United States District Court, E.D. Missouri
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
RICHARD WEBBER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying the application
of Dale Wamsley (“Plaintiff”) for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II, 42
U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et
seq. Plaintiff has filed a brief in support of the
Complaint (ECF 19) and Defendant has filed a brief in support
of the Answer (ECF 24).
filed his applications for DIB and SSI under Titles II and
XVI of the Social Security Act in March 2014 (Tr. 150-157).
Plaintiff was initially denied relief on August 11, 2014, and
on November 9, 2014, he filed a Request for Hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 103-107,
145). After a hearing, by a decision dated October 5, 2016,
the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 10-22).
Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of Hearing
Decision on November 9, 2016 (Tr. 145-149). On September
27, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review (Tr. 1-6). Plaintiff appealed to the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on
November 17, 2017 (ECF 1). As such, the ALJ's decision
stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
DECISION OF THE ALJ
determined Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016, and
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since July 14, 2013, the amended alleged onset date of his
disability (Tr. 12).
found Plaintiff has the severe impairments of disorders of
the spine, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(“COPD”), asthma, and obesity (Tr. 12). The ALJ
also found Plaintiff's non-severe impairments include the
mental impairments of anxiety and depression (Tr. 13).
Plaintiff's medical records indicated Plaintiff suffered
from hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hepatic
lipase but these conditions did not cause more
than minimal limitations on basic work activities, and
therefore they were not related to Plaintiff's medically
determinable impairments (Tr. 13). The ALJ found no
impairment or combination of impairments which meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr.
conducted a hearing with Plaintiff, and Plaintiff's
counsel, on April 21, 2016 (Tr. 27-66). At the hearing,
Plaintiff testified he was born in 1965, completed high
school, and attending ITT Bailey Tech for a year and a half
to learn auto repair (Tr. 32). His past work includes
positions with United Carpeting Company, and Mohawk
Industries Incorporated (Tr. 32). In these positions,
Plaintiff worked in a warehouse on shipping, receiving,
loading trucks, and ensuring contractors had the appropriate
tools (Tr. 33). He was required to lift approximately 80
pounds, and spend most of the day on his feet (Tr. 34). He
was let go from his warehouse position as a result of a
“major” shoulder surgery on his left shoulder in
April 2011 (Tr. 34-35). When he returned to work after five
months, he had an accident on a forklift and was let go from
the position (Tr. 35). Plaintiff sought additional employment
but was unable to find work (Tr. 35). In 2013, Plaintiff was
in a car accident where he broke all of his ribs on the left
side of his body, fractured his sternum, punctured his left
lung, and suffered muscle separation on his right leg, which
kept him in the hospital for a week (Tr. 35-36).
has diabetes and sometimes experiences symptoms such as
blurry vision, feeling sluggish, and tingling in his hands
and feet, when his sugars get really high (Tr. 38, 58).
Plaintiff also testified he suffers from hypertension and
high blood pressure which is controlled with medication (Tr.
39). Plaintiff has a limited range of movement in his
shoulders, which prevents him from being able to raise his
arms above his head (Tr. 40-41). As a result of this shoulder
pain, Plaintiff testified he has trouble sleeping which does
not improve with pain medication (Tr. 41). Plaintiff has had
shoulder injections, seeking to relieve his shoulder
limitations and pain (Tr. 40-41).
also has trouble breathing and has been diagnosed with
(Tr. 43). He uses an inhaler as-needed to help with the
symptoms (Tr. 43-44). Plaintiff testified he has problems
doing normal daily activities (Tr. 44). Doing the dishes or
cooking requires a break where Plaintiff has to sit down
after standing for approximately ten minutes (Tr. 44-45).
