United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
E. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court for review of an adverse ruling by
the Social Security Administration (SSA). The Court has
reviewed the parties' briefs and the entire
14, 2013, plaintiff filed an application for adult disabled
child's insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, alleging disability beginning December 1, 1995.
(Tr. 151-159). The claim was denied initially on August 30,
2013. (Tr. 83). Thereafter, plaintiff filed a written request
for hearing on October 2, 2013. (Tr. 90-91). On August 13,
2014, a video hearing was held in front of an Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 41-65). The ALJ subsequently issued an
unfavorable decision on December 19, 2014. (Tr. 9-25). On
February 11, 2016, the Appeals Council declined to review the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1). Accordingly, the ALJ's
decision stands as the Social Security Commissioner's
Evidence Before the ALJ
Disability Application Documents
14, 2013, plaintiff applied for adult disabled child's
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.
(Tr. 151, 153). Plaintiff's claim for disability benefits
was based upon: severe hearing loss, choanal artresia in
nose, chronic ear infections, and depression. (Tr. 66).
Plaintiff alleged an inability to function and/or work as of
December 1, 1995, when he was one year old. (Tr. 66).
Disability Report (undated)
undated Disability Report plaintiff stated that he suffered
from severe hearing loss, choanal artresia in nose, chronic
ear infections, and depression. (Tr. 176). Plaintiff reported
that he had never worked and believed his condition had
become severe enough to keep him from working on December 1,
1995. (Tr. 176). Plaintiff graduated from high school on May
17, 2013 and did not attend special education classes or
complete any type of specialized job training, trade, or
vocational school. (Tr. 177). From August 2011 to April 2013,
and continuing as needed, plaintiff saw Deanna Siemer, M.D.,
as his general physician. (Tr. 183). Dr. Siemer treated,
among other issues, plaintiff's ear infections. (Tr.
stated that he had seen Steve Brown, a health care
professional at The Audiology Center, from 1995 or 1996 until
2011 for checkups, to clean out his ears, do audio tests, and
secure hearing aids. (Tr. 179). Plaintiff also noted that he
had a hearing test performed in 2011 by Christopher H. Jung,
M.D. (Tr. 179-180). Plaintiff stated he also saw Dr. Jung in
2013 for an ear examination and to receive x-rays for his
ears. (Tr. 180). Plaintiff also noted that he had seen
Richard Martin, M.D. since 1995 or 1996 until 2007 to place
tubes in his ears, to remove his adenoids/tonsils, and for
surgery on his nose. (Tr. 181). Plaintiff also stated that he
visited Miracle Ear every three months from August of 2011 to
April of 2013 for checkups, cleaning, hearing aids, and audio
testing. (Tr. 181-182). Plaintiff noted that he saw Jan
Seabaugh, M.D. from 2007 until 2012 for checkups, in-ear tube
placement, and to receive antibiotics for ear infections.
(Tr. 182). Plaintiff also visited Vocational Rehabilitation
at the end of 2012 to meet with Melissa Gallup, a counselor
for the deaf assisting in education and training. (Tr. 184).
Disability Report - Field Office
Disability Report dated May 14, 2013, plaintiff alleged a
disability onset date of December 1, 1995, and stated that
was the date he began wearing hearing aids. (Tr. 186). The
report stated that plaintiff had difficulty with hearing,
understanding, coherency, concentrating, talking, and
answering. (Tr. 187). The report observed that plaintiff was
neat and clean, and cooperative most of the time. (Tr. 188).
The report noted that plaintiff had difficulty hearing the
questions he was being asked, and most of the questions were
answered by his grandmother. He also appeared to have
difficulty understanding the questions, as he would look to
his grandmother for the information. (Tr. 188). The report
further noted that plaintiff insisted on reading everything
himself and stated that he read well. (Tr. 188). The field
officer noted that he thought plaintiff may have been in
special education; however both plaintiff and his grandmother
said he had not been in special education classes. (Tr. 188).
Plaintiff and his grandmother reported that plaintiff loved
school and did not want to graduate and lose contact with his
friends. (Tr. 188). The field officer wrote that plaintiff
appeared and sounded a lot younger than his years and seemed
very immature. (Tr. 188).
