United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH, Magistrate Judge.
This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, denying the application of Plaintiff Meagan Pilliard for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. (the "Act"). This matter was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for review and a recommended disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). The undersigned recommends that the decision of the Commissioner be affirmed.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On January 21, 2011, Plaintiff applied for SSI, alleging that she had been unable to work since June 30, 2009 due to epilepsy. (Tr. 120-25, 140, 144). That application was initially denied. (Tr. 69-72). On March 16, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 75). After a hearing on March 8, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 21, 2012. (Tr. 7-25). Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of Hearing Decision with the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council on July 17, 2012 (Tr. 6), but the Appeals Council declined to review the case on July 10, 2013. (Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies, and the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
A. PLAINTIFF'S TESTIMONY
Plaintiff testified before the ALJ at a hearing on March 8, 2012. (Tr. 27). Plaintiff was 24 years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 31). She has attended some college-level classes. (Tr. 44).
Plaintiff suffers from seizure disorder and bipolar disorder and takes medications for those conditions. (Tr. 33-35). Plaintiff's most recent seizure was in December 2010. (Tr. 34). She does not go shopping alone because she fears she might fall. (Tr. 37). She has sensitivity to light because it can induce seizures. Plaintiff has sensitivity to loud, sharp, and rhythmic noises. (Tr. 40). She cannot drive or be in a car at night because the headlights of cars heading in her direction drive her into a panic and make her feel like she is going to have a seizure. (Tr. 42). Plaintiff's bipolar disorder causes her to experience episodes of mania and episodes of suicidal ideations every day. (Tr. 36).
Plaintiff's medications cause side effects of extreme drowsiness, dizziness, memory problems, and difficulty with concentration. (Tr. 34, 39, 41). She sleeps 16 hours a day and lies down resting around two to four hours a day. (Tr. 35). She experiences dizziness two to eight times a day and migraines three to five times a week. (Tr. 35, 37-38). Her dizziness makes it difficult for her to use a computer. (Tr. 40-41).
At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was working three to six hours a week at the Juvenile Office, working with students on homework and home problems. (Tr. 31). She had problems completing her work because of the bad lighting in the school, the difficulty in finding a place to work with her students, and the stress of the position. (Tr. 32). She had to reschedule her work days every couple weeks because of side effects from her medication. (Tr. 33). Prior to working at the Juvenile Office, Plaintiff worked as a teacher's aide at a daycare for a maximum of 15 hours a week for eight months. (Tr. 31-32). She often worked less or left early because of dizziness, difficulty with the noise and temperature of the workplace, and a desire not to have a seizure in front of the children. (Tr. 32-33).
B. MEDICAL RECORDS
Records from 2005 through 2007 show that Plaintiff went to the hospital on multiple occasions with reports of seizures or possible seizures. (Tr. 296, 303, 329, 331, 346, 353-54, 360, 366-67). During this period, CT scans and MRI scans were generally normal. (Tr. 301, 309, 315-16, 341, 364-65). Some of her seizures were apparently related to illegal drug use and some were apparently related to noncompliance with her medications or reductions in the dosage of her medications. (Tr. 296-300, 335). She was sometimes restricted from driving due to her seizures. (Tr. 375-76). During this time, Plaintiff also experienced episodes of suicidal ideation, anxiety, depression, and mood swings, one of which led to a five-day hospitalization in October 2007. (Tr. 318-19, 327, 377, 380). Plaintiff was treated with various medications for her seizures and her mental impairments during this time, including Tegretol, Lamictal, Clonazepam, Risperdal, and Buspirone. (Tr. 343, 346, 363, 375-77).
In February and March 2008, Plaintiff was treated by psychiatrist Dr. Bun Tee Co. He noted that she was fairly stable, her mood was calm, and she was going to school five days a week. Her medications were noted to include Risperdal, Klonopin, and Tegretol. (Tr. 254).
On March 5, 2008, Plaintiff visited Dr. Julia Zavallos and reported having had a seizure on February 8, 2008. She had taken some Xanax that she got on the street, and when she stopped it, she had a seizure. Plaintiff requested clearance to drive, but Dr. Zavallos explained that she had to be seizure-free for six months to be allowed to drive. (Tr. 347).
Also on March 5, 2008, Plaintiff visited Dr. Kenneth Kilian, M.D. Dr. Kilian noted that Plaintiff was fighting with her family and experiencing anxiety, depression, and stress. He refused Plaintiff's request for driving clearance and encouraged her to remain off marijuana and to get further psychiatric evaluation and treatment. (Tr. 272).
On August 23, 2008, Plaintiff told Dr. Co that she felt "out of control" and stated that Risperdal helped her from "going out of her mind." He adjusted her medications. (Tr. 255).
On September 25, 2008, Plaintiff visited Dr. James Edward Alonso, a neurologist, for follow-up regarding her epilepsy. (Tr. 227). Dr. Alonso noted that Plaintiff had no complaints, had been doing very well, had been stable, was tolerating her Tegretol, had not had any seizures since February 2008, and was maintaining good compliance. (Tr. 261). Dr. Alonso diagnosed "seizure disorder-clinically stable" and reinstated her driving privileges. (Tr. 227-28).
On October 18, 2008, Plaintiff saw Dr. Co, who noted that she was calm and not irritable. (Tr. 256).
On October 30, 2008, Plaintiff visited Dr. Kilian and complained of feeling "horrible." Plaintiff reported having suicidal thoughts, trouble with her memory, headaches, decreased motivation, anger, and depression. She reported smoking marijuana at times. She was assessed as having seizure disorder, bipolar affective disorder, and anxiety syndrome, and her medications were adjusted. (Tr. 269).
On December 20, 2008, Dr. Co noted that Plaintiff's mood was calm. (Tr. 256).
On January 19, 2009, Plaintiff visited Dr. Kilian and complained of not feeling well emotionally and feeling sick to her stomach because of her nerves. Plaintiff had no headache pain or depression but reported increased anxiety. She was assessed as having gastritis, seizure disorder, migraines, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 267).
On February 21, 2009, Dr. Co noted Plaintiff's mood was calm, though she stated that she had been anxious. (Tr. 257).
On March 14, 2009, Dr. Co noted that Plaintiff felt depressed and anxious because she was not allowed to use pot. (Tr. 257).
On March 16, 2009, Plaintiff's father brought her to the emergency department because she had been talking about killing herself. (Tr. 390). She was very angry and agitated. (Tr. 391). She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and suicidality but was told that ...