United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NOS.
C. SPERO Chief Magistrate Judge.
Chinli Mou seeks review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
''Commissioner'') denying her application for
disability benefits under the Social Security Act. Mou asks
the Court to reverse the Commissioner‘s denial of
benefits and remand for an award of benefits, or, in the
alternative, for further administrative development. The
Commissioner requests the Court affirm denial of benefits to
Mou, or, in the alternative, deny Mou‘s request for an
instruction to award benefits and instead remand for further
administrative development. For the reasons articulated
below, the Court GRANTS Mou‘s Motion for Summary
Judgment, DENIES the Commissioner‘s Motion for Summary
Judgment, reverses the decision of the Commissioner, and
remands for further administrative proceedings.
January 6, 2012, Mou applied for disability insurance
benefits, alleging she was unable to work due to depression,
high blood pressure, and emotional stress beginning December
10, 2005 until the December 31, 2008 date she was last
insured. Administrative Record (''AR, '' dkt.
14) at 12-13, 150. The Social Security Administration denied
Mou‘s claim on April 24, 2012, and affirmed the denial
on reconsideration on November 5, 2012. Id. at
150-53, 155-59. Mou filed a written request for a hearing
regarding these disability benefits on January 8, 2013.
Id. at 160-61. Following an initial hearing by
Administrative Law Judge Frederick C. Michaud, the matter was
reassigned to Administrative Law Judge Brenton L. Rogozen
(the ''ALJ'') who held a supplemental hearing
on January 21, 2014 and issued a decision on March 17, 2014
finding Mou not disabled. Id. at 12-26; 100-35. The
Social Security Administration Appeals Council considered and
denied Mou‘s request for review on September 11, 2015,
finding ''no reason under [its] rules to review the
Administrative Law Judge‘s decision.''
Id. at 1.
filed the present action on November 12, 2015 pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), which gives the Court jurisdiction to
review the Commissioner‘s final decision. This action
was reassigned to the undersigned magistrate judge on June 6,
2016, and the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a
United States magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c). The parties have filed cross motions for summary
judgment pursuant to Local Rule 16-5. See
Pl.‘s Mot. (dkt. 17); Def.‘s Mot. (dkt. 18).
Personal History Prior to Alleged Onset Date
born in Taipei, Taiwan on December 2, 1962, where she was
raised as the oldest of three girls in a college-educated
family. AR 336. Mou considered herself to be a shy kid, but
held a small group of close friends and also attended
painting and ballet lessons. Id. In middle school,
Mou devoted her free time to the high school entrance exam,
which led to Mou qualifying for the top public high school
for girls in the area. Id. During high school, Mou
took a university entrance exam and was selected for a
prestigious co-ed college. Id. at 336-37. During
high school, many of her classmates had secret boyfriends
despite a prohibition on contact with boys, but Mou did not
because she ''always follow[s] rules.''
Id. at 336. During college, Mou was allowed to date
but had a strict curfew and was not allowed to smoke, drink,
or use drugs. Id. at 337. Once again, Mou
''did not fight those rules, '' because
''they were good for [her]. [She] was taught to be
good.'' Id. Mou went to several dances and
started dating Steven Yang, an electrical engineering
student, during her third year of college. Id.
college, Mou held a series of jobs in Taipei, working as a
computer programmer and later maintaining a successful career
for a consulting firm. Id. After marrying Steven
Yang in May 1988, Mou and Yang moved to the United States so
Yang could obtain a master‘s degree from University of
Maryland. Id. at 337-38. Mou and Yang then moved to
Silicon Valley where they bounced around various jobs.
Id. at 338. Between 1990 and 1998, Mou began working
in the United States as a computer programmer and eventually
transitioned into consulting work once more. Id. In
1996, Mou was offered a promotion into a management position
but turned it down because she felt that her English was not
good enough to manage people. Id. From 1998 to 2000,
Mou decided to obtain a master‘s degree in computer
systems at Washington City University. Id. Mou
enjoyed being back in school and maintained a GPA of 3.8
during her time at Washington City University. Id.
