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Haralson v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 20, 2014

JESSE HARALSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JEFFREY COLE, Magistrate Judge.

The plaintiff, Jesse Haralson, seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner ("Commissioner") of the Social Security Administration ("Agency") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"). 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). Mr. Haralson asks the court to reverse and remand the Commissioner's decision, while the Commissioner seeks an order affirming the decision.

I.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Mr. Haralson applied for SSI on June 9, 2010, alleging that he had become disabled on January 1, 2009, due to seizures and high blood pressure. (Administrative Record ("R.") 129-32, 144, 186-90). His claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 68-73, 77-79). Mr. Haralson continued pursuit of his claim by filing a timely request for hearing. (R. 126-284).

On May 11, 2010, just two weeks before his hearing, Mr. Haralson changed his alleged onset date to September 9, 2010. (R. 212). An administrative law judge ("ALJ") convened a hearing on May 25, 2011, at which Mr. Haralson, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. (R. 39-67). In addition, George Paprocki testified as a vocational expert. (R. 39). On June 17, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Mr. Haralson was not disabled because he retained the capacity to perform any job as long as it did not involve climbing ropes, ladders, scaffolds, unprotected heights, or dangerous machinery; any more that occasional climbing of ramps or stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling crouching, or crawling; or any more than frequent use of both hands for fingering and handling objects. (R. 21-37). This became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Mr. Haralson's request for review of the decision on July 17, 2012. (R. 1-5). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955; 404.981. Mr. Haralson has appealed that decision to the federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

II.

THE EVIDENCE OF RECORD

A.

The Vocational Evidence

Mr. Haralson was born on August 10, 1957, making him fifty-three years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R. 192). He has a high school education, and went to trade school to learn roofing work. (R. 43, 145-46). From 1976 until 2003, he worked in construction, mostly as a roofer. (R. 146).

B.

The Medical Evidence

The medical evidence in this case is rather scant. Mr. Haralson has been treated for a few medical conditions over the years. He claims he started having seizures when he was in 12th grade, but was told that he would grow out of them. (R. 45). He went to the emergency room complaining of seizures in March of 2009, but left without waiting for treatment. (R. 289-91). He reported that he experienced a seizure in January of 2010, when he wasn't taking his Dilantin. (R. 250, 254). In March 2010, he reported his seizures were controlled with Dilantin. (R. 252). In July of 2010, his treating physician indicated that his seizures were due to noncompliance with medication and he was encouraged to take his Dilantin. (R. 273). When he took his medication, his seizures were well controlled. (R. 275).

Mr. Haralson has also been treated for hypertension. His blood pressure readings have been varied, but spikes are often due to his noncompliance with medication and/or dietary restrictions: March 25, 2009 - 174/124; January 19, 2010 - 150/90 (R. 254); February 25, 2010 - stable and asymptomatic (R. 253); March 25, 2010 - stable and asymptomatic (R. 252); April 8, 2010 - 150/90, medication changed (R. 251); July 1, 2010 - elevated due to noncompliance (R. 278); July 15, 2010 - elevated (R. 275); July 29, 2010 - elevated not at goal (R. 274); September 7, 2010 - 137/88 (R. 426); February 10, 2011 - elevated due to noncompliance with diet (R. 320); March 5, 2011 - 140/90, had been well controlled on medications (R. 317).

On September 7, 2010, Mr. Haralson sought treatment for swelling in his left hand. He had good circulation and radial pulse. (R. 364). X-ray revealed soft tissue swelling and some degenerative changes to his left wrist. (R. 368). On September 25, 2010, it was reported that his "gout" was stable with medication. (R. 314). Curiously, the reference was to swelling, not in his left, but his right hand. (R. 313).

Mr. Haralson began complaining of sleep apnea in April of 2011. (R. 327-30). As he had hypertension, physicians felt it was "more likely that he ha[d] OSA [obstructive sleep apnea]. (R. 341). He suffered from daytime drowsiness, loud snoring, and awakenings to gasping/choking associated with chest pain. (R. 342). Both his girlfriend has the emergency room nurse observed him stopped breathing while he was asleep. (R. 339).

On July 2, 2010, Dr. Panepito reviewed the medical evidence on behalf of the state disability agency. He determined that Mr. Haralson had a history of seizures and high blood pressure. (R. 260-61, 263). He had no exertional limitations, but was limited in his ability to climb ramps and stairs, could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and could not work around hazards. (R. 261, 263). Dr.Panepito found his allegations "partially credible." (R. 266). On September 28, 2010, state agency physician Dr. Jimenez reviewed the evidence and concurred with Dr. Panepito. (R. 293-95).

In October 2011, Mr. Haralson was referred to the sleep disorders clinic. He complained of severe snoring, insomnia, and sleep apnea. (R. 434). Symptoms of the sleep apnea included interrupted breathing, fatigue, and excessive daytime drowsiness. (R. 434, 444). He used a CPAP machine previously - in June 2011 - and liked it. (R. 434). A sleep study recorded a normal sleep efficiency of 90.8%, but the number of arrousals from sleep was significantly elevated. Sleep quality was improved during the treatment segment with increased airway pressure. Oxygen saturation was below 90% nearly all the time with a nadir of 67%. (R. 444-48). The diagnosis was severe obstructive sleep apnea, treatable with CPAP. Use of a CPAP was recommended. (R. 449). It was also recommended that Mr. Haralson lose weight and increase exercise. (R. 436).

More recently, Mr. Haralson was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and started taking metformin. (R. 395, 402-403). He was also given anti-depressant medication - fluoxetine and trazadone. (R. 395, 403). He was said to have probable depression due to his unemployment and medical problems, but was progressing as expected. (R. 404).

C.

The Administrative Hearing Testimony

1.

The Plaintiff's ...


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