United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
JANET K. SCHWALJE, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL,  Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
RICHARD WEBBER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)
for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying the
application of Plaintiff Janet Schwalje
(“Plaintiff”) 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.
Plaintiff has filed a brief in support of the Complaint (ECF
No. 16) and Defendant has filed a brief in support of the
Answer (ECF No. 23).
filed her applications for DIB and SSI on March 20, 2015,
alleging disability beginning December 26, 2014 due to
depression, mood swings, diabetes, arthritis, toe amputation
due to melanoma, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder
(“ADD”). (Tr. 14, 89, 186- 93) Plaintiff was
initially denied relief on May 27, 2015. (Tr. 14, 82-83,
89-93) At Plaintiff’s request, a hearing was held
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on
June 1, 2017, at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert
testified. (Tr. 28-55, 96) After the hearing, by a decision
dated September 26, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not
disabled. (Tr. 14-22) On June 5, 2018, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff’s request for review of the
ALJ’s decision. (Tr. 1-5) Thus, the ALJ’s
decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
action for judicial review, Plaintiff claims the ALJ’s
decision is not supported by substantial evidence on the
record as a whole because the ALJ failed to properly consider
Plaintiff’s bipolar disorder at Step 2 of the
reasons that follow, the Court finds the ALJ erred in his
evaluation, and the case will be reversed and remanded for
Medical Records and Other Evidence Before the ALJ
respect to the medical records and other evidence of record,
the Court notes Plaintiff filed a 65-paragraph Statement of
Uncontroverted Facts. (ECF No. 17) In response, the Defendant
admits paragraphs 1 through 65 of Plaintiff’s statement
of facts. (ECF No. 23-1) The Court adopts the facts set forth
in the Plaintiff’s Statement of Uncontroverted Material
Facts and admitted by the Defendant, as they provide a fair
and accurate description of the relevant medical record
before the Court. Additional specific medical facts will be
discussed as needed to address the parties’ arguments.
relating to Plaintiff’s description of her symptoms and
functional abilities indicates Plaintiff believed she was
unable to work due to her anxiety and depression, which kept
her mostly in her house. She was hospitalized for anxiety in
2015. Plaintiff experienced episodes of sleeping for several
days at a time. She took medication and regularly saw a
therapist. Plaintiff lived with a friend and spent time
playing with her dog. She only left the house to grocery
shop, which only occurred when she had nothing left to eat.
Plaintiff did not want to go out; she wanted the peace and
quiet of her own home. Plaintiff did not enjoy being around
other people, but she had no problems unless they were
negative. She performed household chores such as dusting,
vacuuming, and laundry. (Tr. 30-49)
function report, Plaintiff stated she experienced mood swings
from being nice to becoming violent. She was able to perform
chores, take care of her cats, fix her own meals, text
friends, and watch TV. She shopped only for necessities. In
addition to physical limitations, Plaintiff reported problems
with memory, completing tasks, concentrating, understanding,
following instructions, and getting along with others. She
handled stress okay with her depression/anxiety medication
but not at all without it. She experienced
“wicked” dreams. (Tr. 234-46)
eligible for disability insurance benefits under the Social
Security Act, Plaintiff must prove she is disabled.
Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir.
2001); Baker v. Secretary of Health & Human
Servs., 955 F.2d 552, 555 (8th Cir. 1992). The Social
Security Act defines disability as the “inability 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). An
individual will be declared disabled “only if [her]
physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that [she] is not only unable to do [her] previous
work but cannot, considering [her] age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.” 42 U.S.C.
the Social Security Act, the Commissioner has established a
five-step process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a), 404.1520(a).
‘“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)). ...