When she wasn‘t at work or school, Mou enjoyed spending
time at libraries to improve her command of the English
language and study various topics, visiting every Bay Area
library she could. Id. at 332, 338.
The King Library Events and Subsequent Personal
2004, Mou encountered the first in a series of difficult
situations at the Martin Luther King Library (''King
Library'') at San Jose State University-a university
library Mou frequented often. Id. at 332. On one
occasion, a Chinese patron of the library complained when Mou
and her husband were talking in a portion of the library
designated for talking. Id. Mou told the man the
library rules allowed people to talk in the area, but library
security was eventually called and Mou was told to leave the
library. Id. Sgt. John Laws of the San Jose
University State Police Department was involved in resolving
this incident. Id. Mou immediately felt the incident
was unfair, ''since she had not broken any
February 4, 2005, Mou once again visited the King Library to
check out some books. Id. As she was leaving the
library that day, Mou passed through a security checkpoint at
the same time as an elderly Caucasian man, at which point the
checkpoint‘s alarm rang. Id. Mou was stopped
by a Library Security Officer (''LSO''),
Irene Wong, and forced to go through the checkpoint again
while the Caucasian man was not stopped at all. Id.
Mou asked Wong ''why didn‘t you stop the other
guy? This is not fair!'' Id. Wong looked
angry and told Mou to identify herself and wait as she called
her supervisor. Id. Mou stated she was planning on
complaining to Wong‘s supervisor, but proceeded to take
her library books and leave to catch her bus. Id.
February 7, 2005, Mou returned to the King Library to browse
the DVD collection. Id. While browsing, she was
approached by Sgt. Laws who asked Mou for her name and
birthdate. Id. Mou responded with ''Karen,
'' a name she frequently used in place of her Chinese
name, and provided her birthdate. Id. Sgt. Laws then
grabbed Mou‘s purse and told her that she provided him
with the wrong name, and that he was arresting her for using
a fictitious name. Id. Following this incident, Laws
took Mou to a police station in San Jose, where she was held
for several hours, and gave her a citation stating she could
not return to the King Library for one week and a paper to
sign promising to appear in court. Id. This event
was the first time Mou was involved in criminal proceedings
in any capacity, and she began looking for an attorney to
deal with the matter. Id.
February 23, 2005, Mou returned to King Library to spend time
in the sixth-floor music room. Id. at 333. That day,
Mou left the music room to use the restroom and accidentally
locked herself out of the room. Id. At the main
circulation desk, one of the librarians told Mou not to worry
and that it happens all the time, and sent an LSO to help her
get back in. Id. LSO Fritz van der Hoek then
discovered that Mou had used her husband‘s library card
to check out the music room key. Id. Mou asked to
speak to Fritz van der Hoek‘s supervisor, Sgt. Laws,
who told Mou she was not allowed to use the sixth floor
anymore and refused to allow her to retrieve her things.
Id. After this conversation, Mou spoke with a
supervisor at the main circulation desk who eventually let
Mou back into the music room for the remainder of her time.
Id. As she was leaving the library, Mou spoke with
some of the other security officers at the security desk,
asking why she was penalized by Sgt. Laws for using the wrong
library card. Id. Sgt. Laws subsequently appeared
and tried to arrest Ms. Mou for
''interfering.'' Id. Sgt. Laws gave
Mou a citation for trespassing, told her she could not use
the library for one to two weeks, handcuffed her, and
threatened to take her to jail. Id. Mou begged him
to let her sign the citation instead, and Sgt. Laws
eventually relented and let her go. Id. Mou states
that she was very upset from this encounter, describing her
state of mind following these events accordingly- I was
really, really publicly humiliated!
It was really wrong! I followed every direction! . . . I came
to this country. I followed the immigration laws. I paid
taxes. What did I do, to deserve this? I want to be a good
citizen! I deserve to have equal rights!
the King Library events, Mou‘s day-to-day personal life
was substantially altered in several respects. As a result of
and following these events, Mou claims she was unable to work
in any capacity as she ''could not function,
'' and spent ''at least two years crying at
home all day long, '' as a result of the incident.
