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) and 1383(c)(3)
for judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Andrew
M. Saul, Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”) denying the application of
Plaintiff Tina Prichard (“Plaintiff”) for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401
et seq., and for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. (the
“Act”). The parties consented to the jurisdiction
of the undersigned magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). (Doc. 9). 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 further proceedings.
2014, Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI, with an alleged
onset date of January 10, 2013. (Tr. 14, 147-48, 211-17,
261-66). The alleged onset date was subsequently amended to
July 16, 2014. (Tr. 284). Plaintiff's applications were
initially denied. (Tr. 147-48). On January 6, 2015, Plaintiff
filed a Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) (Tr. 158-63). The ALJ held a hearing on
September 29, 2016. (Tr. 90-130). On July 3, 2017, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 14-28). On July 17,
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
applied for disability on the basis of right arm pain, hand
numbness, carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands, and cervical
spondylosis with myopathy. (Tr. 306). In her 2014 Function
Report, Plaintiff reported that both of her hands are numb,
that she cannot hold things or pick things up, and that she
has pain in her right arm all the time. She noted that she
could not write and her mother was helping her fill out the
form. (Tr. 323). She reported that because of her hands, she
cannot get on the computer or clean house. She cannot do
buttons or zippers, cannot feel whether the soap is out of
her hair when she showers, and has trouble shaving because
the razor always falls out of her hand. (Tr. 324). She cannot
prepare meals, because she cannot stir things and cannot pick
up pans without dropping them. (Tr. 325). She sometimes
drives short distances using her left hand. (Tr. 326). She
also reported that she cannot lift anything, squat, reach,
kneel, or use her hands, because her “spine is messed
up.” She did not report problems with walking,
standing, sitting, or any mental capabilities. (Tr. 328).
Plaintiff's 2014 work history report, she reported that
she had worked as an inventory specialist since 2011, and she
was “still there on leave.” (Tr. 315). In her
Disability Report Form, she reported working full time until
July 15, 2014, the day before her alleged onset date. (Tr.
306-07). She reported consistent full-time work going back to
2002. (Tr. 307).
hearing before the ALJ in 2017, Plaintiff testified as
follows. Plaintiff was born on December 4, 1971, and she has
a tenth-grade education. (Tr. 97). She has worked in the past
doing factory jobs, including a machine operating job. (Tr.
100). In 2014, she tried to go back to work for three months,
in a job that involved doing inventory, standing on her feet
all the time, and keying a lot. (Tr. 109-11).
has pain in her neck, spine, and arm, and numbness in her
hands. (Tr. 101, 105-06). She can brush her hair, but it is
hard for her to shower because she cannot lift her arms above
her head; if she holds them up, they get dead and start
hurting. (Tr. 101-02). When she washes her hair, sometimes
she does not know if she got the conditioner out, because she
cannot feel it. (Tr. 105). She cannot grab anything out of a
cabinet that is above her head, because she will drop it.
(Tr. 120). She can grasp things, like a carton of milk, but
cannot hold them. (Tr. 105). She does not trust herself to
hold a coffee cup, because she so often drops things. (Tr.
105). She can dress herself, but she does not wear buttons or
tying shoes, because she cannot do them. (Tr. 107). She
cannot write with a pen anymore. (Tr. 122). She tries to do
things like stirring a pot, but she cannot. (Tr. 103).
However, she can feed herself and hold utensils, and she can
make a fist. (Tr. 105-06). The ALJ pointed out that during
her testimony, she was moving her arms and hand quite a lot;
she stated that she tries to use her arms a lot, but they
hurt. (Tr. 102-03).
also reported that she cannot sit or stand very long. (Tr.
takes Gabapentin for pain; she does not like to take pain
drugs because they knock her out and she cannot function.
(Tr. 102). She testified that she gets the runaround from her
doctors about her issues. (Tr. 103).
whether she needed carpal tunnel surgery, she testified that
she would be willing to get carpal tunnel surgery if it would
help her. (Tr. 109). She stated that her main thing was
getting her neck fixed, because she cannot tip her head back
or forward all the way. (Tr. 109).
typical day, Plaintiff takes naps to relax her neck and tries
to walk her mother's dog. (Tr. 109). Plaintiff does
drive, though she does not get on the highway. (Tr. 104).
regard to the medical treatment records and other records,
the Court adopts the facts reflected in the parties'
respective statements of fact and responses. The Court will
cite to specific records as needed in the discussion section
below. Briefly, as set forth in the parties' statements
of fact, Plaintiff complained to several doctors in 2013 of
hand numbness and arm pain, which she reported caused her
difficulty at work with the machine she had to hold with her
hand. In March 2014, about four months prior to the alleged
onset date, Plaintiff underwent surgery on her cervical
spine, indicated by a history of bilateral hand numbness,
mild bilateral carpal tunnel that did not respond to splint
use, neck pain that was worsened by a car accident a week
earlier, and pain radiating down her arms. In the months and
years following her surgery, Plaintiff frequently continued
to seek treatment for neck pain, arm pain, hand pain, and
hand numbness from several nurse practitioners and doctors.
Her treatments included medications (such as Gabapentin and
NSAIDs), wrist braces, and steroid injections. Results of
examinations and testing (including imaging, a myelogram, and
nerve conduction testing) were mixed, with MRI findings of
“moderate to severe” cervical problems, ...