United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
JEFF C. SLUKA, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, Magistrate Judge.
This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of defendant's final decision denying the application of Jeff C. Sluka for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Act. This case has been assigned to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to the Civil Justice Reform Act and is being heard by consent of the parties. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Plaintiff filed a Brief in support of the Complaint. [Doc. 13] Defendant filed a Brief in Support of the Answer. [Doc. 20]
On October 15, 2010, Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, claiming that he became unable to work due to his disabling condition on July 31, 2008. (Tr. 122-36.) These claims were denied initially and, following an administrative hearing, Plaintiff's claims were denied in a written opinion by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), dated June 25, 2012. (Tr. 66-70, 11-27.) Plaintiff then filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration (SSA), which was denied on April 2, 2013. (Tr. 7, 1-6.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
Evidence Before the ALJ
A. ALJ Hearing
Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on May 8, 2012. (Tr. 33.) Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel. Also present was vocational expert Brenda Young.
The ALJ examined Plaintiff, who testified that he was fifty years of age and had an eleventh grade education and never obtained a GED. (Tr. 34.)
Plaintiff testified that his prior work included working at: Schnucks as a stocker from 1995 to 1997; Hoss as a baker and on the production line from 1998 to 2002 (Tr. 35.); Sunset Memorial from 2003 to 2004 as a grounds keeper and grave digger; a company where he assembled cubicles from 2005 to 2006 (Tr. 35-36). The cubicle assembler job sometimes required Plaintiff to lift "a couple hundred pounds." (Tr. 36.) Plaintiff was laid off from that position (Tr. 37) and he received unemployment benefits after being laid off (Tr. 38). Plaintiff did not work anywhere else after receiving unemployment benefits. Id.
At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was five-feet, eight-inches tall and weighed 200 pounds. Id . He had problems with alcohol fifteen years prior to the hearing, but stated that he last consumed alcohol (one drink) several months prior to the hearing. (Tr. 39.) Plaintiff also had a history of using marijuana, uppers, downers, cocaine and heroin use fifteen years prior to the hearing. Id.
Plaintiff testified that he experiences depression and anxiety. (Tr. 40.) Plaintiff lives in the basement of his parents' home and does not leave his house. Id . He experiences paranoia and low energy, and has no friends. Id.
Plaintiff testified that he also has hepatitis C. (Tr. 41.) At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff had not received treatment for the hepatitis C, but was in the process of seeking treatment. Id.
Plaintiff testified that he was wearing an Ace bandage on his right hand at the hearing, because he broke his hand more than ten years prior to the hearing, and his hand still bothered him. Plaintiff explained that he is unable to pick up items with his right hand "like [he] used to." (Tr. 42.)
Plaintiff testified that he has high cholesterol, but does not take medication for this condition. Id . Plaintiff stated that he takes his medications as prescribed, but does not really know the purpose of each medication. Id.
Plaintiff testified that he sees Dr. Surendra Chaganti every month for depression and stress. Id . Plaintiff stated that some of the medications Dr. Chaganti prescribes help his conditions. Id.
When questioned by his attorney, Plaintiff testified that he went to the emergency room for chest pains a few months prior to the hearing, and was told that the pain was caused by stress. (Tr. 43.)
Plaintiff testified that he takes Seroquel,  which helps him sleep, but causes swelling in his hands and feet for a couple of months. Id . Plaintiff stated that he has not yet told his doctor about the swelling. (Tr. 43-44.)
Plaintiff testified that he had been wearing the Ace bandage on his hand for "a couple weeks" and that he only wore it when his hand started to bother him. (Tr. 44)
Plaintiff testified that he experiences back pain due to a car accident he was involved in ten years prior to the hearing. Id . Plaintiff stated that he was unable to mow the yard due to his hand and back pain. Id.
Plaintiff testified that he gets "the shakes" periodically, including when he was working. (Tr. 45)
Plaintiff testified that he did not receive medical treatment prior to 2011, because he started receiving Medicaid in 2011 and was unable to afford treatment prior to this time. (Tr. 46.)
Plaintiff stated that he receives treatment at South County Health Center. Id . Plaintiff testified that he was prescribed pain medication for his back, hand, wrist, and ankles. Id . Plaintiff stated that the pain medication did not provide much relief. Id . Plaintiff testified that he has tried using a heating pad for his pain, but it was ineffective. Id.
Plaintiff testified that he cries "all the time." (Tr. 47) Plaintiff stated that he does not get along well with people. Id . Plaintiff testified that he was harassed by the police when he was taking a walk, which caused him to break down and cry. (Tr. 48.)
Plaintiff stated that he has been involved in verbal and physical altercations with co-workers or bosses in the past. Id . Plaintiff testified that he was terminated from his last position because he was unable to perform the job. (Tr. 49) Plaintiff stated that he had been working at the position for four years but he would frequently forget how to do the job. Id . Plaintiff testified that his supervisor criticized him and called him names due to his inability to perform the job. Id.
Plaintiff testified that he often forgets things people tell him (Tr. 50); he has difficulty paying attention to television programs; and he does not want to leave his house because he is paranoid of being around people, especially police and fears he will be put in jail (Tr. 51).
Plaintiff testified that he goes days without taking a shower, because he lacks the energy to bathe and his mother reminds him to bathe. (Tr. 52.) He only leaves the house to go to medical appointments. Id . Plaintiff stated that his mother also asks him to do household chores, but he does not do much around the house. Id.
Plaintiff testified that he has numbness and tingling in his heels and ankles, which has been occurring since he was working. (Tr. 53) Plaintiff testified that he is able to stand for about thirty minutes to one hour before he has to sit down. Id.
Plaintiff stated that he is able to sit for thirty minutes to one hour. (Tr. 54.) He stated that walking does not bother him as much as standing still. Id . Plaintiff stated that he is able to lift a gallon of milk and he occasionally drops things. (Tr. 55.)
Plaintiff stated that he has had suicidal thoughts. Id . He stays in the basement all day and sleeps on the couch in the basement. Id . There is a television in the basement, but Plaintiff does not watch much television. (Tr. 55-56.) Plaintiff stated that he gets upset when he thinks about his life and he yells and occasionally throws things. (Tr. 56.)
Plaintiff testified that he became upset when his last supervisor told him he was not performing his job properly. (Tr. 57.) Plaintiff stated that he has walked off the job ...