Id. at 112. Mou explains these incidents led to her
being unable to perform basic tasks such as cooking,
cleaning, or grocery shopping; her becoming socially isolated
from friends and loved ones; and were directly responsible
for her divorce from her husband in October 2005.
Id. at 116-17, 334. Mou claims the King Library
events continue to make her depressed, nervous, and anxious
despite her having attended weekly psychotherapy sessions and
trying antidepressants. See Id . at 115-17; 334-35.
Mou‘s former husband, also submitted a declaration
letter dated October 3, 2013 to the ALJ detailing his
thoughts on Mou‘s depression, anxiety and ability to
function at the time of writing. Id. at 245. In his
letter, Yang stated that he and Mou filed for divorce in
October 2005 for irreconcilable differences which was
finalized in April of 2006. Id. Since filing for
divorce, Yang has ''been helping Ms [sic] Mou in
every aspect [he] could; however, her depression, anxiety,
and feeling insecure seems unimproved, but getting worse.
Those symptoms make it impossible for Ms [sic] Mou to stay at
work or get back to work.'' Id.
Specifically, Yang stated that he has helped Mou following
divorce in a variety of ways, ''including but not
limited to, paying medical insurance premium [sic] and bills,
property tax, Home Owner Association Fees, utility bills,
etc.'' Id. Yang also indicated that his
remarriage and new family make it ''even more
difficult for [him] to continue [sic] support Ms. Mou,
'' and that ''[w]ith her current condition,
Ms [sic] Mou won‘t be able to join the workforce to
support herself.'' Id.
Ronnie Sue Leith performed an independent psychiatric
evaluation for Mou in anticipation of Mou‘s civil
rights litigation in 2007 pertaining to the King Library
events. Id. at 330. Dr. Leith completed her
evaluation on August 24, 2007, at which point she assessed
Mou‘s emotional state and rendered a medical opinion
regarding Mou‘s mental health. Id. Dr. Leith
based her opinions on four hours of in-person interviews with
Mou as well as review of Mou‘s verified complaint for
damages, Mou‘s deposition transcripts, police reports,
and letters from Sgt. Laws to Yang and Mou. Id. Dr.
Leith ultimately concluded, ''with a reasonable
degree of medical certainty, that Ms. Mou suffered an episode
of Major Depressive Disorder as a result of being detained
and arrested twice at the Martin Luther King Library in
February 2005, '' and that ''[h]er depression
has persisted to the present day, and it is mixed with a
significant component of anxiety.'' Id. at
340. Dr. Leith memorialized Mou‘s own description of
the background and events discussed above.
Mou‘s Symptoms and Current Functioning
discussed above, Mou subjectively believed the King Library
events profoundly impacted her ability to maintain personal
relationships and subsequently led to her divorce, inability
to work, and personal social isolation. Id. at
116-17, 334. In her meetings with Dr. Leith, Mou also
discussed several other emotional and mental issues that
arose from these events.
Mou told Dr. Leith that ''after February 7, 2005, she
was 'frightened and scared‘ every time she went to
the King Library.'' Id. at 333. She noticed
that she began making mistakes such as locking herself out of
the music room at the library or using the wrong library card
when she went to the King Library-mistakes that
''occurred only when she was in the King
Library.'' Id. at 334. More generally, Dr.
Leith describes Mou‘s impression of her emotional state
She said that after the two incidents in February 2005, she
''cried and cried'' when she was at home. She
wasn‘t able to sleep; she would fall asleep and then
awaken with nightmares of being arrested, or of people
chasing her. She didn‘t feel like eating, and initially
lost weight, although she subsequently gained it back. She
said that for a while, she was afraid to go out: ''I
didn‘t know what would happen to me. This place has no
claims that despite criminal charges against her eventually
being dropped, she continued to be upset by what had happened
to her. Id. As a result of the events, Mou
''became convinced that she had been
'bullied‘ because of her poor command of spoken
English.'' Id. Mou decided to file a civil
lawsuit ''because she felt that the police had
intentionally tried to bully her, 'and ever since [Mou]
was small, [she] was told to fight back with
bullies.‘'' Id. Mou also attributes
her divorce to the King Library events in that ''her
husband, Steven Yang, never supported her in her wish to
obtain justice, '' and that ''they argued
daily about her decision to file a lawsuit.''
