United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
JEFFREY A. ELLIOTT, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision
denying the application of Jeffrey A. Elliott
("Elliott") for Disability Insurance Benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security
Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social
29, 2015, Elliott filed an application for DIB (Tr. 256) and
SSI (Tr. 263). The claim was initially denied on March 24,
2016. (Tr. 132-41). Elliott's request for a hearing was
granted, and a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) was held on October 4, 2017. (Tr. 29-71). The ALJ
issued a written decision on March 14, 2018, upholding the
denial of benefits. (Tr. 7-25). On May 11, 2018, the Appeals
Council of the Social Security Administration denied
Elliott's request for review of the ALJ's decision
(Tr. 1). The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530
U.S. 103, 107 (2000). Elliott filed this appeal on July 11,
2018. (ECF No. 1). On January 14, 2019, Elliott filed a Brief
in Support of his Complaint. (ECF No. 15). The Commissioner
filed a Brief in Support of the Answer on April 11, 2019.
(ECF No. 22).
Decision of the ALJ
found that Elliott had the following severe impairments:
epilepsy, major depressive disorder, and adjustment disorder.
(Tr. 13). The ALJ, however, determined that Elliott did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets
or medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 14).
The ALJ found that Elliott had the residual functional
capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at
all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional
limitations: Elliott can never climb ladders or scaffolds;
Elliott must avoid all hazards of heights; Elliott can
perform repetitive work according to set procedures,
sequence, or pace; Elliott can perform some complex tasks
(further defined as SVP 5 and below). The ALJ found that
Elliott can perform past relevant work as a Refrigeration
Tester because he has specialized training in heating and air
conditioning and is not limited by the physical and mental
demands of this work. (Tr. 18). Ultimately, the ALJ
determined that Elliott is not under a disability and denied
his claim for benefits.
following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ.
testified on October 4, 2017, as follows:
is 55 years old and divorced. (Tr. 32). He has been living in
a house with his sister and brother-in-law since the middle
of July. (Tr. 32-33). Previously, he lived with his father
until he passed away in the fall of 2009. (Tr. 33).
Elliott's sister filed a claim for disability benefits as
well. His brother-in-law is a musician. (Tr. 33).
quit school in the 11th grade to work. (Tr. 34).
He obtained his GED. (Tr. 34). He is right handed, 5 feet and
11 inches tall, and weighs one hundred and ninety-five
pounds. (Tr. 34). He knows how to read, write, and perform
simple math. (Tr. 34). His sister has a computer at home, but
Elliott does not use it. (Tr. 34-35). He does not have a cell
phone. (Tr. 35). He last had a phone in 2012 and previously
used his ex-wife's computer. (Tr. 35). Elliott has a
daughter, aged twenty-five years old, and a son, aged twenty
years old. (Tr. 35). Elliott is now caught up on child
support but previously was in arrears in 2012. (Tr. 35-36).
wages have never been garnished; his state privileges (such
as driving and hunting) have never been suspended; he never
served in the military. (Tr. 36). He was in jail previously
on a sexual misconduct charge. (Tr. 36-37). He pleaded guilty
and was sentenced to probation for five years. (Tr. 36-37).
is not currently working. (Tr. 37). He is on food stamps and
has Health Net. (Tr. 37). He last worked in 2011 as
ajourneyman installer and service technician for Matthew
Heating and Cooling, an HVAC company in St. Louis, Missouri.
(Tr. 37-38). He left the HVAC company because of his
seizures. (Tr. 38). He had to lift up to fifty pounds as part
of his employment. (Tr. 38). He also worked for Martin
Service Company, Classic Air Care, and Matter Family Holdings
performing the same kinds of HVAC work and with the same
fifty-pound lifting requirement. (Tr. 39). Elliott worked for
Husband Corporation for twenty years. For the last three year
there, Elliott was a lab technician who tested commercial
refrigerators. (Tr. 39-40).
cannot work because he has seizures. (Tr. 41-42). He was
diagnosed with seizures around 2001 or 2002. (Tr. 42). He
worked several years after his diagnosis, but the seizures
have increased since then. (Tr. 42). He has grand mal
seizures that last two and a half or three hours around three
times per month. (Tr. 42). Elliott takes Keppra for his
seizures. (Tr. 42). He was last hospitalized for a seizure
about a month ago, and he had to got o the emergency room at
Southeast Missouri Hospital. (Tr. 42). He was taking his
Keppra at the time. (Tr. 42-43). Last year, Elliott had
testing done by neurologist Dr. Chandra at the Raleigh
Neurology Pain and Sleep Center.
also cannot work because of his carpal tunnel syndrome. (Tr.
43-44). On his wrists, Elliott wears soft splints that were
prescribed by a neurologist. (Tr. 44). He usually only wears
them in the evening. (Tr. 44).
has varicose veins in his left leg. He has never had surgery
on them, but he wears compression stockings. (Tr. 44). He has
not worn the compression stockings for three years because
they are expensive to replace. (Tr. 44).
suffers from anxiety but does not currently take any
medications for it. (Tr. 45).
has sleep apnea and uses a BIPAP machine. (Tr. 45). The
setting on his BIPAP machine is 16-8. (Tr. 45). He normally
uses the BIPAP machine, but he has not in the last two and a
half months because he is "getting relocated." (Tr.
was treated for depression but is not currently under a
doctor's care for depression. (Tr. 46).
takes Lisinopril for high blood pressure. (Tr. 46).
never had any 24-hour testing for seizures in hospitals. (Tr.
does not recall an instance where he needed a note that
stated that he could not work for purposes of his state child
support obligations. (Tr. 46-47). Similarly, Elliott did not
recall why the state was supposed to take his driver's
license away. (Tr. 47). Elliott never saw anyone for
treatment after being diagnosed with adjustment disorder with
some mixed anxiety and depression. (Tr. 47).
medication makes him extremely tired all the time. (Tr. 48).
He does not smoke. (Tr. 48). He quit using alcohol around
2007 or 2008. (Tr. 48). He last used ...