United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
LORI B. BONO, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
D. Noce United States Magistrate Judge.
action is before the court for judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the
applications of plaintiff Lori B. Bono for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381, et seq. The parties
have consented to the exercise of plenary authority by the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the
decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.
was born on September 10, 1976. (Tr. 282). She filed her
applications for DIB under Title II and for SSI under Title
XVI on November 24, 2014. (Tr. 143-44). Plaintiff was last
insured on June 30, 2016. (Tr. 282). She alleges she became
disabled on August 31, 2012, the date she last held
employment, based on the following impairments: bipolar
disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (“ADHD”), anxiety, panic disorder, mood
disorder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(“COPD”), gastroesophageal reflux disease
(“GERD”), edema, fibromyalgia, and severe back
pain. (Tr. 99, 282, 286). Her application was initially
denied on December 26, 2014. (Tr. 147). On January 22, 2015,
plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 156).
October 6, 2017, following a hearing, an ALJ issued a
partially favorable decision finding that plaintiff was not
disabled as defined in the Act until June 23, 2016. (Tr. 30).
Plaintiff submitted a request for review by SSA's Appeals
Council, which was denied on May 11, 2018. (Tr. 1-4). Thus,
the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the
action challenges the ALJ's evaluation of her mental
condition between August 31, 2012, and June 23, 2016. Because
plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's evaluation of her
physical impairments, discussion is limited to the following
medical history relevant to this action.
has been treated by David Goldman, D.O., since 2002 and met
with him every six weeks since at least May 3, 2012. (Tr.
102-03, 205). She also speaks with Genia Perry, a counselor,
two to three times a week. (Tr. 103). Jeffry Evans, M.D., has
been plaintiff's primary care physician since at least
2014. (Tr. 434, 435, 438).
29, 2013, Dr. Goldman diagnosed plaintiff with PTSD, ADHD,
bipolar disorder, and episodic mood disorder. (Tr. 444).
Between 2012 and 2016, plaintiff met with Dr. Goldman every
six weeks for medical evaluation. (Id.). In that
time, Dr. Goldman reported general stability in
plaintiff's mental health and normal medical evaluations.
(Tr. 442, 446-47, 451-52, 456-57, 461-62, 466-67, 523-24,
530-31, 537-38, 544-45, 551, 556-57, 563-64, 717-18). Between
2012 and 2016, plaintiff also showed good medication
response, was compliant with her medications, and was
cooperative during appointments. (Tr. 23, 24, 442, 447, 456,
461, 466, 523, 544, 550, 556, 563, 715-17).
were some exceptions to plaintiff's generally normal
evaluations. On January 11, 2013, plaintiff arrived looking
tired with a constricted affect after her son's best
friend overdosed and died in her house. (Tr. 24, 716).
Plaintiff was reported to have had an abnormal appearance and
affect on November 23, 2013, when she complained of being
stressed about her mother having a heart attack three weeks
prior and reporting “fair” sleep. (Tr. 451-52).
On December 3, 2014, plaintiff was reported to have a flat
affect and a depressed mood. (Tr. 570, 575). On December 10,
2015, plaintiff again was reported to have a flat affect and
a depressed mood and described struggling with coping with
her mother's death. (Tr. 586, 591).
23, 2016, Dr. Goldman submitted a medical source statement
(“MSS”) of plaintiff's ability to do
work-related activities. (Tr. 632). In the statement, he
listed plaintiff's ability to understand, remember, and
carry out simple instructions as moderately limited; her
ability to make judgments on simple work-related decisions as
markedly limited; and her ability to understand and remember
complex instructions as moderately limited. (Tr. 632). He
listed her ability to carry out complex instructions as
moderately limited, noting she had a marked limitation on her
ability to make judgments on complex work-related decisions.