Id. Eventually, their arguments came to a head when
Yang ''began to complain that he couldn‘t
handle her being so upset, and that he didn‘t have time
to make calls for her, because he had to work.''
Id. Yang filed for divorce in October 2005.
the date of Dr. Leith‘s medical statement-August 24,
2007-Mou claimed that her depression and anxiety were still
present, and when she was reminded of the events, her
symptoms were ''as intense as they ever
were.'' Id. Mou was still only regularly
getting two to three hours of sleep a night, constantly
having nightmares, and ''[o]n two occasions within
the past few months, she has had thoughts of
suicide.'' Id. at 334-35. These suicidal
thoughts came as the result of mental lapses such as
forgetting about a boiling pot of water such that the pan
boiled dry. Id. at 335. Dr. Leith noted that Mou
told her ''these lapses made her feel
'useless‘: 'I was always perfect! I‘ve
become really stupid! I should just die.‘''
Id. Mou had taken paralegal courses at West Valley
College, where a professor referred her to a school counselor
after noticing her crying in class. Id.
Leith describes Mou‘s typical day at the time of her
2007 examination as follows:
She said that she is living alone, in the townhouse that she
and her husband own and formerly occupied together. Mr. Yang
moved out earlier this year. Ms. Mou awakens between 2:00 and
4:00 a.m., and is unable to go back to sleep. Sometimes she
gets up and starts her day, and other times she remains in
bed until around 6:00 a.m. During the school term she would
get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and leave for school. She
uses public transportation, and the trip to campus took an
hour. She would eat lunch on campus, and return home between
5:00 and 6:00 p.m. She would fix herself a light dinner, and
then would try to study. Sometimes she goes to a movie at
night, alone or with friends, to try to distract herself so
that she can fall asleep. She goes to bed at 10:30 or 11:00
p.m., but has difficulty falling asleep; at times she may lie
awake until 1:00 a.m. On the weekends, she reads books, does
homework, and swims.
Psychological Testing and Results
addition to interviewing Mou regarding her past personal
history and the symptoms she experienced following the King
Library events, Dr. Leith also reviewed and summarized
psychological tests performed by Dr. Joanna Berg on July 27,
2007 to support Dr. Leith‘s ultimate medical opinions.
Id. at 338. As an initial note, Dr. Leith found that
''Ms. Mou participated willingly in the testing, and
there was no reason to doubt either her effort or the
validity of the test results.'' Id. Mou was
administered a variety of psychological tests, including the
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2) and
the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III)
''MMPI-2 profile depicted her as 'a relatively
inflexible individual who lacks psychological
sophistication.‘'' Id. While Mou
presented herself for these tests with a ''slightly
exaggerated positive self-image in a somewhat guarded manner,
'' there was ''clear evidence of depression,
tension, and anxiety.'' Id. Mou‘s
MMPI-2 profile also indicated that Mou is
'''exquisitely sensitive in interpersonal
reactions, ‘ and she experiences herself as being
unjustly treated.'' Id. The MMPI-2 profile
revealed that Mou ''feels hopeless and immobilized by
her chronic worry and distress, '' and that Mou
''generally sees the world as a threatening
place.'' Id. Mou‘s MMPI-2 profile also
showed the existence of long-term personality problems, the
precise nature of which were unclear ''because of her
overly-positive presentation of herself.''
Leith stated the MCMI-III profile generally corroborated the
findings of the MMPI-2 profile-that Mou was
''currently experiencing significant symptoms of
anxiety and depression, '' despite her attempts to be
perceived in a positive light and downplay her negative
feelings. Id. at 339. Based on this testing, Mou was
described as '''likely to be naive and somewhat
immature‘ in her interpersonal relationships.''
Id. Mou was also given the Thematic Apperception
Test where Mou was ''primarily descriptive of the
pictures, but revealed sad affects throughout.''
Id. Overall, Dr. Leith concluded ''[t]he
psychological test findings were consistent with a diagnosis
of Major Depressive Disorder.'' Id.
