Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Murchison v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 26, 2018

Bruce P Murchison, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          Eric J. Markovich United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Bruce P. Murchison (“Murchison”) brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”). Murchison raises two issues on appeal arguing that the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision was not based on substantial evidence because: 1) the ALJ did not properly evaluate the medical evidence from Murchison's treating physicians, Dr. Rogers and Dr. Puri; and 2) the ALJ's hypothetical to the Vocational Expert (“VE”) did not include all of Murchison's limitations. (Doc. 17 at 4).

         Before the Court are Murchison's Opening Brief, Defendant's Response, and Murchison's Reply. (Docs. 17, 19, & 22). The United States Magistrate Judge has received the written consent of both parties and presides over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Rule 73, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.

         I. Procedural History

         Murchison filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) on September 17, 2012. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 59). Murchison alleged disability beginning on May 2, 2012 based on narcolepsy and chronic fatigue. Id. Murchison's application was denied upon initial review (AR 57, 73) and on reconsideration (AR 75, 90). A hearing was held on February 19, 2015 (AR 26), after which ALJ Mary P. Parnow found, at Step Four, that Murchison was not disabled because he was able to perform his past relevant work (“PRW”) as a high school and college teacher. (AR 22). On January 26, 2017 the Appeals Council denied Murchison's request to review the ALJ's decision. (AR 1).

         Murchison's date last insured (“DLI”) for DIB purposes is December 31, 2016. (AR 171). Thus, in order to be eligible for benefits, Murchison must prove that he was disabled during the time period of his alleged onset date (“AOD”) of May 2, 2012 and his DLI of December 31, 2016.

         II. Factual History

         Murchison was born on October 5, 1967 making him 44 at the AOD of his disability. (AR 59). Murchison earned a Master's Degree in Education Administration (AR 33) and completed law school but did not pass the Arizona bar exam (AR 221). He worked primarily as a high school teacher from 1992-2012 (AR 34, 175) and also worked as an adjunct professor at Pima Community College and delivered pizzas part-time (AR 34).

         A. Treating Physicians[1]

         On May 12, 2010 Murchison was seen by Dr. Puri at Pima Lung & Sleep for a narcolepsy evaluation. (AR 252). Murchison reported that he had an abnormal polysomnogram during training for the National Guard so he was told to see a sleep specialist. Murchison stated that he had no daytime problems, that his sleep was not restorative, and that he occasionally felt weak and had cataplexy. He also reported trouble driving and nearly rear-ending other cars. Dr. Puri's diagnosis was narcolepsy-cataplexy syndrome, with extremely mild cataplexy.[2] (AR 253). Dr. Puri prescribed Provigil and recommended a repeat polysomnogram with multiple sleep latency tests and a urine toxicology screen.

         On December 8, 2010 Murchison saw Dr. Puri for a follow-up. (AR 249). Dr. Puri noted that Murchison had multiple sleep latency tests on November 13, 2010 which showed an abnormal mean sleep onset latency of 8.7 minutes. Murchison's insurance did not cover the Provigil so it was changed to Nuvigil; Murchison reported it worked for three or four days and then the effect wore off. He took it for 30 days and had no improvement in daytime sleepiness. Murchison reported that he became drowsy at work but had not fallen asleep, and also became drowsy while driving and would pull over. He did not have any episodes of cataplexy or sleep paralysis. Dr. Puri assessed narcolepsy with cataplexy syndrome and noted Murchison was not currently having any cataplectic episodes but was hypersomnolent.[3] (AR 250). Dr. Puri increased the Nuvigil dosage and noted that if it did not work, he might have to add another medication or change the prescription to Provigil. Dr. Puri also suggested strategic naps could help but noted that Murchison could not nap while teaching.

         On February 9, 2011 Murchison saw Dr. Puri for a follow-up. (AR 245). Murchison had dizziness, headaches, and nausea from the increased Nuvigil, so Dr. Puri stopped the medication. With no medication, Murchison had increased hypersomnia and difficulty driving. Dr. Puri noted that since the Nuvigil did not work, they would petition the insurance company to cover the Provigil. Dr. Puri assessed narcolepsy without cataplexy, currently with significant hypersomnia. (AR 246). Dr. Puri also completed a form for the Tucson Unified School District noting that Murchison's condition caused him to become “profoundly sleepy” and recommending that Murchison be transferred to

a school closer to home so that he could either walk or drive a shorter distance to work. (AR 244).

On March 16, 2011 Murchison saw Dr. Puri for a follow-up. (AR 242). Murchison was taking Provigil twice a day and reported that he was doing better and was more alert, and wanted to continue the medication. He was still occasionally sleepy while driving but did not have any accidents. Dr. Puri assessed narcolepsy without cataplexy and with significant hypersomnia, improved with Provigil. (AR 243).

On June 16, 2011 Murchison had a follow-up with Dr. Puri and reported he was not using Provigil routinely and had chronic headaches; he thought the Provigil made the headaches worse but also wanted to continue using it because it helped his narcolepsy. (AR 240). Dr. Puri recommended Murchison decrease his morning dose of Provigil and skip the afternoon dose unless he needed it, and also noted they could try different medications. (AR 241).

