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Stogsdill v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 22, 2017

DAVID STOGSDILL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          David D. Noce UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This action is before the court for judicial review of the final decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security denying the applications of plaintiff David Vaughn Stogsdill for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq.; 1381 et seq. The parties consented to the exercise of plenary authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff David V. Stogsdill, born September 1, 1986, applied for DIB and SSI benefits under Title II and XVI of the Act on April 23, 2013, and May 10, 2013, respectively. (Tr. 119, 121). Plaintiff alleged his disability began on November 12, 2012, at the age of 26. (Tr. 119, 121). According to his disability report, plaintiff claimed he was disabled due to epilepsy. (Tr. 158). Plaintiff's application was initially denied on September 30, 2013, and he filed a Request for Hearing by an ALJ on October 7, 2013. (Tr. 58-67). On April 1, 2015, following a hearing, an ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled under the Act and that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 8-20).

         On June 14, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-5). Thus, plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies, and the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner subject to judicial review.

         II. MEDICAL HISTORY

         On November 13, 2012, plaintiff visited David Mattson, M.D., regarding his seizure disorder. (Tr. 382). Dr. Mattson noted that plaintiff has stable seizure frequency but still struggles with smaller intractable events. (Tr. 383). For example, Dr. Mattson noted that plaintiff has had no definite generalized tonic-clonic (GTC) seizure, also known as grand mal seizure, during which plaintiff suddenly loses consciousness and undergoes intense muscle contraction and jerking. However, Dr. Mattson noted that plaintiff continued to have smaller events, referred to as complex partial seizures (CPS), and feelings of depersonalization. Dr. Mattson also noted that, per plaintiff's mother, plaintiff's marijuana use had become more frequent and that he had been having a hard time focusing during work. (Tr. 382). Dr. Mattson opined that plaintiff's continued use of marijuana could be contributing to his persistent cognitive issues. (Tr. 383). Dr. Mattson emphasized the significance of plaintiff's “underlying psychiatric issues and the importance of consistent psychiatric follow-up.” However, while struggling with low mood, plaintiff denied having any suicidal or homicidal ideation. (Tr. 382). Plaintiff's general and neurological exams both showed normal results. Dr. Mattson offered plaintiff a referral to Washington University for surgical evaluation and suggested Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), but plaintiff declined this treatment. (Tr. 383).

         On February 28, 2013, plaintiff returned to Dr. Mattson regarding his seizure disorder. Dr. Mattson noted that plaintiff had overall stable seizure frequency with no definite GTC but was still getting smaller intractable events about every two weeks. Dr. Mattson reiterated the significance of plaintiff's underlying psychiatric issues and the importance of “consistent psychiatric follow-up.” Plaintiff's general and neurological exams both showed normal results. (Tr. 379). Again, emphasizing that plaintiff's chances of seizure freedom with medication are small, Dr. Mattson offered plaintiff a referral to Washington University for surgical evaluation and suggested VNS, but plaintiff still declined. (Tr. 380).

         On June 17, 2013, plaintiff returned to Dr. Mattson regarding his seizure disorder. (Tr. 424). Dr. Mattson noted that plaintiff had overall been stable until three days prior to the visit, when he suffered a single GTC. However, Dr. Mattson opined that this GTC may have been triggered by the narcotics given to him few days before the event as a treatment for a boil under his arm. As for smaller intractable events, Dr. Mattson noted that plaintiff was experiencing events about every two weeks, as before. (Tr. 424). Dr. Mattson reiterated the importance of consistent psychiatric follow-up and suggested options for surgery and VNS, but plaintiff still declined. (Tr. 424-25). Plaintiff's general and neurological exams both showed normal results. (Tr. 424).

         On August 14, 2013, plaintiff visited R. Edward Hogan, M.D., at Washington University in St. Louis, on Dr. Mattson's referral, for evaluation of CPS. (Tr. 437). Dr. Hogan noted that plaintiff first developed seizures in 2006 after taking methamphetamine daily for two months. At that time, the seizures occurred approximately once every two and a half months. (Tr. 437). Dr. Hogan also noted that plaintiff has a history of alcohol abuse and history of drug abuse with substances including methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, mushrooms, and almost daily marijuana usage since the age of 12. Dr. Hogan listed as risk factors for plaintiff's epilepsy “drug abuse, family history of seizures, and hypoxia at birth.” (Tr. 438). Dr. Hogan emphasized that observations of plaintiff's past neurological activities via video electroencephalography (EEG) in January 2012, during which plaintiff was monitored 24 hours for five consecutive days, revealed that six out of seven events were non-epileptic seizures. (Tr. 438-39). Moreover, Dr. Hogan noted that plaintiff's one hour EEG and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test results in September 2009 were also normal. (Tr. 438). Based on these results, Dr. Hogan opined that it is “not confirmed that all of [plaintiff's] symptoms are related to epileptic seizures.” (Tr. 438-39). As for plaintiff's current conditions, Dr. Hogan noted that plaintiff rarely experiences GTC, but has CPS weekly to every two to three weeks. (Tr. 437). Plaintiff's general and neurological exams both showed normal results. (Tr. 438). Dr. Hogan restricted plaintiff to “no driving, heights, swimming or bathing alone, operating heavy machinery or other activities during which seizures would endanger him or others.” (Tr. 439). Dr. Hogan also suggested plaintiff undergo video EEG monitoring and epilepsy surgery. Plaintiff only agreed to video EEG monitoring. (Tr. 439).

         On September 26, 2013, plaintiff and his mother called Dr. Hogan at Washington University and expressed their concern about video EEG monitoring when plaintiff had not had any seizures in almost eight weeks, worried that it might cause him to have seizures again. In response, Dr. Hogan reassured plaintiff and his mother that video EEG monitoring would be beneficial to plaintiff regardless of his recent seizure control. Plaintiff agreed to come in for video EEG monitoring on October 2, 2013. However, plaintiff's mother cancelled the scheduled video EEG monitoring, against the advice of both Dr. Hogan and Dr. Mattson. (Tr. 449, 559).

         On December 17, 2013, plaintiff returned to Dr. Mattson regarding his seizure disorder. (Tr. 440). Dr. Mattson noted that plaintiff had stable seizure frequency with no recent GTC but a CPS about every four to six weeks. Dr. Mattson also noted that plaintiff failed to follow through on any of the recommendations he received from Washington University, including the long-term monitoring. Plaintiff's general and neurological exams both showed normal results. (Tr. 440).

         III. ALJ HEARING

         On January 28, 2015, plaintiff testified at a hearing before the ALJ. (Tr. 23-28; 33-35). Plaintiff stated that he is unable to work due to epilepsy and that he gets seizures at least monthly but not quite on a weekly basis. (Tr. 25-27). Plaintiff stated that seizures make him wander around at work, lose awareness of his surroundings and of his own actions, and get massive depression afterwards. (Tr. 25). Plaintiff stated that he also gets crying spells “probably daily” from depression, which tends to get more severe after seizures. (Tr. 26).

         Plaintiff's mother, Kathy Lindsay, also testified at the hearing. (Tr. 29). She stated that plaintiff gets GTC a lot less with medication, but he gets either simple or complex partial seizures on a weekly basis. She stated that if plaintiff misses partial seizures one week, he might get two the following week. She stated that right after the seizure plaintiff loses the sense of taste for few days and that the left side of his face remains sagged for few hours. (Tr. 31). She also stated that plaintiff does not want to undergo brain surgery because it's very doubtful ...


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