Medical Findings and Opinions
Dr. Leith came to the opinion, ''with a reasonable
degree of medical certainty, that Ms. Mou suffered an episode
of Major Depressive Disorder as a result of being detained
and arrested twice at the Martin Luther King Library in
February 2005. Her depression has persisted to the present
day, and it is mixed with a significant component of
anxiety.'' Id. at 340.
Leith explained the ''diagnosis of Major Depressive
Disorder is based upon Ms. Mou‘s complaints of sadness,
feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, loss of interest
in social activities, sleep disturbance, anxiety, fatigue and
loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, feelings of
worthlessness, and thoughts of suicide.''
Id. Dr. Leith went on to state that ''these
symptoms began after the events of February 2005, and they
have intensified over time as she has continued to feel
unsupported in her complaints.'' Id. Dr.
Leith also found that ''[t]he results of the MMPI-2
and the MCMI-III administered by Dr. Joanna Berg substantiate
Ms. Mou‘s self-report, showing significant degrees of
depression, worry and anxiety.'' Id. Based
on her review of psychological and other medical records, Dr.
Leith rated Mou at ¶ 45 on the Global Assessment of
functioning, ''which denotes serious impairment in
social and occupational functioning.'' Id.
Leith went on to state ''Mou‘s reaction to the
events of February 2005 has been both intense and persistent;
but [Dr. Leith] believe[s] it can be understood in light of
her cultural background and her personality makeup.''
Id. Dr. Leith indicated that Mou‘s
personality, and in particular, ''[h]er sensitivity
to interpersonal slights makes her quick to take offense,
'' such as in the King Library events, where
''[t]he more the situation escalated, the more
misunderstood she felt and the angrier she became.''
Id. Dr. Leith noted that the King Library
altercations were always with other Asians, which likely
exacerbated Mou‘s reaction to the events, as
''[f]eeling at a competitive disadvantage with other
Asians because of her language 'disability‘ may
have further contributed to Ms. Mou‘s intense
response.'' Id. Dr. Leith pointed to
Mou‘s rigid personality structure as an additional
exacerbating factor, as ''[s]he has been overwhelmed
with a sense of victimization; and she is determined to
Leith noted that ''[t]he frustration she has
experienced as she seeks vindication has increased
[Mou‘s] sense of alienation from society and
exacerbated her feelings of isolation and
depression.'' Id. at 342. Specifically, Dr.
Leith found that Mou‘s divorce and inability to work
following the King Library events came as the result of those
events in that Mou‘s ''preoccupation with this
matter has cost her her marriage, since her husband proved to
be unsupportive, and it has prevented her from returning to
work.'' Id. Dr. Leith concluded by finding
''that Ms. Mou has suffered a major depressive
disorder as a result of the events in the King Library in
February 2005. Her personality structure and cultural factors
may have increased her vulnerability to such
injury.'' Id. at 342. Dr. Leith noted that
Mou‘s ''complaints of depression and anxiety
are supported by the results of psychological testing, and
there is no evidence of symptom exaggeration or
malingering.'' Id. Finally, Dr. Leith stated
that Mou‘s depression has ''been inadequately
treated by the Chinese medicine she prefers, '' and
that she ''would probably benefit from treatment with
antidepressant medication and supportive psychotherapy,
extending for approximately one year beyond the resolution of
the lawsuit.'' Id.
Chiu‘s Mental Medical Source Statement
Collins Chiu began acting as Mou‘s treating
psychologist on August 22, 2012, providing weekly therapy
sessions for Mou from that date forward. Id. at 278.
In her Mental Medical Source Statement, dated June 24, 2013,
Dr. Chiu listed August 22, 2012 as the alleged onset date,
''as this is the date [the] patient alleges becoming
disabled.'' Id. In the space available to
indicate a different onset date if Dr. Chiu found such a date
''more appropriate'' than the date identified
by Mou, Dr. Chiu wrote ''N/A.'' Id.