On August 4, 2011 Dr. Puri noted Murchison was doing fairly well, was only using Provigil on an as needed basis, and did not have any cataplexy. (AR 238). Murchison reported he was still fighting to be transferred to a school closer to his home. Dr. Puri assessed narcolepsy with cataplexy, well controlled, continue Provigil. (AR 239).

On March 21, 2012 Murchison saw Dr. Puri and reported that he was doing well but felt his narcolepsy was worsening because he felt like he was falling asleep in class and having trouble staying awake. (AR 236). He was taking Provigil three to four times a week when feeling tired. The school district would not transfer him to a school closer to his house. Murchison also reported headaches not always associated with Provigil. (AR 237). Dr. Puri assessed narcolepsy without cataplexy and recommended Murchison take his Provigil consistently and resume the afternoon dose if having symptoms.

On May 1, 2012 Murchison was seen by Dr. Rogers at El Dorado Internal Medicine with a complaint of extreme fatigue and headaches, and requested that Dr. Rogers fill out his FMLA paperwork. (AR 267). Murchison reported falling asleep in class while teaching and in his car in a parking lot. Dr. Rogers completed the forms and noted Murchison would continue Provigil and consider a trial of Ritalin or another medication if the Provigil was not effective.

         On May 5, 2012 Murchison saw Dr. Puri and reported that he did not feel good; he felt like he was going to pass out when lecturing and the Provigil was still giving him headaches. (AR 234). Dr. Puri assessed headaches, possibly related to Provigil but also antedate it and occur before taking the pill, and episodes of pre syncope, not consistent with cataplexy. Dr. Puri also assessed narcolepsy without cataplexy and discussed other medication options with Murchison. (AR 235).

         On May 16, 2012 Murchison saw Dr. Rogers for a physical. (AR 265). He reported episodes of falling asleep during the day, and noted that he applied for disability but was denied.

         On June 11, 2012 Murchison saw Dr. Puri and reported concerns with his Ritalin and Provigil and thought there might be something wrong with him neurologically. (AR 230). The Ritalin helped him concentrate but the Provigil did not give him the benefits he wanted. Murchison also reported headaches, occasional ataxia, and hypersomnolence in class. Dr. Puri assessed headaches and narcolepsy without cataplexy, recommended Murchison continue with Provigil and Ritalin, and referred him to a neurologist. (AR 231).

         On June 18, 2012 Murchison was seen at the Center for Neurosciences for a consultation for new medications for his narcolepsy. (AR 260). He reported difficulty staying awake starting four years ago; Provigil helped initially but then stopped working, Nuvigil gave him headaches, and Ritalin did not keep him awake but allowed him to concentrate slightly better. Murchison reported some memory loss but no depression. (AR 261). The impression was narcolepsy without cataplexy, and Dr. Badruddoja recommended a MRI and bloodwork. (AR 262).

         On July 30, 2012 Murchison had a follow-up at the Center for Neurosciences. (AR 258). He reported continuing difficulty with his narcolepsy but was otherwise doing well.

         Dr. Badruddoja noted Murchison did not have the MRI or lab work completed and recommended that he still do both. (AR 258-59). Dr. Badruddoja also recommended Pristiq as an alternate medication. (AR 258).

         On October 19, 2012 Murchison was seen by Dr. Rogers and requested disability paperwork stating that he was still taking medication for narcolepsy. (AR 264). Murchison reported that his medications did not provide complete relief and that narcolepsy prevented him from driving and interfered with his work. Findings on exam included normal mood and narcolepsy, unchanged.

         On March 1, 2013 Murchison saw Dr. Rogers to have disability paperwork completed. (AR 291). Murchison stated that he could drive short distances but someone drove him to and from Phoenix to attend law school. He reported falling asleep occasionally in class and often while reading, and fell asleep while talking on the phone. Murchison also reported a six month history of weakness in his thighs that occurred late in the day, three times a week. He was worried about losing his prescription benefits and not being able to afford Provigil. Dr. Rogers assessed limb weakness, numbness, and narcolepsy (unchanged), and recommended Murchison see Dr. Eichling for a second opinion. (AR 292).

         On May 17, 2013 Murchison saw Dr. Rogers to have paperwork completed for his insurance benefits. (AR 289). Murchison reported he was on leave from his job as a teacher because he had to drive too far to the school and the district would not accommodate him. Murchison stopped taking Nuvigil because it was too expensive and did not help much; he had not seen Dr. Puri in a year.

         On October 24, 2014 Murchison saw Dr. Puri for a follow-up and because he needed supportive evidence because his disability benefits were ending. (AR 316). Dr. Puri noted Murchison was quite upset because his insurance company would not cover the Provigil; he was having trouble concentrating in class, falling asleep in class, and could not finish tests in time. Dr. Puri noted that Murchison:

has had considerable workup, demonstrating narcolepsy with cataplexy syndrome. This is a disorder, in which patients are quite disabled, usually with severe sleepiness. They can have sleep/drop attacks during the day. Concentration is difficult because of micro sleep episodes. And hence task/test completion can be a problem. With cataplexy, patients can have drop attacks with ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.