United States District Court, N.D. California
ANTHONY F. WILSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.
ORDER ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT.
NOS. 19, 22
WILLIAM H. ORRICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Anthony F. Wilson (“Wilson”) and the Commissioner
of Social Security (“defendant” or
“Commissioner”) cross-move for summary judgment,
contesting whether the ALJ's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) assessment failed to correctly reflect
examining psychologist Dr. DeBattista's opinion. The
question is whether an inconsistency exists between
DeBattista's opinion that Wilson can perform “one
to two-step instructions” and the ALJ's RFC
assessment limiting Wilson to “simple, repetitive
tasks” and, if so, whether that inconsistency was
required to be addressed by the ALJ. Compare
Administrative Record (“AR”) 465 with AR
16. I conclude that the ALJ failed to explain why he rejected
DeBattista's one to two-step instructions. Therefore, I
GRANT plaintiff's motion and remand this case for further
filed for disability in May 2012, claiming he was disabled
due to having been shot in the head, and that he suffered
from paranoia, seizures, anxiety, and memory loss starting in
October 19, 2009. AR 59.
February 2010 (pursuant to a prior application for disability
benefits), Wilson's medical history was reviewed by
non-examining state-agency psychologist Dr. Paul Klein. AR
333 - 346. Klein opined that Wilson had “adequate
memory and understanding for simple 1-2 step tasks; adequate
sustained concentration, persistence, and pace for simple 1-2
step tasks; adequate social interaction with supervisors,
coworkers, and limited public contact; adequate adaptability
to change in most routine work-like settings.” AR 346.
Klein added that Wilson was capable of “new learning of
simple 1-2 step tasks” but might need supervision while
transitioning. AR 346.
February 2011, Wilson was seen by agency examining
psychologist Dr. Jonathan Howard. Wilson took the Wechsler
Memory Scale-III test and scored an Immediate Visual Memory
of 49 and a Working Memory of 79, which is in the eighth
percentile. AR 368. The Immediate Visual Memory score is
“below the first tenth of the first percentile.”
Pl.'s Mot. 5; AR 368 (“(<0.1%ile; 90% C.L.:
49-66)).” The Working Memory score is in the 8th
percentile. Id. Howard's diagnostic impression
was that Wilson had a cognitive disorder not otherwise
specified and a mood disorder not otherwise specified with
anxious features. AR 368. In addition, Howard opined that
Wilson had marked impairments in understanding, remembering
and carrying out both complex as well as short and simple
instructions. AR 368.
March 2011, non-examining agency psychologist Dr. Robert Liss
reviewed Wilson's records. AR 369-382. Liss determined
Wilson was “able to complete simple tasks; able to
maintain [concentration, persistence or pace] over a full
work week; able to interact, with limited public contact;
able to adapt to ordinary workplace stress and change.”
October 2012, at the initial review level, agency mental
health consultant Dr. Patricia Heldman concluded that there
was evidence of a severe “affective disorder” but
“insufficient evidence” in the record of any
limitations in mental functioning. AR 62-64.
April 2013, Wilson was examined by agency psychologist Dr.
Charles DeBattista. AR 460-466. On the psychiatric
evaluation, DeBattista noted that Wilson had a “five
forward digit span, ” meaning Wilson could remember
three out of three objects immediately but was unable to
recall any of the three objects after five minutes. AR 464.
DeBattista also noted Wilson would “benefit from
neuropsychologic testing to assess the extent of his memory
difficulties.” AR 465. Based on his examination, De
Battista opined that Wilson was able to “understand,
remember, and carry out simple one or two-step job
instructions.” AR 465. He, however, was “not able
to do detailed and complex instructions.” Id.
2013, non-examining agency psychiatrist Dr. F. L. Williams
reviewed the record for a “Mental Residual Functional
Capacity Assessment.” AR 78-79. Williams determined
that Wilson was not significantly limited in the ability to
“carry out very short and simple instructions.”
AR 78. However, Wilson was moderately limited in the ability
to “carry out detailed instructions.” AR 78.
Williams opined that Wilson did not have adaptation
limitations but when asked to explain in “narrative
form” the adaptation limitations, Williams wrote
filed a Title II application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits and a Title XVI application for
Supplemental Security Income on May 9, 2012. AR 12. His
claims were denied initially and on reconsideration on
October 9, 2012 and May 21, 2013. AR 12.
March 19, 2014, Wilson testified at a hearing before an ALJ.
AR 27-58. At the hearing, a Vocational Expert was asked what
possible work Wilson could perform assuming a “capacity
for work at all exertional levels, nonpublic, simple,
repetitive tasks, no heights or hazards . . . [like] moving
machinery, operating heavy equipment.” AR 46. The
Vocational Expert testified that, although Wilson's
previous jobs were precluded, there were other jobs Wilson
could perform. AR 46-48. ...