Function Report dated May 28, 2013, plaintiff stated he lived
at home with his grandparents. (Tr. 189). When asked what he
did from the time he woke up until going to bed, plaintiff
stated that he played video games, visited neighbors, went to
town, attended school until graduation, and went for daily
walks. (Tr. 189). Plaintiff also stated that he was not
working at the time. (Tr. 197). Plaintiff stated that he does
not support anyone else nor does he take care of pets or
other animals for himself or others. (Tr. 190). Plaintiff
also stated that illnesses, injuries, or other conditions do
not impact his sleep. (Tr. 190).
noted that he had no problems with personal care. (Tr. 190).
He did not need special reminders to take care of personal
needs and grooming, nor did he need help or reminders to take
medicine. (Tr. 191). Plaintiff stated that his grandmother
prepared his meals, but sometimes he cooks food in the
microwave. (Tr. 191). Plaintiff's household chores
consisted of weeding the yard once a month. (Tr. 191). He did
not do housework because he lives with his grandparents and
just graduated high school. (Tr. 192). Plaintiff's
primary hobbies and interests are reading, video games, and
using his computer to write; he engaged in these activities
daily. (Tr. 193). Plaintiff also spent time with others
playing sports and riding all-terrain vehicles on a weekly
basis. (Tr. 193). He attends sporting events and does not
need anyone to accompany him. (Tr. 193). Plaintiff also
stated that he does not have problems getting along with
family, friends, neighbors, or others. (Tr. 194).
stated that he does a lot of walking and can walk two miles
or more without a rest. (Tr. 192). He stated that he is able
to go out alone and that he walks, drives a car, or rides in
a car to get to his destination. (Tr. 192, 194). Plaintiff is
able to do shopping in stores and by computer. (Tr. 192).
Plaintiff stated that he is able to pay bills, count change,
and use a checkbook/money order and that his ability to
handle money had not changed since his condition began. (Tr.
stated that his condition affects his talking and hearing
because his loss of hearing makes it harder to communicate.
(Tr. 194). Plaintiff stated he can follow written
instructions well but has trouble following spoken
instructions because of his hearing issues. (Tr. 194).
Plaintiff stated that he gets along with authority figures
and can handle stress and changes in routine. (Tr. 195).
Plaintiff wears a hearing aid and uses contact lenses, both
prescribed by doctors. (Tr. 195). The hearing aid was
prescribed when he was 18 months old and the lenses were
prescribed when he was in second grade. Plaintiff stated he
needs these aids at all times. (Tr. 195).
Disability Determination Explanation
to the Disability Determination Explanation, dated August 30,
2013, plaintiff had hearing loss which was not treated with
cochlear implantation and plaintiff's statements about
the intensity, persistence, and functionally limited effects
of the symptoms were substantiated by the objective medical
evidence. (Tr. 70-71). It was further noted that
plaintiff's treating physician stated that plaintiff
would be unable to excel or function in the world without his
hearing aids; however, with his aids he should be able to
complete tasks as he would want. (Tr. 72). The explanation
found that plaintiff was not limited to unskilled work
because of the impairments and determined he was not
disabled. (Tr. 73).
case analysis noted that plaintiff was not currently being
treated by a psychiatrist and was not seeking outpatient
counseling. (Tr. 70). He was also not taking any psychotropic
medications at the time and had not required inpatient or
emergency treatment for any mental impairment. (Tr. 70).
Plaintiff denied problems with personal care and noted he
does some yard work and is able to drive and go out alone.
(Tr. 70). He further stated that he shops in stores and by
computer and spends time with others playing video games,
sports and riding his all-terrain vehicle. (Tr. 70). He
further reported that he handles stress and changes in
routine adequately. (Tr. 70).
Work History Report
undated work history report was contained in the record.
Apart from listing plaintiff's name, social security
number, and phone numbers the report was left blank. (Tr.
The Audiology Center
29, 1998, plaintiff visited the Audiology Center for testing
by Steve Brown. (Tr. 256). Plaintiff was not tested for
speech discrimination. (Tr. 256). Brown recommended a
follow-up visit. (Tr. 256). After testing on February 2,
2000, it was noted that plaintiff had speech discrimination
of 92% in the right ear and 88% in the left ear. (Tr. 255).
Brown remarked that plaintiff had moderate to severe loss in
his ears. (Tr. 255). On November 26, 2011, plaintiff
underwent testing which revealed that plaintiff had speech
discrimination of 80% in the right ear and 92% in the left
ear. (Tr. 253). On February 11, 2002, plaintiff was tested
and was found to have speech discrimination of 88% in the
right ear and 92% in the left ear. (Tr. 251). Brown stated
that there was significant improvement in the right ear. (Tr.
