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Timms v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

January 16, 2020

DETONY L. TIMMS, Widower of Leslie S. Timms, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL,[1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          DAVID D. NOCE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This action is before the court for judicial review of the final decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security denying the applications of plaintiff Leslie S. Timms for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, 1381-1385. The parties have consented to the exercise of plenary authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the final decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Leslie S. Timms, now deceased, filed her applications, alleging a July 17, 2012 onset date. She was born on August 19, 1983, and was 28 years old at the time of her onset date. (Tr. 240.) She alleged disability due to depression, degenerative disc disease, pinched nerve, rheumatoid arthritis, COPD, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, spasm, and migraines. (Tr. 148-49.) Her applications were denied, and she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 148-53, 156-57.)

         On September 28, 2017, following a hearing, an ALJ issued a decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 15-25.) The Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. 1-3.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         On October 28, 2018 plaintiff Leslie S. Timms died from a pulmonary embolism. Her spouse, Detony L. Timms, was substituted as a party to this action.[2] (ECF Docs. 20-21.) However, for clarity in this opinion, “plaintiff” hereafter refers to decedent Leslie S. Timms.

         II. ADMINISTRATIVE RECORD

         The following is a summary of plaintiff Leslie S. Timms's medical and other history relevant to his appeal.

         During 2016, plaintiff was seen in the emergency room or emergency department seven dates. (Tr. 693-96, 1007, 1029, 1059.)

         She underwent a spinal fusion and was hospitalized March 22-26, 2016. (Tr. 650, 683.) On May 6, 2016, she was seen at Barnes Jewish Hospital (Barnes) for follow-up on her spinal fusion surgery. (Tr. 1268.) She also underwent x-rays at that time. (Tr. 664.)

         In November 2016, plaintiff underwent surgery for removal of a kidney stone and was hospitalized for one day. (Tr. 1084-85.)

         During 2016, plaintiff saw doctors on approximately 36 separate dates, sometimes with more than one appointment on these dates. Her medical care in 2016 consisted primarily of eye examinations, doctors' and mental-health appointments, lab work, and imaging tests. (Tr. 606, 612-13, 634, 636, 638, 640, 642, 662, 664, 667, 669, 697, 710, 717, 719, 723, 726, 730, 732, 992-93, 1000-01, 1023, 1057, 1076, 1079, 1100, 1114-15, 1129, 1131-32, 1134-35, 1136-40, 1141-43, 1144, 1148-51, 1241-43, 1247-48, 1249-50, 1258, 1260, 1262, 1267-68, 1273-74, 1275-77, 1279, 1281-83, 1284-89, 1290, 1420-29 1434-35.)

         ALJ Hearing

         On April 20, 2017, plaintiff appeared and testified to the following at a hearing before an ALJ. (Tr. 37-71.) She was 33 years old. She has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, bipolar disorder, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, and small nerve neuropathy. She lives with her sister and three children, ages 10 through 13. (Tr. 40-43.) She sees several doctors, including a neurologist, rheumatologist, psychiatrist, orthopedist, primary care physician, and pain management doctor. (59-62.)

         A vocational expert (VE) also testified at the hearing. The VE testified that plaintiff had past work as a waitress, bartender, kitchen helper, fast food worker, cook, and telephone customer service representative. The VE believed that plaintiff would be unable to return to her past work. The ALJ asked the VE whether a hypothetical claimant with the same residual functional capacity (RFC) and vocational factors as plaintiff could perform jobs other than plaintiff's last work. The VE testified that the hypothetical claimant could perform the representative jobs of document preparer, ...


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