therefore it is affirmed. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. Procedural History & Summary of Memorandum Decision

         On July 8, 2013, Plaintiff filed applications for disability benefits, arguing that her disability began on January 1, 2013, as a result of coronary artery disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (Tr. 183-96) The alleged onset date was later amended to April 19, 2013. (Tr. 13, 229) On August15, 2013, Plaintiff's claims were denied upon initial consideration. (Tr. 93-97) Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Plaintiff appeared at the hearing (with counsel) on July 16, 2015, and testified concerning the nature of her disability, her functional limitations, and her past work. (Tr. 35-64) The ALJ also heard testimony on that date from Denise Weaver, a vocational expert (“VE”). The VE opined as to Plaintiff's ability to secure other work in the national economy, based upon Plaintiff's functional limitations, age, and education. (Id.) After taking Plaintiff's testimony, considering the VE's testimony, and reviewing the rest of the evidence of record, the ALJ issued a decision on July 29, 2015, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled, and therefore denying benefits. (Tr. 9-26)

         Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision before the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration. (Tr. 1-5) On July 21, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review of Plaintiff's claims, making the July 2015 decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff has therefore exhausted her administrative remedies, and her appeal is properly before this Court. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         In her brief to this Court, Plaintiff raises one issue, the ALJ erred by failing to provide her medical records to Dr. Randy Foster, one of the consultative examiners. Plaintiff further argues that the ALJ's subsequent decision to accord Dr. Foster's report only partial weight was the result of Dr. Foster not having her medical records during the consultation. The Commissioner filed a detailed brief in opposition contending that the ALJ's decision is based on substantial evidence.

         As explained below, the Court has considered the entire record in this matter. Because the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence, it will be affirmed.

         II. The Hearing Before the ALJ

         The ALJ conducted a hearing on July 16, 2015. Plaintiff was present with an attorney and testified at the hearing. The VE also testified at the hearing.

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff began her testimony by noting that she has been unable to work since April 18, 2013, after having a surgical procedure placing a stent in her heart. (Tr. 38) Plaintiff lives alone in a house, and her daughter-in-law helps with the chores and takes Plaintiff grocery shopping. (Tr. 55, 57, 59)

         Plaintiff acknowledged that she returned to work part time but she had to quit because her hours were cut and she could not perform the job duties. (Tr. 39) Plaintiff worked at the front desk of a hotel and sometimes missed work due to her depression. (Tr. 52) Her job duties included mopping the front hall, cleaning the breakfast bar, moving boxes of computer paper, moving tables and chairs, and vacuuming. (Tr. 54) Plaintiff testified that her back pain caused difficulty lifting, bending, and stooping on the job.

         Plaintiff testified that she experiences shortness of breath when she walks. (Tr. 40) Plaintiff testified that she uses oxygen at night, and she takes nitroglycerin to alleviate her chest pain. (Tr. 40-41) In 2014, Dr. Habib performed another heart procedure inserting additional stents. (Tr. 42) Dr. Gessling prescribed medications for Plaintiff's diabetes. Plaintiff testified that she also has narrowing of her spine, and she had neck surgery earlier in 2015. (Tr. 33) Plaintiff takes medicine to alleviate the muscle spasms in her neck. (Tr. 46) Plaintiff testified that she experiences depression and crying spells and constant back pain. (Tr. 49, 58)

         Plaintiff testified that she can stand for ten to twenty minutes before she has to sit down due to leg fatigue. (Tr. 47-48, 56) Plaintiff cannot lift anything over ten pounds. (Tr. 48) Plaintiff testified that she can sit for thirty minutes. (Tr. 57)

         Plaintiff testified that she watches television during the day. (Tr. 50) Plaintiff has a difficult time being around men. (Tr. 62)

         B. The ...

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