The Court notes that although Dr. Chiu indicated that Mou had
alleged an onset date of August 22, 2012, Mou‘s filings
with the Social Security Administration specify an onset date
of December 10, 2005, e.g., id. at 222,
231, 240, 244, and one of her pre-hearing briefs states that
she was ''unable to amend [her] alleged onset date to
August 22, 2012 as that date is subsequent to her December
31, 2008 Date Last Insured, '' id. at 251.
her sessions with Mou, Dr. Chiu identified the following
psychological conditions or symptoms present in Mou:
depression, loss of interest in activities, memory deficits,
easy distractibility, appetite disturbance, anxiety/panic
attacks, decreased energy, sleep disturbance, problems
interacting with the public, difficulty with concentration,
and feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness. See Id .
at 278. Dr. Chiu also noted isolation/social withdrawal, mood
swings, nightmares, social/interaction
difficulties/conflicts, difficulty making daily decisions,
inability to drive, and feeling overwhelmed as additional
symptoms present in Mou at the time of the report.
analyzing the impact of Mou‘s symptoms on her ability
to perform work-related mental functions, Dr. Chiu found that
Mou‘s understanding and memory, sustained concentration
and persistence, social interaction, and ability to perform
other functional tasks were all moderately or markedly
limited. See Id . at 279-80. In her
analysis, Dr. Chiu stated that her assessment of Mou‘s
understanding and memory was directly based on Mou‘s
inability to sustain or keep work since 2005 due to the
severity of her symptoms. Id. at 279. Similarly, Dr.
Chiu explained that her conclusions on sustained
concentration and persistence levels were based on
Mou‘s inability to perform work since 2005 and
self-reported difficulty in listed tasks. Id. at
280. With respect to functional limitations and limitations
to social interaction, Dr. Chiu identified as the grounds for
her opinion Mou‘s reports of having significant
difficulties with trusting people, interacting with others,
and maintaining relationships, as well as her lack of a
social support network. Id. Additionally, Dr. Chiu
found that on a monthly basis, Mou ''would report
episodes of decompensation, mainly due to
social/interpersonal conflicts with people. As a result,
[she] would experience . . . depressive and anxiety
symptoms.'' Id. at 281. Dr. Chiu concluded
that the listed limitations lasted twelve continuous months
at the assessed severity, drugs and alcohol were not
contributing factors to the disability, and Mou was not a
malingerer. Id. at 279, 281.
Dr. Chiu explicitly pointed to August 22, 2012 as the onset
date for the symptoms, diagnoses, findings, and limitations
detailed in her report, Dr. Chiu‘s reports include
several statements that indicate at least some symptoms
actually began in 2005, around the time the King Library
events occurred. For example, in the section of Dr.
Chiu‘s medical report devoted to how Mou‘s
conditions and/or symptoms impacted her ability to perform
work, Dr. Chiu stated that Mou ''stopped working
since 2005 as she struggles with symptoms of depression &
panic attacks.'' Id. Similarly, as discussed
above, Dr. Chiu explained or based many of her medical
findings as to the severity of Mou‘s mental impairments
on symptoms beginning in 2005.
Mohammed‘s Medical Expert Testimony
the January 21, 2014 supplemental administrative hearing,
discussed in more detail in the following section, Dr. Shakil
Mohammed testified as an impartial medical expert. See Id
. at 102-10. At the outset, Dr. Mohammed explained that
he did not directly examine or treat Mou, that he did not
know Mou personally, and that his medical conclusions were
solely based on his review of the record. Id. at
102-03. Dr. Mohammed concluded that Mou had two medically
determinable impairments which met listing criteria-12.04
major depressive disorder and 12.06 panic disorder and
post-traumatic stress disorder (''PTSD'').
Id. at 103. In coming to this conclusion, Dr.
Mohammed emphasized the significance of the medical findings
contained within Dr. Chiu‘s medical source statement
(Exhibit 5F, id. at 277-81), Dr. Chiu‘s
treatment notes (Exhibit 6F, id. at 282-311), and
Dr. Leith‘s consultative psychiatrist examination
(Exhibit 8F, id. at 330-42). Id. at 104.
Dr. Mohammed also indicated that, while Dr. Chiu found marked
limitations to social functioning and daily living, Dr.
