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Welsh v. Berryhill

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

March 4, 2019

WILLIAM WELSH, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This action is before this Court for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security finding that Plaintiff William Welsh was not disabled, and thus not entitled to disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner shall be reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, who was born on May 27, 1972, filed his application for benefits on July 30, 2014, alleging disability beginning December 22, 2012, due to fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, brain injury, and herniated disc. Plaintiff's insured status under Title II of the Act expired on December 31, 2013. On September 17, 2014, Plaintiff's application was denied at the initial administrative level, and he thereafter requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).

         A hearing was held on September 26, 2014, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, Plaintiff's wife, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. By decision dated September 23, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia, degenerative disk disease, obesity, hiatal hernia, cognitive disorder, mood disorder due to medical conditions, and obsessive compulsive disorder. The ALJ further found that from December 22, 2012 until December 31, 2013 (the date last insured), Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a less than full range of work at the sedentary exertional level, with the following limitations:

[H]e could lift, carry, push, or pull 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently. He could sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, stand or walk for 2 hours in an 8-hour workday, and never climb ropes, ladders or scaffolds. He could have no exposure to unprotected heights or hazardous machinery. He could not drive a car as a regular part of the job.

Tr. 24-25. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff had the following non-exertional limitations:

He was limited to simple, routine tasks, with minimal changes in work setting or duties. He could not perform fast-paced production work. He could have only occasional contact with the general public and could not handle customer complaints.

Tr. 25.

         The ALJ next found that Plaintiff could perform certain unskilled jobs listed in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) (addresser, document preparer, press clippings cutter), which the VE testified that a hypothetical person with Plaintiff's RFC and vocational factors (age, education, work experience) could perform and that were available in significant numbers in the national economy. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act.

         Plaintiff filed a timely request for review by the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration, which was denied on September 29, 2017. Plaintiff has thus exhausted all administrative remedies, and the ALJ's decision stands as the final agency action now under review.

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's RFC is erroneous because the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the medical opinion evidence provided by Plaintiff's primary care provider, Ying Du, M.D., and Plaintiff's psychiatrist, Frederick G. Hicks, M.D. Plaintiff asks that the ALJ's decision be reversed and that he be awarded benefits, or alternatively, that the case be remanded for further development of the record.

         Agency Records, Medical Records, Evidentiary Hearing, and ALJ's Decision

         The Court adopts the statement of facts set forth in Plaintiff's Statement of Uncontroverted Facts, which is contained in Plaintiff's amended brief (ECF No. 22), as amended by Defendant (ECF No. 28-1), and Defendant's Statement of Additional Facts (ECF No. 28-2), which Plaintiff has not opposed. Together, these statements provide a fair description of the ...


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