United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the final decision of Defendant Andrew M. Saul,
Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”) denying the application of
Plaintiff Sharon LaJeuness (“Plaintiff”) for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401
et seq. (the “Act”). The parties
consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned magistrate
judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 5). Because
I find the decision denying benefits was not supported by
substantial evidence, I will reverse the Commissioner's
denial of Plaintiff's application and remand the case for
April 24, 2015, Plaintiff applied for DIB. (Tr. 152). Her
application was initially denied. (Tr. 78). On October 23,
2015, Plaintiff filed a Request for Hearing by Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 86). On July 11, 2017,
Plaintiff testified at a hearing before the ALJ; on the same
date, Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date from June 27,
1971 to June 17, 2013. (Tr. 26-63, 165). On December 26,
2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7-25). On
February 23, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of
Hearing Decision with the Social Security
Administration's Appeals Council. (Tr. 148). On June 5,
2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review. (Tr. 1-6). The decision of the ALJ stands as the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
11, 2017, Plaintiff testified at the hearing before the ALJ
as follows. (Tr. 28). She was 46 years old and had a
ninth-grade education. (Tr. 36). She last worked in June
2013, at Walmart; she worked there for almost nine years.
(Tr. 37). She worked primarily in customer service; she was
on her feet and had to lift and carry up to 50 pounds. (Tr.
38). She was stopped working because she was fired,
ostensibly for taking too-long breaks; she believes she was
actually fired because she was taking intermittent FMLA
leave. (Tr. 38-39).
is able to drive a car, cook very simple meals, and dress and
bathe herself. (Tr. 50-51). She has a shower chair, and she
would not be able to shower without it. (Tr. 51). She uses a
motorized cart and gets a stockman or cart boy to help her at
the grocery store. (Tr. 51). Her daughter comes and does most
of her laundry. (Tr. 50).
was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in April of 2011, by
Dr. Hoffman; this mostly affects her hand, legs, and arms,
but it also affects all of her joints. (Tr. 39). She drops
things all the time. (Tr. 40-41). If she holds a phone for
too long, her hand falls asleep. (Tr. 50). She has to sleep
with a brace on her right hand, or the burning and tingling
will wake her up. (Tr. 41). Her back also gets very weak, and
her legs get weak if she stands for more than ten minutes.
(Tr. 43). She has trouble walking a distance. (Tr. 43). She
has swelling and pain in her knees. (Tr. 40). She cannot lift
more than about five pounds. (Tr. 44). She also has problems
sitting; if she sits for more than 30 minutes or so, her
lower back and upper back hurt. (Tr. 44). Plaintiff has had
quite a few different medications for the rheumatoid
arthritis; she thinks her current ones are effective, but
they have often been changed. (Tr. 41).
also has carpal tunnel syndrome. (Tr. 41). She had a nerve
conduction study and was verbally told that she had carpal
tunnel in both hands. (Tr. 42). Her doctor told her the
Gabapentin should help with that, and it has. (Tr. 42). She
has had some injections in her right hand. (Tr. 43). She was
apprehensive about getting surgery, but testified that it
might come to that. (Tr. 42).
also has fibromyalgia, which causes pain in her nerves. (Tr.
44-45). On a bad day, she cannot even get out of bed, except
to go to the bathroom; those days are getting more and more
frequent, about four days a week. (Tr. 45). On a good day,
she can sit in a chair for a while and have a friend over to
sit and talk. (Tr. 46).
energy level is better since she started Adderall, but there
are some days when she is still very tired. (Tr. 46-47). She
sleeps well at night and usually takes a nap during the day.
(Tr. 47). Plaintiff has a “horrible” short-term
memory. (Tr. 47). Her doctor told her it could be caused by
the fibromyalgia or by her medication. (Tr. 47). Plaintiff
also testified that she sometimes has a problem thinking of
what words to use. (Tr. 48). She cannot keep her focus when
reading online; she usually gets distracted easily. (Tr. 48).
Plaintiff also has depression and does very little socially.
(Tr. 48-49). She does very little socially now. (Tr. 49).
regard to the medical and other evidence in the record, the
Court adopts the facts as presented in the parties'
respective statements of fact. The Court will cite to
specific portions of the record as needed in the discussion
Standard for Determining Disability Under the Act
eligible for benefits under the Social Security Act, a
claimant must prove he or she is disabled. Pearsall v.
Massanari,274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001);
Baker v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 955
F.2d 552, 555 (8th Cir. 1992). The Social Security Act
defines as disabled a person who is unable “to engage
in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also
Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010). The
impairment must be “of such severity that he [or she]
is not only unable to do his [or her] previous work but
cannot, considering his [or her] age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, ...