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Krewinghaus v. Berryhill

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

March 4, 2019

ZACHARY KREWINGHAUS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          DAVID D. NOCE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This action is before the court for judicial review of the final decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security finding that plaintiff Zachary Krewinghaus was not disabled and thus not entitled to disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1385. The parties have consented to the exercise of plenary authority by a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) is reversed and remanded.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on August 13, 1981, and filed an application for DIB on March 30, 2015, and an application for SSI on October 11, 2016. (Tr. 23, 84). He alleged a disability onset date of June 3, 2014, due to brachial artery aneurism in the left arm, gangrene, blood clots, vertebral compression, and a broken back. (Tr. 84). His date last insured for purposes of DIB was December 31, 2014. (Tr. 84). Plaintiff's application was denied at the initial administrative level, and he filed a request for a hearing. (Tr. 93- 97). An evidentiary hearing was held on November 14, 2016, before an ALJ. (Tr. 37-82). The ALJ issued a decision on March 15, 2017, finding no disability, because, considering plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity (“RFC”), jobs that he could perform exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 23-32). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the hearing decision with the Appeals Council, which was denied, thus exhausting all administrative remedies. (Tr. 1-6). The ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence in the record. Specifically, he argues that the ALJ improperly determined plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), because the ALJ did not have any evidence from a medical source that specifically addressed plaintiff's limitations. (Doc. 16). Additionally, plaintiff claims that the ALJ improperly discredited plaintiff's subjective reports. (Id.). Plaintiff asks that the ALJ's decision be reversed and remanded for an award of benefits or for further evaluation.

         A. Medical Record and Evidentiary Hearing

          The court adopts plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 16, Ex. 1) as clarified by defendant's response (Doc. 21, Ex. 1) in addition to defendant's Statement of Additional Facts (Doc. 21, Ex. 1). Together, these facts represent a fair and accurate summary of the medical record and testimony as given at the evidentiary hearing. The court will discuss relevant facts as necessary to address the parties' arguments.

         B. ALJ's Decision

         On March 15, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision that plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. He found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of June 3, 2014, through the date last insured of December 31, 2014. (Tr. 25). He found plaintiff had the severe impairments of left brachial aneurysm and amputation of left fingertips secondary to gangrene. (Tr. 25). The ALJ found that none of these impairments, individually or in combination, met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 26-27). After reviewing the evidence, the ALJ found that through plaintiff's date last insured, he had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:

perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except lifting and carrying is limited to 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally; standing or walking is limited to 6 hours per 8-hour workday; sitting is limited to 6 hours per 8-hour workday; can stand or walk up to 120 minutes at any one time; can sit up to 120 minutes at any one time; requires a stretch break of up to 2 minutes every 60 minutes; no pushing or pulling with the left dominant upper extremity; no climbing of ropes, ladders and scaffolds; pushing and pulling of the right upper extremity is limited to occasional; climbing of ramps and stairs is limited to occasional; stooping, crouching and squatting are limited to occasional; no kneeling or crawling; can only reach occasionally with the left upper extremity; reaching with the right upper extremity is limited to frequent; no reaching above the shoulder with the left upper extremity; manipulative limitations bilaterally are limited to frequent, except handling with the left upper extremity is limited to occasional; gripping and grasping wrist movements are limited bilaterally to frequent; cannot power grip with the left upper extremity, power gripping defined as a grip that is tight enough to both grasp and use an item such as a hammer or screwdriver; cannot finger with the left upper extremity; cannot feel with the third, fourth and fifth fingers of the left upper extremity; must avoid all exposure to extreme heat and cold; cannot use air or vibrating tools; must avoid all hazardous conditions or moving machinery which includes motor vehicles, machinery defined as machines that do not have a fixed, permanent base; must avoid exposure to unprotected heights; limited to simple, routine and repetitive tasks, and simple decision-making; no more than occasional interaction with the public, co-workers or supervisors.

(Tr. 27). In making this determination, the ALJ considered plaintiff's medical records, treatment history, and various medical opinions, noting the limitations and restrictions physicians reported about plaintiff's abilities. (Tr. 27-30). In addition, he analyzed plaintiff's reported symptoms, considering his subjective history of complaints in conjunction with the medical evidence. The ALJ found no persuasive evidence that plaintiff's impairments resulted in total debilitation, but rather that plaintiff has severe impairments resulting in functional limitations, but still retains the capacity to perform activities within the residual functional capacity described above. (Doc. 30).

         Continuing the analysis, the ALJ concluded plaintiff was not capable of performing his past relevant work as a short order cook, car wash attendant, construction worker, laundry facilities attendant, or tile setter. (Tr. 30-31). Considering plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, however, the ALJ concluded that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, including fruit distributor, bakery worker, or laminating machine off bearer. (Tr. 31-32). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled and had not been under a disability from June 3, 2014, the alleged onset date, to the date of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 32).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review ...


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