251). On October 24, 2002, plaintiff underwent testing which
revealed that he had good speech discrimination in both ears
with discrimination scores of 92% for both ears. (Tr. 247).
August 15, 2005, plaintiff visited the Audiology Center for
testing. (Tr. 246). Brown commented that results continue to
suggest sensorineural hearing loss, mild to moderate in the
left ear and moderate in the right. (Tr. 246). Brown
recommended daily use of hearing aids, preferential classroom
seating, and use of personal FM auditory trainer in classroom
as needed. (Tr. 246). On August 7, 2006, plaintiff visited
the Audiology Center for testing which noted that plaintiff
had good speech discrimination in both ears with
discrimination scores of 92% for both ears. (Tr. 242). Brown
noted that there was a significant conductive reduction in
hearing, in addition to sensori-neural loss. (Tr. 242).
31, 2007, plaintiff visited the Audiology Center for testing
which noted that plaintiff had good speech discrimination in
both ears with discrimination scores of 92% for both ears.
(Tr. 241). Brown noted that there was a significant
conductive reduction in hearing, in addition to
sensori-neural loss. (Tr. 241). On May 19, 2008, plaintiff
visited the Audiology Center for testing which noted that
plaintiff had good speech discrimination in both ears with
discrimination scores of 92% for both ears. (Tr. 239). On
September 13, 2010, Brown observed moderate sensori-neural
hearing loss in both ears. (Tr. 236). Brown recommended: (1)
daily use of hearing aids, (2) preferential classroom
seating, and (3) use of FM-loop systems for direct auditory
input. (Tr. 236).
September 16, 2010, Brown wrote a letter to Laura Saupe, RN,
a nurse at plaintiff's high school. (Tr. 237). Brown
wrote that plaintiff experiences a sensori-neural impairment
of hearing in each ear and had worn amplification in each ear
since childhood. (Tr. 237). Brown also noted that
plaintiff's hearing aids were approximately seven years
old, and that one of them was no longer working and the other
did not meet the manufacturer's specifications. (Tr.
237). Brown also stated that plaintiff's hearing loss is
of moderate severity and slightly worse on his right side.
(Tr. 237). He noted plaintiff maintained relatively good
speech discrimination and normal middle ear function
bilaterally. (Tr. 237). Brown recommended plaintiff be fit
with new and more appropriate amplification and that he be
provided with preferential classroom seating and an FM
amplification system on an as needed basis. (Tr. 237).
October 18, 2010, Steve Brown authored a letter to
plaintiff's parents regarding plaintiff's September
13, 2010 visit. (Tr. 238). The letter stated that plaintiff
continued to experience a moderate sensori-neural hearing
loss in both ears, slightly worse on the right side. (Tr.
238). Brown noted the age of plaintiff's hearing aids and
that one did not work and the other did not meet the
manufacturer's specifications. (Tr. 238). The letter also
noted that plaintiff did not qualify for Medicaid and that
new devices would be ordered upon receipt of notification
that financing had been obtained. (Tr. 238).
April 1, 2011, plaintiff visited the Audiology Center for
testing by Cathy Willen. (Tr. 234). Willen noted that there
was a significant change in hearing from September 13, 2010.
(Tr. 234). Willen suggested plaintiff increase volume in his
hearing aids and recommended plaintiff for a follow-up visit.
February 17, 2012, plaintiff visited Jan Seabaugh, M.D. with
drainage in his left ear. (Tr. 259). Dr. Seabaugh noted that
plaintiff's primary complaint was a possible ear
infection and left ear trouble. (Tr. 259). Dr. Seabuagh
performed an exam on his ears, prescribed medicine and
recommended plaintiff return in two weeks for follow-up. (Tr.
February 5, 2013, plaintiff saw Christopher Jung, M.D., for
recurrent ear infections. (Tr. 262). Plaintiff also
complained of hearing loss. (Tr. 262). Jung diagnosed
plaintiff with unspecific otitis media, chronic sinusitis,
and a deviated nasal septum. (Tr. 264). On June 3, 2013,
plaintiff visited Dr. Jung presenting with bilateral bloody
ear drainage. (Tr. 281). Jung noted plaintiff had unresolved
symptoms including: hearing loss, bilateral ear discharge,
bilateral earache, and recurring ear infections. (Tr. 281).