Mohammed‘s own opinion is moderate to marked
limitations in these areas. Id. Dr. Mohammed also
saw ''no particular social decompensation''
in Mou. Id. Dr. Mohammed did not explain his basis
for differing from Dr. Chiu‘s own impressions of marked
limitations in these areas or how his assessment of moderate
to marked limitations satisfies the statutory Paragraph B
criteria. Id. at 104-05.
this testimony, the ALJ questioned Dr. Mohammed on his basis
for his opinions given that there are no mental health
records between that provided by Dr. Leith in 2007 and those
provided by Dr. Chiu in 2012. Id. at 105. The
ALJ‘s concerns with this gap in medical evidence are
apparent from her questioning of Dr. Mohammed:
So we would need to have some information, would we not, in
order to determine what her condition was? I mean if it was
six months apart or a year or less, I can see a connection
between the two. But five years is kind of a long time. So
people‘s conditions can change over time. So
wouldn‘t we need to know what she was doing during
those five years?
Id. at 106. Dr. Mohammed responded by stating Dr.
Leith‘s records from 2007 indicate that Mou was unable
to work at the time and that she had developed PTSD and a
panic disorder after the incident in 2005. Id. at
107-08. The ALJ rebutted, ''[b]ut how do we know what
her condition was like and what she was doing and not doing
and what she was able to do and not able to do if there are
no records for that five-year period?'' Id.
at 108. Dr. Mohammed reiterated his conclusions regarding
PTSD and the panic disorder, as well as that it is his
opinion ''that with those two diagnoses and what was
going on, that she really couldn‘t work, '' but
conceded that he did not ''have any
documents'' regarding the intervening period.
attorney briefly questioned Dr. Mohammed at the hearing,
asking him whether the symptoms described in medical reports
from Dr. Leith in 2007 were similar to those noted by Dr.
Chiu in 2012. Id. at 107-08. Dr. Mohammed mentioned
that Dr. Chiu described in detail indications of social
isolation in Mou that were not included in Dr. Leith‘s
statement from 2007. Id. at 108. Mou‘s
attorney then asked whether it would be consistent with PTSD
to have difficulty seeking help in the form of psychiatric
treatment to which Dr. Mohammed responded, ''Not
necessarily. It depends on the person.'' Id.
Yeh‘s Medical Notes
record includes little medical evidence relating to
Mou‘s mental and emotional struggles beyond the
statements by Dr. Leith, Dr. Chiu, and Dr. Mohammed. In
medical records from Mou‘s treating physician, Dr.
George Yeh, dated between June 2006 and August 2013, Dr. Yeh
mentions virtually nothing in his notes regarding mental or
emotional issues affecting Mou. See Id . at 258-68,
313-329. Dr. Yeh‘s medical notes largely focus on
Mou‘s physical symptoms or lack thereof between 2006
and 2013, which Mou‘s present motion does not contend
give rise to a finding disability. See generally Id
. at 312-29. Dr. Yeh does note, however, that Mou
exhibited heightened stress on January 25, 2007, id.
at 328, that Mou was not active, not sleeping well, and
depressed on July 17, 2008, id. at 260, and that he
provided prescriptions to Mou for the antidepressant Paxil in
July 2008 and later between October 2012 and August 2013,
id. at 260, 322-23.
The Administrative Hearings
The October 10, 2013 Hearing
October 7, 2013, Mou filed a pre-hearing brief for the
October 10, 2013 administrative hearing before Administrative
Law Judge Frederick C. Michaud. See Id . at 239-44.
In this brief, Mou claimed that she was severely impaired by
PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder warranting a finding of
disability under the five-step analysis used pursuant to the
Social Security Act, with an onset date of December 10, 2005.
Id. at 240. Under this analysis, Mou claimed that
because she was not engaged in substantial gainful activity
after her onset date, because she was severely impaired, and
because she was unable to perform work, Mou‘s
impairments should be deemed disabilities under the Social
Security Act. Id. at 241-44. In her pre-hearing
brief, Mou notably contended she did not have any impairment
or combinations of impairments equal to or exceeding
statutory definitions under step three of the five-step
analysis. Id. at 242.
