United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
STEPHANIE R. TROUPE, 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 Stephanie R. Troupe 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 affirmed.
was born in 1961 and protectively filed applications for DIB
and SSI on July 28, 2015. (Tr. 13, 289-97, 317-20). She
alleged a disability onset date of July 8, 2015, due to
chronic back pain following spinal fusion surgery, nerve
compression causing pain and numbness in foot, poor balance
leading to lots of falls, high blood pressure, coronary
artery disease, and chest pain. (Tr. 317-22). Her
applications were denied in November 2015, and she requested
a hearing before an ALJ. (Tr. 219-24, 232). At the February
2016 hearing, plaintiff and a vocational expert, J. Stephen
Dolan, testified. (Tr. 156-80). By decision dated March 17,
2016, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled under
the Act through the date of the decision. (Tr. 10-28). The
Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review.
(Tr. 1-5). Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner.
Medical Record and Evidentiary Hearing
court adopts the parties' unopposed statements of facts
(Docs. 15 and 20). These facts, taken together, present a
fair and accurate summary of the relevant medical record and
testimony at the evidentiary hearing. The court will discuss
specific evidence as it is relevant to the parties'
noted that this was plaintiff's sixth disability benefits
application and third ALJ hearing. (Tr. 21, 300). He noted
that a prior disability benefits allowance was terminated
after ten months in 2010, when plaintiff continued to earn
income despite her alleged disability. (Tr. 21, 300).
Following the termination of benefits, plaintiff earned more
than $20, 000 per year between 2011 and 2014 as a collections
clerk. (Tr. 22, 163, 302). The ALJ determined that the record
failed to support a deterioration in her condition since that
time. (Tr. 10-24).
found that plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, cardiomyopathy, diabetes mellitus
with peripheral neuropathy, obesity, and hypertension. (Tr.
15). He found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since her alleged onset date of July 8,
2015. (Tr. 15). The ALJ concluded that plaintiff's
impairments either alone or in combination did not meet or
equal an impairment listed in the Commissioner's
regulations. (Tr. 15-16).
determined that plaintiff's impairments left her with the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except she can never climb ropes, ladders,
scaffolds, or ramps and stairs, stoop, crouch, crawl, and
kneel; she is unable to operate any foot controls; and she
requires a sit/stand option every 60 minutes throughout the
eight-hour workday while remaining on task; the claimant must
avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, heat, and
humidity; she must avoid concentrated exposure to irritants
such as fumes, odors, dust, gases, or poorly ventilated
areas; she is to avoid extreme vibration, all operational
control of moving machinery, working at unprotected heights,
and the use of hazardous machinery.
(Tr. 16). The ALJ noted that while plaintiff's
impairments could reasonably be expected to cause some
symptoms, he found plaintiff's statements concerning the
intensity, persistence and limiting effects of her symptoms
were inconsistent with the assessed RFC. (Tr. 17).
the ALJ noted the medical record revealed many normal
findings, as well as many damaging inconsistencies. (Tr. 18).
He found plaintiff's habit of smoking at least half a
pack of cigarettes a day was inconsistent with the ongoing
limitations she alleged. (Tr. 17, 21, 611, 651). He believed
her non-compliance undermined the credibility of her
allegations of disabling symptoms. Id. He noted
several inconsistencies in plaintiff's reports to her
primary care and reports to other doctors. (Tr. 21).
Additionally, the ALJ noted that plaintiff reported great
relief from pain and symptoms upon treatment. (Tr. 19, 22).
The ALJ emphasized that plaintiff had been working, despite
many of her ailments, for years. (Tr. 23). He ultimately
concluded that nothing in the medical records suggested
plaintiff could not perform sedentary work, as described in
the assessed RFC, once she complied with treatment. (Tr. 18,
23) (“There is no persuasive evidence that
[plaintiff's] recent circulatory problems and foot ulcers
will not heal if [she] makes even a minimal effort to follow
the instructions of her treating doctors.”). (Tr. 23).
on his evaluation of the evidence, the ALJ found that the
objective medical evidence and treatment records indicated
plaintiff is capable of performing work as described in the
RFC. (Tr. 24). He found, further, that she is capable of her
past relevant work as a collections clerk, relying on the
testimony of a vocational expert (VE). Id.
Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was disabled.
argues that the ALJ erred (a) in finding that plaintiff's
impairments did not meet one of the Commissioner's
listings: Listing 1.04A; (b) in the determination of her RFC;
and (c) in the determination that plaintiff could perform her
past relevant work. (Doc. 15). ...