United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MARCIA T. WEST, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENS AH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)
for judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy
A. Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security,
denying the application of Plaintiff Marcia West
(“Plaintiff”) for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq., and for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381,
et seq. (the “Act”). The parties
consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned magistrate
judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 8). Because
I find an error in the ALJ's analysis of Plaintiff's
past relevant work, I will reverse the Commissioner's
denial of Plaintiff's application and remand the case for
Plaintiff's Testimony and Medical Opinion
was fifty-nine years old on the date of the hearing before
the ALJ. (Tr. 68). Plaintiff testified that she has chronic
pain in her lower back and left leg; daily numbness and
tingling; and depression (Tr. 76, 79-81, 83, 85). She cannot
sit, stand, or walk for more than ten or fifteen minutes
before needing to move or take a break. (Tr. 80-81).
Plaintiff does not do chores around the house or grocery
shopping because she cannot stand or walk for that long. (Tr.
82). She requires the use of a walker and assistance to
shower. (Tr. 76, 82). She estimates that she falls at least
once a week. (Tr. 81). Plaintiff testified that she does not
drive and only leaves home for doctor appointments. (Tr. 79,
82). She reported that her memory is “very bad, ”
requiring her to write everything down. (Tr. 80, 83).
record contains opinion evidence from several sources
regarding Plaintiff's physical and mental abilities. (Tr.
137-38, 345-48, 354-57, 497-505, 755-59). This evidence
includes an opinion from a consultative examiner, Dennis A.
Velez, M.D. (Tr. 497-505). On May 21, 2013, Dr. Velez
conducted a physical examination of Plaintiff. (Tr. 497-98,
502). He identified Plaintiff's complaints, including
back pain, pain in left leg, and difficulty going up and down
stairs, bending, or squatting. (Tr. 499). Dr. Velez noted
that Plaintiff demonstrated tenderness to palpation in the
lumbosacral spine and residual sensory disturbance, but
exhibited normal motor strength and range of motion. (Tr.
503). Dr. Velez diagnosed Plaintiff with possible lumbar
spondylosis with residual left lower extremity numbness. (Tr.
503). Dr. Velez concluded Plaintiff would not have any
limitations in sitting, standing or walking, except for
walking at a normal pace; Plaintiff would not have any
manipulative, verbal, or written communication problems; and
Plaintiff would be able to lift and carry at the waist level.
hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff reported that she had
worked in the past for about three years as a
“receptionist and assistant administrator” at
Humanitri. (Tr. 70). She described her duties as answering
the phone and filing. (Tr. 71). She testified that she was
not seated the majority of the day, but was up and down
during the day, doing filing and whatever her boss needed her
to do. (Tr. 71). In her Work History Report, Plaintiff
reported that in her job at Humanitri from 2009 to 2011, she
answered phones, did light typing, coordinated supervised
prison transportation, and did monthly reports. (Tr. 268-69).
She reported that she stood for four hours a day, sat for
four hours a day, walked, and lifted less than 10 pounds.
also testified at the hearing that she had previously worked
at Queen of Peace as a residential aide/case manager who
monitored recovering addicts, a job in which she was on her
feet the majority of the day. (Tr. 72-73).
hearing, the vocational expert stated that Plaintiff had
worked in the past as a social service aide (Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”) No. 195.367-034,
skilled, light exertional level); an administrative clerk
(DOT No. 219.362-010, skilled, light exertional level); and a
receptionist (DOT number 237.367-038, a semi-skilled,
sedentary exertional level). (Tr. 88). When the ALJ described
a hypothetical individual with all of Plaintiff's
limitations to the vocational expert, the vocational expert
testified that such a person could perform Plaintiff's
past work as a receptionist, as generally performed. (Tr.
88-89). The vocational expert also stated that he
was “not sure she was complete when she described what
she did as a receptionist.” (Tr. 89).
February 26, 2013, Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI,
alleging that she had been unable to work since November 10,
2007. (Tr. 191-196). Her application was initially denied.
(Tr. 141-45). On June 26, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Request for
Hearing by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 148-49). On
January 15, 2015, Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date to
November 3, 2010. (Tr. 224). After a hearing, the ALJ issued
an unfavorable decision on February 9, 2015. (Tr. 8-21).
Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of Hearing Decision with
the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council on
March 13, 2015, but the Appeals Council declined to review
the case on May 7, 2016. (Tr. 1-7). Plaintiff has exhausted
all administrative remedies, and the decision of the ALJ
stands as the final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration.
Standard for Determining Disability Under the Act
eligible for benefits under the Social Security Act, a
claimant must prove he or she is disabled. Pearsall v.
Massanari,274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001);
Baker v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 955
F.2d 552, 555 (8th Cir. 1992). The Social Security Act
defines as disabled a person who is unable “to engage
in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A);
1382c(a)(3)(A); see also Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d
734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010). The impairment must be “of
such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous
work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national ...