United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ROSS UNTIED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision
denying Plaintiff Molly Ehlers's application for
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq.
For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's
decision will be affirmed.
January 16, 2015, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et
seq. Plaintiff was 27 years old at the time of filing,
and she alleged disability beginning May 17, 2014 through
March 31, 2016, the date she was last insured.
claim was initially denied on March 25, 2015. Thereafter,
Plaintiff requested, and was granted, a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which took place
on December 9, 2016. On May 30, 2017, the ALJ issued a
written decision upholding the denial of benefits. Plaintiff
requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council. On April 16, 2018, the Appeals Council denied her
request for review. Thus, the decision of the ALT stands as
the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).
Decision of the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff meets the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31,
2016, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since May 17, 2014, the alleged onset date of disability. The
ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe impairments of narcolepsy,
bipolar disorder, and mood disorder, but that no impairment
or combination of impairments met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
also claimed disability due to anemia, polycystic ovarian
syndrome, arthritis, scoliosis, and sickle cell anemia. The
ALJ concluded that Plaintiffs anemia was not among Plaintiffs
disabling impairments because a March 2015 examination
reflects that Plaintiff reported that her anemia had
corrected itself. Likewise, the ALJ concluded that there was
no evidence in the record to suggest that Plaintiff was
diagnosed with sickle cell anemia.
the polycystic ovarian syndrome, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff
had not listed this condition among her disabling impairments
in her application and failed to provide evidence that the
condition imposes any work-related limitations. With regard
to Plaintiffs arthritis and scoliosis, the ALJ concluded that
there were no records from any medical professional
diagnosing Plaintiff with these conditions, and the imaging
of her knee and cervical spine were insufficient to establish
a medically determinable impairment, The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform medium work, except she was
precluded from climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; she was
unable to work around unprotected heights or dangerous
machinery; she was precluded from driving automobile
equipment and working around large bodies of water or open
flames; she could perform simple, routine tasks involving no
more than simple, short instructions and simple work related
decisions with few workplace changes; she could engage in
occasional and non-transactional interaction with the general
public; and she could sustain concentration and attention for
found Plaintiff unable to perform any past relevant work;
however, based on her age, education, work experience, and
RFC, the ALJ determined there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
could perform, including cleaner II, hand packager, and
silver wrapper. Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had
not been under a disability from the alleged onset date of
May 17, 2014 through March 31, 2016, the date last insured.
following is a summary of the relevant evidence before the
held a hearing in this matter on December 9, 2016, in Mobile,
Alabama, where Plaintiff was residing at the time. The ALJ
heard testimony from Plaintiff and Gail E. Jarrell, an
impartial vocational expert. Plaintiff was represented by
counsel at the hearing.
Plaintiff testified at the hearing as follows. Plaintiff has
an associate's degree and has held several different
jobs. Most recently she was employed as a housekeeping
supervisor with Marriott Hotels from 2011 to May 2014. In
2006 and 2007, Plaintiff worked in the floral department at
Randall Foods and Drugs. In 2007, she also worked the
register at Bucky's Ltd. Plaintiff was employed as a
filing clerk at South Shore Medical Center between 2005 and
2007, and that employment was secured through her school.
began treating with James Hunter, M.D., for her narcolepsy
after she and her family moved for her husband's job.
Plaintiffs husband is a member of the military and is
deployed for periods of time. Plaintiff initially had trouble
with the medication-Adderall- prescribed for her narcolepsy.
However, she eventually switched to Vyvanse, which has been
treating her symptoms. Plaintiff discontinued Vyvanse between
December 2015 and August 2016, while she was pregnant with
twins (between December 2015 and August 2016). The twins were
born prematurely, and Plaintiff suffered from postpartum
relies heavily on her husband for assistance with housework
and the children; it was her testimony that she did the
"bare minimum" when she was home alone. When asked
by the ALJ whether Plaintiff was the primary caregiver at
home, she responded "I would say my husband is, more
than I am." (Tr. at 13).
the twins were born, Plaintiff stated that her husband had
been given special hours so that he was able to be at home
more often. While her husband was at work, she drove her
four-year-old son to school, where she was also a "room
mother" at his classroom. Then, she took care of the
twins, who were six months old on the day of the hearing.
the twins were born, Plaintiffs husband was deployed for
weeks at a time, and Plaintiff, with the aid of a nanny,
cared for her son, who was three years old at the time. The
nanny would take care of the house and do the dishes and the
primarily experiences excessive daytime sleepiness and
fatigue. She describes her condition as being "half
asleep at all times." (Tr. 23). However, at night, she
has trouble falling asleep and generally feels sad and
depressed. Plaintiff would take naps when she was employed,
and she stated "And back then, I didn't even realize
that disability was an option, so I thought that I just had
to do whatever I could do to make it work." (Tr. at
24-25). Plaintiff and her husband and children traveled to
Texas in November 2016 to attend Plaintiffs high school
reunion. Plaintiff is able to drive and has no
physician-imposed driving restrictions.
Testimony of Vocational Expert
asked vocational expert, Gail Elizabeth Jarrell, the
Q: All right. For hypothetical number one, let's assume
an individual the claimant's age, education and
vocational experience. The individual can perform medium
work. Based on the diagnosis of narcolepsy, no climbing of
ladders, ropes or scaffolds.
No work around unprotected heights or dangerous machinery.
No. driving of automotive equipment. No. work around large
bodies of water or open flames. Can perform unskilled work,
simple, routine tasks involving no more than simple, short
And simple work related decisions with few workplace changes.
Occasional and non-transactional interaction with the general
public. Can sustain concentration and attention for two hour
periods. Could the ...