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Rice v. Berryhill

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

October 30, 2017

KIMBERLY A. RICE, Plaintiff,



         This is 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.

         I. Background

         Beginning 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).

         II. Decision of the ALJ

         The 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).

         III. Administrative Record

         The following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ.

         A. Hearing Testimony

         Rice testified on June 15, 2015, as follows:

         Rice 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).

         She 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 social services.

         She 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).

         She 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).

         Dr. 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).

         Rice 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).

         Rice no 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. 61).

         On a 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).

         She has 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 ...

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