Plaintiff has challenges when lifting clothes out of the
washer, given the pain in his shoulders and back (Tr. 44). He
experiences limited mobility in his neck as well as pain in
his back, legs, and shoulders, which makes him
“nervous” when driving (Tr. 45). Plaintiff is
limited to a maximum of 40 minutes grocery shopping,
approximately twice a month (Tr. 45, 47). Showering, bathing,
and getting dressed are difficult, given his limited mobility
and pain (Tr. 45-46). Plaintiff is able to do housework such
as vacuum and dust (Tr. 49).
can sit for approximately an hour, stand for about thirty
minutes, can walk one and half blocks, and can lift and carry
up to twenty pounds (Tr. 46-47). He has two sons, one is 24
years old, and one is 13 years old (Tr. 46-47). Both sons
live outside Plaintiff's home (Tr. 47). Plaintiff used to
play drums and saxophone, but is no longer able to play
either instrument (Tr. 50). Plaintiff was prescribed a cane
in April 2015, and uses it to help with stability and balance
had difficulty getting treatment prior to being accepted into
Medicaid at the end of 2015 (Tr. 56). Prior to being awarded
Medicaid, Plaintiff had neck surgery from a doctor who
“basically volunteered to do it for free” (Tr.
57). Plaintiff testified he also experiences difficulty
breathing in the cold, has migraine headaches approximately
once a month, and suffers from memory problems (Tr. 57-63).
Plaintiff does not suffer from insomnia, side effects from
his medication, or changes in pain, related to changes in
weather (Tr. 57-63).
vocational expert, Brenda Young, completed an interrogatory
on May 11, 2016, stating Plaintiff is unable to perform any
past work; however, he is able to work as a parking cashier,
small product assembler, and laundromat attendant (Tr.
considering the entire record, including Plaintiff's
testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff has the Residual
Functioning Capacity (“RFC”) to perform light
work, except he requires a work environment which allows him
to alternate between sitting and standing and/or walking
every hour throughout the work day (Tr. 14). He can reach
overhead on the right frequently, and occasional on the left
(Tr. 14). Plaintiff can frequently reach, handle, and
finger, occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but
never ladders, ropes or scaffolds (Tr.14). He can
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch but never crawl
(Tr. 14). Plaintiff also must avoid all exposure to
unprotected heights and concentrated exposure to extreme
heat, cold, humidity and vibration (Tr.14). The ALJ found
Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant
(Tr. 20). The ALJ also found there are jobs which exist in
significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff can
perform, including parking casher, small products assembler,
and laundromat attendant (Tr.21). Thus, the ALJ's
conclusion for Plaintiff was “not disabled” (Tr.
appeals, arguing the decision of the ALJ failed to articulate
a legally sufficient rational for his conclusions regarding
Plaintiff's RFC; Plaintiff's RFC fails to include any
limitations to account for Plaintiff's severe impairments
of COPD and asthma; the ALJ erred by not finding
Plaintiff's shoulder conditions to be severe impairments;
and the ALJ failed to resolve conflicts with the vocational
the Social Security Act, the Commissioner must follow a
five-step process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920, 404.1529. “If
a claimant fails to meet the criteria at any step in the
evaluation of disability, the process ends and the claimant
is determined to be not disabled.” Goff v.
Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 590-91 (8th
Cir. 2004)). In this sequential analysis, first the claimant
cannot be engaged in “substantial gainful
activity” to qualify for disability benefits. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(b), 404.1520(b). Second, the claimant
must have a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§
416.920(c), 404.1520(c). The Social Security Act defines
“severe impairment” as “any impairment or
combination of impairments which significantly limits
[claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities. . . .” Id. “‘The
sequential evaluation process may be terminated at step two,
only when the claimant's impairment or combination of
impairments would have no more than a minimal impact on [his
or] her ability to work.'” Page v. Astrue,
484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting Caviness v.
Massanari, 250 F.3d 603, 605 (8th Cir. 2001), citing
Nguyen v. Chater, 75 F.3d 429, 430-31 (8th Cir.
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment
which meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the
Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 404.1520(d).
If the claimant has one of, or the medical equivalent of
these impairments, then the claimant is per se