October 10, 2013 administrative hearing, Judge Michaud
questioned Mou and her attorney, Ashley Meyers, regarding
Mou‘s disability claim. Id. at 128-35. Judge
Michaud began his examination of Mou by establishing her
education and work history. Mou explained that she had
obtained a master‘s degree in computer systems but she
had not worked since 2005. Id. at 131. Mou explained
that her most recent work experience was as a system or
business analyst. Id.
the hearing, Judge Michaud indicated he was underwhelmed by
the relevancy of Mou‘s medical records from Dr. Yeh
submitted to the Court for the proceeding. Id.
Meyers opined that Yeh‘s records were mostly useful in
that they indicate Yeh prescribed Paxil, an anti-depressant,
for Mou on July 18, 2008. Id. Meyers also revealed
there were psychiatric evaluations made for Mou in
anticipation of Mou‘s prior civil rights lawsuit that
had not been previously introduced in the administrative
proceedings. Id. at 131-32. Judge Michaud agreed
with Meyers that the hearing should be rescheduled for a
later date to allow for the submission and consideration of
these psychiatric evaluations, thus concluding the October
10, 2013 hearing. Id. at 132-34.
The January 21, 2014 Hearing
the October 10, 2013 hearing, a supplemental hearing was set
for January 21, 2014. The January 21, 2014 hearing was
originally to be heard by Judge Michaud, but later was
reassigned to Administrative Law Judge Brenton L. Rogozen due
to a scheduling conflict. See Id . at 254. On
January 15, 2014, Mou submitted a pre-hearing brief attaching
Dr. Leith‘s psychological assessment as an exhibit for
the supplemental hearing. Id. at 251. In this
briefing, Mou claimed the Dr. Leith‘s medical opinions
were consistent Dr. Chiu‘s opinions, reflecting a
consistency in the severity and presence of PTSD and
depression symptoms in Mou since the alleged onset date.
Id. at 252. Mou submitted an additional pre-hearing
brief on January 21, 2014, objecting to the last minute
reassignment of the matter to Judge Rogozen and requesting a
postponement of the hearing to a future date with a
reassignment of the case back to Judge Michaud. Id.
January 21, 2014 supplemental hearing, the ALJ, Judge
Rogozen, began the hearing despite Mou‘s objections to
the last minute reassignment of the matter to him. At the
hearing, Mou, Dr. Mohammed (the medical expert), and Kenneth
Ferra (a vocational expert) provided testimony
related to Mou‘s disability claims. See generally
Id . at 98-127.
and the ALJ questioned Dr. Mohammed in his capacity as a
medical expert. Id. at 102-10. Dr. Mohammed had not
previously met with or discussed the matter with Mou and
based his analysis and medical opinions solely on his review
of the record. Id. at 102. As discussed above in
greater detail, Dr. Mohammed concluded that Mou had
depression meeting the criteria of Listing 12.04 and anxiety
meeting the criteria of Listing 12.06 as supported by his
review of the record. Id. at 103. Dr. Mohammed also
stated that in light of the medical opinions by Dr. Chiu and
Dr. Leith regarding Mou‘s mental state in 2005, his
opinion was ''that with those two diagnoses and what
was going on, that she really couldn‘t work.''
Id. at 108.
and the ALJ asked Mou to discuss her own impressions of her
emotional state immediately following the King Library
events. Id. at 111-120. Mou stated she would cry
constantly for a period of about two years following the King
Library events and that her divorce was a direct result of
the events and her subsequent reaction. Id. at
111-13. According to Mou:
I spend at least two years crying at home all day long
because I have to went [sic] through all this. And I could
not function, my brain could not function. I could not do
anything. I could not eat properly, I could not cook, I could
not even face myself. I have to go to Salvation Army to eat.
I used to cook. I used to cook a lot. But I lost it. I could
not do anything. I just cry all day long.
Id. at 112. Mou explained that despite her constant
emotional turmoil resulting from the events, she did not see
a psychiatrist around the time of the King Library events due
to her ex-husband‘s general refusal to take Mou to a
psychiatrist and the Chinese cultural belief ''that
unless that person went over 100 percent crazy it‘s
really not [sic] to see the psychiatrist.''
Id. at 113. Mou eventually started seeing Dr. Chiu
in 2012 because ...