United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern 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
Charles E. Bradley (“Bradley”) 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
parties consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned
magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc.
8). Because I find the decision denying benefits was
supported by substantial evidence, I will affirm the
Commissioner’s denial of Bradley’s application.
January 2015, Bradley applied for DIB and SSI, alleging that
he had been unable to work since December 15, 2015. (Tr.
420-21, 425-30). His applications were initially denied. (Tr.
186-90). On June 4, 2015, Bradley filed a Request for Hearing
by Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 195-96).
On September 26, 2017, following a hearing, the ALJ found
that Bradley was not under a “disability” as
defined in the Act. (Tr. 16-31). On November 17, 2017,
Bradley filed a Request for Review of Hearing Decision with
the Social Security Administration’s Appeals Council.
(Tr. 416-19), On May 13, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
Bradley’s request for review. (Tr. 1-6). The decision
of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration.
hearing on November 8, 2016, Bradley testified as follows. He
lived with his fiancée and their six-year-old son.
(Tr. 58). He did not have a driver’s license, because
it was suspended for reasons unrelated to his impairments; if
he had a current driver’s license, he would not have
any problems driving. (Tr. 58). Bradley worked most recently
in July 2016 at Fifth Gear, doing a part-time job that
involved lots of walking; he resigned from that job. (Tr.
59). He has also worked at Taco Bell for a week in 2014 as a
cleaning captain (which involved standing and walking), but
he left because he moved. (Tr. 60, 63). He worked at Sonic
for a month in 2014, in a job that involved standing and
cooking, but he was let go when he was in the hospital and
unable to call them. (Tr. 60, 62-63). Bradley also worked in
2014 at a job during the holiday season, but he only made it
two weeks because it involved ten-hour days, overnight work,
and lots of walking. (Tr. 61).
testified that he had lower back pain, neuropathy, and
restless leg syndrome that affected his ability to walk. (Tr.
62). Additionally, Bradley had lower back pain and tail bone
problems that affected his ability to sit. (Tr. 61). Dr.
Miller treated him for his conditions, and Bradley took
medications but did not have surgery. (Tr. 61-62). Bradley
testified that he could sit for between one-and-a-half and
two hours before having to stand. (Tr. 62). He could do that
about three times in an eight-hour workday. (Tr. 66). He
could stand for about one-and-a-half to two hours at a time,
and he could do that about three times in an eight-hour work
day. (Tr. 67). He could walk for thirty minutes to an hour
before having to stop to stand or sit. (Tr. 62). He had
difficulty lifting, because it involves bending over, which
hurt his lower back and legs. (Tr. 63). Bradley had numbness
and tingling in his feet that was pretty much constant and
affected his ability to walk. (Tr. 68). Although he could
walk for an hour, it would hurt him to do that. (Tr. 69). He
could walk about two to three blocks without pain. (Tr. 69).
Bradley also had problems with balance because of his feet;
that affected him about four to six times a week and
sometimes made him stumble or fall. (Tr. 69-70). He testified
that his restless leg syndrome caused his legs to constantly
move while he tried to sleep and in the evenings. (Tr. 71).
It woke him up at night. (Tr. 72).
saw Dr. Kinsella three times for neuropathy in his legs. (Tr.
63). Dr. Kinsella told him that his leg problems were related
to severe nerve damage caused by his diabetes. (Tr. 64). Dr.
Kinsella recommended Lyrica, which helped, but which had the
side effect of making him feel “unbalanced, ”
both mentally and physically. (Tr. 64-65). His doctor did not
recommend he use a cane or that he take a different
medication instead. (Tr. 65).
also had neuropathy in his hands, though it was not as bad as
in his legs. (Tr. 67). His hands got numb and tingly at least
three times every two weeks, from his fingertips to mid- arm.
(Tr. 67). It lasted for thirty minutes to two hours; when it
happened, he had problems using his hands, writing, and
carrying things without dropping them; it also caused pain.
testified that he also had myopathy, which caused pain that
went from his back into his legs. (Tr. 70). That happened
every day. (Tr. 70). He took hydrocodone for the pain. (Tr.
71). Bradley testified that he had to lie down for thirty
minutes or more every day due to his back or leg pain. (Tr.
75). He used heating pads on his lower back about three to
five times weekly, for thirty minutes to an hour. (Tr. 76).
was an insulin-dependent diabetic and had been so since he
was fourteen years old. (Tr. 67). He checked his blood sugars
three to four times daily, and they were usually in the 200s.
(Tr. 72). About three to five times a week, Bradley had blood
sugars so high that he had symptoms. (Tr. 72-73). When that
occurred, he had constant leg pain, lack of appetite,
dizziness, and confusion. (Tr. 73). He had to take his
insulin, lie down or sit down, and wait it out. (Tr. 73).
