United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
KIMBERLY A. RICE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision
denying the application of Kimberly Rice ("Rice")
for disability insurance benefits.
on August 9, 2010, Rice was found disabled due to a disorder
of the neck and lumbar spine, and right hip pain. After a
continuing disability review, it was determined that Rice was
no longer disabled as of October 15, 2014. After October 15,
2014, Rice alleged that she was disabled due to fibromyalgia
and mental impairments. She alleged extreme limitations in
her ability to sit, walk, lift and dress herself. This
determination was upheld upon reconsideration after a
disability hearing by a State agency Disability Hearing
Officer. (Tr. 83, 85). Rice filed a written request for a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ('ALJ").
The SSA granted Rice's request and a hearing was held on
June 15, 2015. The ALJ issued a written decision on August
24, 2015, upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 10-25). Rice
filed a timely Request for Review of Hearing Decision with
the Appeals Council. (Tr. 8). The Appeals Council denied
Rice's Request for Review on October 3, 2016. (Tr. 1-3).
The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final decision of
the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103,
107 (2000). Rice filed this appeal on November 20, 2016. (ECF
No. 1). Rice filed a Brief in Support of her Complaint on May
1, 2017. (ECF No. 17). The Commissioner filed a Brief in
Support of the Answer on July 28, 2017. (ECF No. 24).
Decision of the ALJ
most recent favorable medical decision finding that Rice was
disabled was the determination dated December 18, 2010, which
is the comparison point decision (CPD). At the time of the
CPD, Rice suffered from the following medically determinable
impairments: a disorder of the neck and lumbar spine, and a
right hip pain. As of October 15, 2014, Rice's disability
ended. Since October 15, 2014, the ALJ found that Rice had
the following severe impairments: a disorder of the neck and
lumbar spine, and right hip pain. (Tr. 15). The ALJ, however,
determined that Rice did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 15). The ALJ found that Rice
medically improved as of October 15, 2014 because her
comparison point decision (CPD) impairments no longer met or
medically equaled the same listings that were met at the time
of the CPD. The ALJ found that Rice had the residual
functional capacity ("RFC") to perform sedentary
work, as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except
she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel and
crouch; she should never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds or
crawl; she can have only occasional exposure to extremes of
cold as well as vibration. (Tr. 19). The ALJ found that Rice
was capable of simple, routine tasks in an environment where
there are only occasional work place changes and where there
is only occasional contact with supervisors, co-workers or
the general public. (Tr. 19). The ALJ found that Rice was
unable to perform past relevant work. (Tr. 23). However, the
ALJ found that, beginning October 15, 2014, considering
Rice's age, education, work experience, and RFC, Rice has
been able to perform a significant number of jobs in the
national economy. (Tr. 24). In sum, the ALJ determined that
Rice's disability ended on October 15, 2014 and she has
not become disabled again since that date. (Tr. 24).
following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ.
testified on June 15, 2015, as follows:
was forty-two years old. (Tr. 39). She received her bachelors
of science degree in 2004. (Tr. 39-40). She last worked in
2010 as a program facilitator for Redevelopment Opportunities
for Women, called Olive Branch, which was a home for pregnant
and parenting teenagers. (Tr. 40-41, 43). She worked there
for around four or five years. (Tr. 43). She was required to
have a degree in social work to get that position. (Tr. 41).
About three-fourths of her day was spent standing. (Tr.
41-42). When she was working at the childcare center, she was
required to stoop and also to lift children. (Tr. 42). She
would also carry class materials, which were around 20
pounds. (Tr. 42-43).
worked at Guardian Angel Settlement as a social worker for
men who were working to be better fathers. (Tr. 43-44). She
worked there for six (6) years. At that position, she was
required to lift children and file boxes. (Tr. 45). She was
also the social services coordinator for more than a year and
the director of social services for more than a year. (Tr.
45, 47-48). She stopped being able to perform her position
because her eyes were watering, she had pain in her back, and
other symptoms of fibromyalgia. (Tr. 46). She was teaching
classes, writing grants, and doing assessments as director of
takes ibuprofen and methotrexate for her fibromyalgia. (Tr.
49). She takes an injection of 25 milligrams of methotrexate
every week. (Tr. 50). She takes Prednisone every day and
Seroquel at night. (Tr. 50). Seroquel is prescribed by Ms.
Fisher, who is a "psychiatric nurse." (Tr. 51).
takes Omeprazole for her stomach issues. (Tr. 51). She takes
Victaulic for high blood pressure. (Tr. 51). She takes
Restasis for dry eyes. She had a corneal implant in August
2009. (Tr. 51-52). She sees an ophthalmologist every six
months. (Tr. 52). The Restasis helps with the dryness in the
right eye, but not in the left eye. (Tr. 52).
Guerrino is her rheumatologist. (Tr. 52). She sees him every
six months. Dr. Brady Spielberg is a psychologist and
Rice's therapist. Rice has been seeing Dr. Spielberg for
a year. (Tr. 53). She sees Dr. Spielberg every two to three
weeks. Before seeing Dr. Spielberg, Rice saw Dr. Rasa at Hope
Wheel. (Tr. 53). Dr. Rasa was her psychiatrist and Williams
Randall was her therapist. (Tr. 53).
was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2010. She was married on
March 25, 2015. (Tr. 53). Her husband's 23 year old son
lives with them. (Tr. 53). Rice's son is 19 and he lives
with her. (Tr. 54). Her son works. (Tr. 54). Her husband does
not work. (Tr. 54). Her husband was denied disability. They
live in a house. (Tr. 54).
longer takes care of her mother. (Tr. 54). It took a while to
get the proper people in place to care for her mother. Her
mother has Alzheimer's. (Tr. 54). When she was caring for
her mother, she would cook for her mother, turn off the
stove, and take her mother to her doctor appointments. (Tr.
normal day, Rice gets up between 6:00-7:00 a.m. and lets out
their two dogs. (Tr. 55). Depending upon whether her skin is
bothering her, Rice may take a shower. Robert, the older boy,
feeds the dogs. (Tr. 56). She dresses, depending upon how her
skin is feeling. (Tr. 56). Her husband does the laundry. (Tr.
56). She and her husband do the shopping together. (Tr. 57).
She cannot carry a gallon of milk so they have switched to
half-gallons of milk. (Tr. 57).
a driver's license. (Tr. 57). She sometimes drives but
mostly is the passenger. She does not watch the television
because the light hurts her eyes. She uses the computer only
to communicate with her doctors and pay bills. She