(Id.). In the MSS, Dr. Goldman also wrote that
because of plaintiff's anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar
disorder, she had a marked limitation on her ability to
interact appropriately with supervisors and co-workers, and a
marked limitation on her ability to respond appropriately to
usual work situations and to changes in a routine work
setting. (Tr. 633). Dr. Goldman wrote further that
plaintiff's conditions would cause her to miss more than
four days a month of work, and that twenty-five percent or
more of her work time would be “off task.” (Tr.
August 23, 2016, the hearing before the ALJ was held. (Tr.
is a 36-year-old female who is married with two children and
lives in New London, Missouri. (Tr. 99-101). She has an
eleventh grade education and failed to graduate from high
school, but later received CNA and CMA certifications. (Tr.
102). Both certifications are not current. (Id.).
Her last gainful employment was working at Dollar General,
which ended August 31, 2012. (Tr. 99-100). She was fired
because she could not correctly hang shelves and follow
directions. (Tr. 100).
has been diagnosed with various health issues and has cited
her mental health conditions as the reason for her inability
to work. (Tr. 102). She testified that due to her bipolar
disorder, she will lash out at others for no reason, with
three or more bad days a week. (Tr. 103). Plaintiff described
bad days as ones where she is not pleasant to be around,
generally grouchy, screams at everyone and cannot control her
anger, uses foul language, stays in her night clothes, does
not bathe, and does not do any housekeeping work. (Tr.
104-05). Plaintiff testified that at least twice a month, she
isolates herself in her bedroom and spends all day in bed
sleeping. (Tr. 104).
plaintiff testified that her ADHD makes her easily distracted
because it is difficult to concentrate. (Tr. 105). She stated
that she would start cleaning upstairs, go downstairs to get
something and start cleaning down there, and then forget what
she was doing upstairs. (Id.).
further testified that she has an anxiety disorder. (Tr.
106). She stated that she does not like to be around people,
because when she is, she breaks out in sweat and
“freaks out.” (Id.). She also noted that
she has panic attacks when she is around numerous people and
that panic attacks occur three or more times a week.
(Id.). The panic attacks are especially difficult
when she is at the store. (Tr. 107).
explained that while she does go shopping, she does not leave
her home by herself. (Tr. 112). She testified that she makes
whoever is at home go with her on errands outside the home,
including to doctors' appointments, because she will
“freak out.” (Id.). She can drive, but
does not like leaving her home, which she views as her
protective environment. (Tr. 112-13). She visits the store
weekly and has problems three to four times a month. (Tr.
113). When she has an anxiety attack at the store, she starts
sweating and sits for 20 minutes in the bathroom until the
person she is with helps her finish shopping. (Id.).
spoke of how she has PTSD from an ex-husband who used to
physically abuse her. (Id.). She testified that he
used to tie her to a bed and carve foul language on her body
with a razor blade. (Id.). She also stated that he
ripped out her bangs, held her hostage in a car while holding
a screwdriver, stopped her from seeing her family, and locked
her in their home. (Id.).
testified that as a result of her abuse and PTSD, she
experiences nightmares three to four times a week. (Tr. 108).
When she wakes up, she is stressed and usually experiences
one of her bad days accompanied by flashbacks and extended
crying spells. (Tr. 109). She also wants to be alone when
flashbacks occur. (Id.).
testified due to her depression, she sits in her chair and
has little motivation to get up and do anything. She
experienced a dark depression after her mother passed away on
September 25, 2015. (Tr. 110).
Vocational Expert Testimony
Vocational Expert (“VE”) testified that plaintiff
had performed the following past work: (1) stock clerk, (2)
cashier II, (3) and nurse's assistant. (Tr. 122).
posed three hypothetical questions to the VE regarding
plaintiff's work ability. The ALJ first asked the VE to
consider a hypothetical individual with plaintiff's age,
education, and work history who is limited to medium level
work; can perform work limited to simple, routine tasks, with
few workplace changes; would be off task five percent of the
time in addition to regularly scheduled breaks; and could
have occasional interaction with the public, coworkers, and
supervisors. (Id.). The VE responded that