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Klipfel v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 19, 2014

MICHAEL C. KLIPFEL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. WATANABE, Magistarte Judge.

The government determined that Michael Klipfel is not disabled within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. §423(d) and 42 U.S.C. §1382c(a)(3). Klipfel has asked this Court either to reverse that decision or to remand for further hearing.

The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §405(g) and 42 U.S.C. §1383(c)(3). Both parties have agreed to have this case decided by a U.S. Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. §636(c). The Court REMANDS the decision for further hearing.

Factual Background

Klipfel is epileptic. As a result, he suffers from seizures and migraines. Both symptoms can occur without any trigger, but both can also be triggered by exposure to flashing lights, excessive heat, too much time in front of TV and computer screens, and other environmental stimuli. Klipfel has had this condition since he was 10 or 12 years old (he is now around 31), and he goes to Pueblo Neurology for treatment. The treatment consists of both medications and an implanted medical device known as a Vagus Nerve Stimulator ("VNS"), which can be activated during seizures to help end or control them. The seizures (and the ensuing recovery period) tend to render Klipfel unable to work for a day or two. Similarly, the migraines tend to take Klipfel out of commission for the better part of a day. His ability to work depends on the frequency and intensity of these symptoms.

He also takes medication for anxiety and depression. There is some dispute as to whether he takes these medications regularly, and whether he needs to. As will be discussed below, however, there is no honest dispute that the anxiety and depression do not interfere with Klipfel's ability to function and to work.

Before October 2009, Klipfel had worked at various jobs, including fast food, retail sales, customer service, and bank telling. Although he says he suffered at least one seizure at each job, he also says that he left most of these jobs for reasons unrelated to his epilepsy. He stopped working at his most recent job (at a customer-service call center) on or about Friday, October 30, 2009. During his disability hearing, Klipfel gave conflicting testimony as to whether he left due to the events of the following week, or for other reasons unrelated to his epilepsy.

On or about Tuesday, October 3, 2009, Klipfel had a seizure while in the shower. He fell, hit his head, and was unconscious for several hours before waking up. He was then admitted to St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center-spending the first few days in the intensive care unit, and moving to the telemetry unit after his CT scans showed no signs of a stroke. In all, he stayed seven nights in the hospital. He has not worked since then (at least, not as of the end of evidence in this case, in mid-2011).

In January 2010, Klipfel applied for both Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance benefits, alleging that his seizures and migraines have worsened since the head injury sustained in the shower incident-to the point he can no longer work. Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Kim Nagle held the hearing in July 2011 and received into evidence a number of exhibits, including:

• Written statements by Klipfel, the notes of Social Security Administration employees, and with other administrative paperwork (AR 66-191);
• Medical records from Pueblo Neurology, where Klipfel's condition is treated by Nurse Practitioner Christine Miller under the auspices of neurologist Dr. Sumant Rawat (AR 270-88);
• Medical records from Pueblo Community Health Center, an indigent-care facility that Klipfel uses for general health needs and at which his primary care physician, Dr. David Krause, practices (AR 289-335);
• A "Consultative Examination Report" prepared by Brett Valette, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist (AR 346-51);
• A "Case Analysis" and a "Psychiatric Review Technique" prepared by Dr. Anthony Gottlieb, another ...

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