United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Leslie Pruitt brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review
of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying her claim for a
period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”), based on disability. The parties have
consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Magistrate
Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), for all
proceedings in this Court. (Doc. 21 (“In accordance
with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73,
the parties in this case consent to have a United States
Magistrate Judge conduct any and all proceedings in this
case, … order the entry of a final judgment, and
conduct all post-judgment proceedings.”)). See
also Doc. 22. Upon consideration of the administrative
record, Pruitt's brief, the Commissioner's brief, and
all other documents of record, it is determined that the
Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be
applied for a period of disability and DIB, under Title II of
the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423 - 425, and for SSI, based on disability,
under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-1383d, on April 9, 2015, alleging disability beginning
on February 22, 2015. (Tr. 148-54; 157-65). Her application
was denied at the initial level of administrative review on
August 10, 2015. (Tr. 73-82). On September 10, 2015, Pruitt
requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
(Tr. 85-86). After a hearing was held on February 24, 2017,
the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Pruitt
was not under a disability from the date the application was
filed through the date of the decision, April 26, 2017.
(Tr.10-20). Pruitt appealed the ALJ's decision to the
Appeals Council, and, on January 11, 2018, the Appeals
Council denied her request for review of the ALJ's
decision, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3).
exhausting her administrative remedies, Pruitt sought
judicial review in this Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c). (Doc. 1). The Commissioner
filed an answer and the social security transcript on July 3,
2018. (Docs. 9, 10). Both parties filed briefs setting forth
their respective positions. (Docs. 11, 16). Oral argument was
held before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on February 5,
2019. (Doc. 23). The case is now ripe for decision.
CLAIM ON APPEAL
raises one claim of alleged error made by the ALJ: whether
the ALJ erred in relying upon the Medical-Vocational Rules
given the ALJ's finding that she had a severe impairment
of epilepsy. (Doc. 11 at p. 2).
was born on May 22, 1974 and was 42 years old at the time the
ALJ issued his opinion denying her benefits. (Tr. 33). Pruitt
alleged disability due to asthma, grand mal seizures, heart
murmur, and stomach issues. (Tr. 178). She completed the
10thgrade of school and was in special education
classes. (Tr. 34, 181). She reported that her ability to read
is limited. (Id.). She has never had a driver's
license. (Id.). She has had past employment as a
food preparer at several fast food restaurants. (Tr. 39).
Pruitt lives in a mobile home with her young adult son. (Tr.
37). She can do light chores around the house, do laundry,
and grocery shop. (Tr. 39-40). She can bathe, dress, and
groom herself. (Tr. 39). She does not cook because the food
does not smell right to her. (Tr. 40). She can pay bills, but
she does not have a bank or savings account and cannot count
change back very well. (Tr. 200).
conducting a hearing, the ALJ found that Pruitt had the
following severe impairments: epilepsy, anemia, and GERD.
(Tr. 15). He further determined that none of these
impairments or combination of impairments met or equaled a
listing. (Tr. 15-16). The ALJ assessed Pruitt's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) and found that she
could perform the full range of sedentary work. (Tr. 16-19).
Taking into consideration her RFC, age, education, and work
experience, he concluded that a finding of “not
disabled” was directed by Medical Vocational Rule
201.25. (Tr. 20). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Pruitt
was not entitled to benefits. (Id.).
made the following findings in his April 26, 2017 decision
that are relevant to the claim on appeal:
The claimant also has a history of epilepsy/convulsions, but
the evidence shows she has been non-compliant with treatment
and medications. In March 2014, the claimant's husband
reported to hospital staff that the claimant was drinking a
lot, mostly liquor, and she did not take her seizure
medication (Exhibit B1F, p. 39). In May 2015, the claimant
presented to the emergency room following a seizure. She
reportedly had diffuse shaking but no urinary incontinence or
biting of the tongue. She reported that she was not following
with a neurologist (Exhibit B5F, p. 5). In July 2015, the
claimant told Dr. Dixon, the consultative examiner, that
every time she has a seizure it is because she has run out of
her medication and cannot afford prescription medications
from time to time. Dr. Dixon diagnosed her with a seizure
disorder with medication noncompliance (Exhibit B6F). Even
the claimant's own treating physician, Dr. Louis Berec,
noted at Exhibit B8F that the claimant was taking medications
irregularly and was not compliant with her medications. The
undersigned also notes that during an emergency room visit in
July 2016, the claimant's seizures were attributed to a
change in alcohol use, and she was diagnosed with alcohol
abuse along and seizure disorder. She also left against
medical advise [sic] prior to completion of treatment for her
seizures with intravenous Dilantin (Exhibit B12F, pp. 7-8).
The evidence also shows that the claimant's seizures are
not that frequent. In May 2015, her seizures were reportedly
stable (Exhibit B9F, p. 10). In February 2016, she reported
no recent seizures and her seizures/convulsions were said to
be under fair control. (Exhibit B11F, pp. 6 and 9). The next
mention of seizures was in July 2016 when the seizures were
said to be possibly due to change in alcohol use (Exhibit
B12F, pp. 7-8). She also admitted at the February 24, 2017
hearing that her last seizure had been in July 2016, seven
Social Security Regulations provides that, "In order to
get benefits, you must follow treatment prescribed by your
physician if this treatment can restore your ability to
work" (20 CFR 404.1530(a). The Regulations further state
that when an individual does not follow prescribed treatment
without a good reason, the individual will not be found
disabled. Acceptable reasons for failure to follow prescribed
treatment include 1) the specific medical treatment is
contrary to the established teaching and tenets of the
individual's religion, 2) the prescribed treatment would
be cataract surgery for one eye when there is an impairment
of the other eye resulting in severe loss of vision and is
not subject to improvement through treatment, 3) surgery was
previously performed with unsuccessful results and the same
surgery is again being recommended for the same impairment,
4) the treatment because of its magnitude (e.g., open ...