United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
WILLIAM M. BRUNNER, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
William C. Griesbach, Chief United States District Judge.
William Brunner filed this action for judicial review of a
decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying his
application for supplemental security income (SSI) under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act with an alleged onset
date of November 4, 2009. Brunner, who is proceeding pro
se in this action, filed a brief wherein he briefly
outlined his conditions that he contends render him disabled
but did not directly address or identify any error in the
administrative law judge's (ALJ) decision. The
Commissioner filed his response, but Brunner failed to reply.
For the reasons that follow, the decision of the Commissioner
will be affirmed.
filed an application for SSI on December 6, 2013. R. 13.
Brunner listed legal blindness in left eye, bipolar,
schizophrenic, depression, nerve damage to left side of body,
mass on right lung, and epilepsy as the conditions that
limited his ability to work. R. 192. After his application
was denied initially and on reconsideration, Brunner
requested a hearing before an ALJ. On May 31, 2017, ALJ B.
Lloyd Blair conducted a video hearing where Brunner, who was
represented by counsel, and a vocational expert (VE)
testified. R. 33-59.
time of the hearing, Brunner was 39 years old, was
5'7", and weighed 225 pounds. R. 35-36. Brunner
testified that the highest level of education he has
completed was the eleventh grade. R. 36. Although he has a
driver's license, he stated that he does not drive.
Id. Brunner does not currently work and last worked
in October of 2010. Id. He was incarcerated from
November of 2015 to December of 2016. Id.
testified about the chronic pain and nerve damage that he
suffers from as a result of being shot seven times in 2010.
R. 37. Brunner stated the pain runs from his head to his toes
on his left side and ranges from a 4 on a good day to an 8 on
a bad day on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst. R. 44.
According to Brunner, activities, such as standing and
walking, aggravate his pain. R. 45. Brunner also testified
that he suffers from chronic back pain that also ranges from
a 4 to 8 and is aggravated by the same actions. Id.
Brunner further stated that he has constant pain in his right
knee on which he had surgery because of bone-on-bone contact
and that he has arthritis in his hands, legs, and back. R.
45-46. He testified that he sees his primary care doctor,
pain management doctor, and physical therapist to address his
chronic pain and that they have prescribed him Gabapentin,
Baclofen, and Oxycodone. He feels jittery and anxious when he
takes the medication. R. 38.
stated that his physical impairments make it difficult for
him to climb stairs, squat, and pick up items heavier than
five pounds from a table, but that he is able to bend over
and pick a dollar bill up off the floor. R. 41, 43, 47.
Brunner further testified that he cannot stand or sit
continuously for more than about 30 minutes and that he has
difficulty sleeping as a result of the pain, getting only
three to four hours a night. R. 42, 50.
also testified about his epilepsy. He indicated he has had
epilepsy for a long time but it was not formally diagnosed
until five years ago. Brunner stated that he has seizures at
least twice a year that last 15 to 30 minutes in length. R.
37-38, 43. Brunner has been prescribed Depakote to treat his
epilepsy. R. 39. Brunner also stated that he is legally blind
in his left eye. R. 37.
his mental health issues, Brunner testified that he has
schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
depression, and bipolar disorder. Id. He has seen a
psychiatrist once a month since his release from
incarceration, and he saw a psychiatrist for two years prior
to his incarceration. Id. Brunner has been
prescribed Mirtazapine, Seroquel, and Abilify by his
psychiatrist, and stated that the medications make him feel
stable but like a zombie. R. 38. Brunner testified that these
conditions result in him having hallucinations, hearing
voices a few times a week, experiencing mood swings on a
daily basis as well as anxiety that comes and goes. R. 48.
According to his testimony, Brunner has difficulties getting
along with others, gets nervous around groups of people, can
follow instructions well but is not always able to finish
tasks because he gives up easily, and gets distracted easily
because stress impairs his ability to focus. R. 47-48.
Brunner stated that he has never been hospitalized as the
result of any of his mental conditions. R. 39.
daily activities, Brunner testified that his cousin acts as
his caretaker, helps him get dressed and takes care of
cleaning, laundry, groceries, cooking, and other household
chores. R. 40-41, 49-50. Brunner stated that he occasionally
visits with friends, relatives, and neighbors. R. 41.
thirteen-page decision dated July 17, 2017, the ALJ
determined that Brunner is not disabled. R. 13-25. The
ALJ's decision followed the five-step sequential process
for determining disability prescribed by the Social Security
Administration (SSA). R. 14-15. At step one, the ALJ
concluded that Brunner has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since his December 6, 2013 alleged onset date. R.
15. At step two, the ALJ concluded that Brunner has the
following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, psychotic
disorder, depressive disorder, status post gunshot wounds to
the left lower extremity, sciatic neuropathy, lumbago, and
epilepsy. Id. At step three, the ALJ concluded
Brunner did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the impairments
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. R. 16.
The ALJ considered listings 1.00 concerning musculoskeletal
disorders, 11.00 concerning neurological disorders, and
listings 12.03 and 12.04 concerning mental disorders. R.
next assessed Brunner's residual functional capacity
(RFC) and found that he can perform light work as defined in
20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) subject to the following
never use ladders, scaffolds, or ropes; occasionally use
ramps or stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; avoid
walking on uneven surfaces; never use torque, pneumatic, or
power tools; avoid concentrated exposures to hazards
including dangerous and unprotected machinery or heights;
occasionally bend, twist, or turn at the waist; do no
commercial driving; never use foot controls; no objects
presented from the left; requires a cane to ambulate; do only
simple, routine, unskilled low stress work.
R. 17. At step four, the ALJ concluded, based on the
testimony of the VE, that Brunner would be able to perform
the following occupations: mail sorter, assembler, packager,
visual inspector, and product processing jobs. R. 24.