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Inocencio Felix v. Michael J. Astrue

December 10, 2012

INOCENCIO FELIX, PLAINTIFF-CLAIMANT,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeffrey T. Gilbert Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Claimant Inocencio Felix brings this action under 42 U.S.C.§ 405(g) seeking reversal or remand of the decision of Respondent Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying Claimant's application for disability insurance benefits. Claimant argues that Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision denying his application for disability benefits should be reversed or, alternatively, should be vacated and remanded to the Social Security Administration ("SSA") for further proceedings. In support of his motion for summary judgment, Claimant raises the following issues: (1) the ALJ failed to follow the treating physician rule; and (2) the ALJ did not properly evaluate Claimant's credibility. For the reasons discussed herein, Claimant's motion for summary judgment is granted [Dkt.#12]. The decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is reversed, and this matter is remanded to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings consistent with the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Claimant filed his application for disability benefits on October 16, 2007, alleging a disability onset date beginning August 19, 2007. R.19, 137-39. The SSA initially denied the application on January 22, 2208 and upon reconsideration on April 1, 2008.

R.19, 85-89, 90-94. Thereafter, Claimant requested a hearing before an ALJ on April 30, 2008. R.19, 95. Claimant appeared with his attorney and testified at a hearing on August 13, 2009 before the ALJ. R.31-82. Claimant's spouse Donna Felix also appeared and testified at the hearing (R.19, 67-76) as did Vocational Expert Frank Mendrick. R.76-82. No medical expert testified at the hearing.

On September 2, 2009, the ALJ issued his decision finding that Claimant is not disabled. R.19-30. Specifically, the ALJ found that Claimant has severe impairments, including a seizure disorder; coronary artery disease, status post PTCA/stenting to the left anterior descending coronary artery; borderline to extremely low intellectual function; and depressive disorder with anxiety.*fn1 R.21. The ALJ concluded that Claimant's impairments cause significant limitation in his ability to perform basic work activities and that his mental impairment resulted in more than slight functional mental limitations.

R.22. The ALJ, however, concluded that Claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals any of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526). R.22.

The ALJ also determined that Claimant has "the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(c), that is he can lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; he can stand and/or walk for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; he can sit for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour work day; except, he is to avoid working around dangerous moving machinery, at unprotected heights, on ladders or scaffolding, or in any other situation where having a seizure would be dangerous to the claimant or others; and, he is unable to maintain the attention and concentration necessary for detailed or complex tasks." R.24. The ALJ then concluded that Claimant is not capable of performing his past relevant work (R.28) but that, considering Claimant's age, education, work experience and residual functional capacity, Claimant is capable of making a successful adjustment to other work (R.29). Therefore, the ALJ determined that Claimant is not disabled. R.29.

Claimant filed a request with the Appeals Council for review of the ALJ's decision. R.15. On April 29, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Claimant's request for review of the ALJ's decision, making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the Commissioner. R.1-7. Claimant seeks review in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§ 405(g).

B. Hearing Testimony

1. Claimant Inocencio FeliX

At the time of the hearing, Claimant was 54 years old, married and living with this wife. He completed eighth grade in Puerto Rico. R.46. His past relevant was as a boat deck hand and repairman and as a control setup and operator for a transmission bearing company. R.47. Claimant testified that he stopped working in August 2007 after having a seizure and blackout. R.40. Prior to this grand mal seizure, Claimant had one or two other grand mal seizures, but he testified that he had petit mal seizures more frequently.

R.41-42. After he stopped working, Claimant testified that he has had two grand mal seizures and at least 15 petit mal seizures. R.44. During petit mal seizures, Claimant testified that he goes "blind" and is unable to move for five to 15 seconds. Id. After a seizure, Claimant stated that he feels tired and experiences pressure in his neck. Id. Claimant does not have any warning of an oncoming seizure. R.45.

In an average day, Claimant gets up at seven or eight o'clock in the morning and is awake for six to seven hours before taking a two-hour nap. R.47. During the day, he watches television and tries to do some household chores. R.48. His wife does the laundry, cooks and performs the heavy household chores. R.58-59. Claimant testified that he has difficulty remembering how to do things he used to do (R.55) and he also has difficulty concentrating (R.61).

2. Claimant's Wife Donna Felix

Claimant's wife also testified at the hearing. She testified that she helps her husband with activities around the house such as vacuuming and preparing meals. R.64. She described witnessing her husband's seizures, most recently characterized by staring off into space and not responding to stimuli. R.65. Mrs. Felix stated that Claimant has experienced seizures more often since he stopped working. R.66. She stated that the seizures vary in severity (R.68) and occur between one and three time a week (R.70). Mrs. Felix also reported that Claimant's comprehension is poor and that he has difficulty remembering things and focusing. R.71, 73.

3. Vocational Expert ("VE") Frank Mendrick

The VE testified that an individual of Claimant's age, education and work history, who could perform medium exertional work except that he was unable to work around dangerous moving machinery and at unprotected heights, on ladders, and on scaffolding, or in another situation in which having a seizure would be dangerous to himself or others and who was unable to maintain attention and concentration for detailed tasks, could not perform any of Claimant's past work. R.78. The VE, however, testified that Claimant could perform other work as an office cleaner, hand packer, and small products assembler. R.78-79. The VE also acknowledged that none of these occupations could be performed if an individual missed work more than once a month. R.80.

C. Medical Evidence

1. Hardeep Arora, M.D. - Treating Physician

Dr. Arora began treating Claimant in January 2007. R.251. At that time, Claimant reported having a history of seizures since childhood but no seizures in the past two to three years. R. 251. On March 15, 2007, Claimant reported having a seizure in the past week. R.319. Dr. Arora diagnosed Claimant with a seizure disorder and ordered laboratory testing for Claimant. R. 319. On April 5, 2007, Dr. Arora prescribed an increased dosage of Dilantin, which is used to prevent and control seizures. R.250. On June 18, 2007, Claimant reported an episode of blacking out with seizure activity. R.249. At a follow-up visit on August 24, 2007, Claimant reported that he had a seizure while driving and had hit a pole. R.252. Dr. Arora advised Claimant to stop driving and referred him to a neurologist. R.252.

In a letter dated March 22, 2008, Dr. Arora reported that Claimant was under his care since January 2007 and was totally disabled and unable to preform any work for at least a year. R.335. On April 5, 2008, Dr. Arora again reported that Claimant was disabled due to his seizure disorder and noted that his medications caused side effects of dizziness and headaches. R.337.

Dr. Arora also completed a Multiple Impairment Questionnaire dated June 8, 2009 and diagnosed Claimant with a seizure disorder, coronary artery disease and dyslipidemia.

R.440-447. Clinical and diagnostic evidence included findings on a catheterization with stenting and an echocardiogram. R.440-441. Dr. Arora noted that Claimant's primary symptoms were seizures and that his last seizure occurred in April 2009. R.441. Dr. Arora also noted ...


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