About three times a week, he had to lie down because of high
blood sugar, and he usually fell asleep for an hour to three
hours. (Tr. 73). That had been occurring for about two years
prior to the hearing. (Tr. 74). Additionally, about two to
four times a month, his blood sugar level dropped so low that
he had symptoms. (Tr. 74). When that happened, he had to eat
some sugar, sit down, and wait about fifteen minutes so that
his blood sugar got high enough for him to function. (Tr.
74). During that fifteen minutes, he would be confused,
angry, and unable to stand. (Tr. 74). Bradley testified that
he was compliant with his diabetic diet and took his insulin
and other medications as they were prescribed. (Tr. 74).
Bradley drank alcohol about three days a week. (Tr. 82). A
couple of doctors have advised him not to drink, but others
have not said anything about it. (Tr. 82).
saw a psychiatrist, Dr. Prough, once every four months, as
well as a counselor once a week over the phone. (Tr. 77). He
had depression and anxiety that caused crying spells and
thinking too deeply about things. (Tr. 77). He had panic
attacks two to six times a month. (Tr. 77).
18, 2017, the ALJ held a supplemental hearing. (Tr. 96).
Bradley testified that in March 2017, his blood sugar dropped
to 22, then raised instantly up over the 500s, and he was
admitted to the hospital. (Tr. 103). Additionally, in
December 2016, he was hospitalized after a motor vehicle
accident caused by a low blood sugar episode. (Tr. 105).
Bradley testified that around that time he was drinking about
a pint of vodka a night, but that he does not drink that much
anymore. (Tr. 105).
regard to the medical treatment records, the Court accepts
the facts as presented in the parties’ respective
statements of fact. Briefly, the record shows that Bradley
had insulin-dependent diabetes that was sometimes well
controlled but often uncontrolled or poorly controlled; that
he had several emergency room visits associated with episodes
of very high or very low blood sugar, that he sometimes
complained of lower back pain that radiated to his legs; that
he had restless leg syndrome; and that he had severe diabetic
polyneuropathy that caused pain, decreased sensation, and
numbness in his feet and legs; and that he had depression and
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);
1382c(a)(3)(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, regardless of whether such work exists in the
immediate area in which he [or she] lives, or whether a
specific job vacancy exists for him [or her], or whether he
[or she] would be hired if he [or she] applied for
work.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A);
determine whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner
engages in a five-step evaluation process. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a); see also McCoy v.
Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir. 2011) (discussing
the five-step process). At Step One, the Commissioner
determines whether the claimant is currently engaging in
“substantial gainful activity”; if so, then the
claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i); McCoy, 648 F.3d
at 611. At Step Two, the Commissioner determines whether the
claimant has a severe impairment, which is “any
impairment or combination of impairments which significantly
limits [the claimant’s] physical or mental ability to
do basic work activities”; if the claimant does not
have a severe impairment, the claimant is not disabled. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 404.1520(c),
416.920(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(c); McCoy, 648 F.3d at
611. At Step Three, the Commissioner evaluates whether the
claimant’s impairment meets or equals one of the
impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1 (the “listings”). 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii); McCoy, 648
F.3d at 611. If the claimant has such an impairment, the
Commissioner will find the claimant disabled; if not, the
Commissioner proceeds with the rest of the five-step process.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d);
McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611.
to Step Four, the Commissioner must assess the
claimant’s “residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”), which is “the most a claimant can
do despite [his or her] limitations.” Moore v.
Astrue, 572 F.3d 520, 523 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1)); see also 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e), 416.945(a)(1). At Step
Four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant can
return to his or her past relevant work, by comparing the
claimant’s RFC with the physical and mental demands of
the claimant’s past relevant work. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1520(f),
416.920(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(f); McCoy, 648 F.3d at
611. If the claimant can perform his or her past relevant
work, the claimant is not disabled; if the claimant cannot,
the analysis proceeds to the next step. Id. At Step
Five, the Commissioner considers the claimant’s RFC,
age, education, and work experience to determine whether the
claimant can make an adjustment to other work in the national
economy; if the claimant cannot make an adjustment to other
work, the claimant will be found disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g), 404.1560(c)(2),
416.920(a)(4)(v), 416.920(g), 416.960(c)(2); McCoy,
648 F.3d at 611.
Step Four, the burden remains with the claimant to prove that
he is disabled. Moore, 572 F.3d at 523. At Step
Five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish
that, given the claimant’s RFC, age, education, and
work experience, there are a significant number of other jobs
in the national economy that the claimant can perform.
Id.; Brock v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1062, 1064
(8th Cir. 2012); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1560(c)(2),
The ALJ’s Decision
the foregoing five-step analysis, the ALJ here found that
Bradley had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
December 15, 2013, the alleged onset date; that Bradley had
the severe impairment of diabetes mellitus with
polyneuropathy; and that Bradley did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals
the severity of one of the listed impairments ...