United States District Court, S.D. California
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
Honorable Jan M. Adler United States Magistrate Judge.
India Viola Baker (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of Defendant Social Security Acting Commissioner
Carolyn W. Colvin's (“Defendant”)
determination that she is not entitled to supplemental
security income (“SSI”) benefits. The parties
have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court recommends Plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment be DENIED and
Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment be
who was born on August 21, 1990, was twenty-one years old
when she filed her applications for benefits. (Admin. R. at
211.) She did not complete high school, but obtained a
General Educational Development (“GED”) degree.
(Id. at 83.) She has held a few part-time jobs, each
lasting for only a short period of time. (Id. at
80-82.) In an application for SSI protectively filed on May
25, 2012, Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of May
25, 2012. (Id. at 211.) Plaintiff's application
was denied initially on September 6, 2012, and upon
reconsideration on December 6, 2012. (Id. at
113-123, 124-134.) On December 30, 2012, Plaintiff requested
an administrative hearing. (Id. at 148-150.) A
hearing was conducted on July 8, 2014 by Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) Robert Iafe, who determined on
September 26, 2014 that Plaintiff was not disabled.
(Id. at 37-44.) Plaintiff requested a review of the
ALJ's decision (Id. at 26). The Appeals Council
for the Social Security Administration (“SSA”)
denied Plaintiff's request for review on March 1, 2016.
(Id. at 1-4.) Plaintiff then commenced this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Seagate Medical Group (2011)
November 15, 2011, Dr. Gregory Nicholson performed a
Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation of Plaintiff at the
request of the Department of Social Security. (Id.
at 330.) Dr. Nicholson reviewed Social Security Disability
Report Form SSA-3368 and conducted a mental status
examination. (Id.) Plaintiff reported she was
bothered by hearing voices speaking when there was no one
there, although she could not remember what the voices said.
(Id. at 330-31.) She also reported feeling paranoid
and fearful that someone would harm her. (Id. at
331.) Plaintiff informed Dr. Nicholson that she experienced
insomnia, decreased appetite, trouble concentrating, and
decreased interest in normal activities. (Id.) She
told him she stopped working as a cashier due to shortness of
breath. (Id. at 331-32.) Plaintiff also reported
feeling suicidal in the past and said she had attempted
suicide multiple times. (Id. at 331.) Plaintiff
denied any history or symptoms related to mania or anxiety
disorders, or any history of psychiatric hospitalizations.
(Id.) Plaintiff was not seeing a psychiatrist at the
time of the evaluation. (Id.)
reported she dropped out of school in the 12th
grade. (Id.) She denied any history of street drug
use, problems related to drinking, or legal history.
(Id. at 331-32.) Plaintiff also stated she did not
have her own place to live and “stay[s] with anybody
who will let [her].” (Id. at 332.) She
indicated she did not cook and other people gave her food,
but stated she did her own laundry, and had no difficulty
with dressing, bathing, or hygiene. (Id.) She also
indicated she did not drive because she did not have a
license. (Id.) She stated she could handle cash and
get out on her own. (Id.)
Nicholson's mental status examination consisted of
observations in several different categories. Dr. Nicholson
first reported on Plaintiff's appearance, attitude and
behavior, noting Plaintiff arrived neatly and casually
groomed. (Id.) Plaintiff made good eye contact and
good interpersonal contact and was generally cooperative.
(Id.) Plaintiff volunteered information
spontaneously with no psychomotor agitation or retardation.
(Id.) Plaintiff appeared to be genuine and truthful
and there was no evidence of exaggeration or manipulation.
(Id.) Dr. Nicholson also noted that Plaintiff did
not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Nicholson found Plaintiff's thought processes to be
coherent and organized. (Id.) He remarked there was
no tangentially or loosening of associations. (Id.)
Plaintiff reported hallucinations and paranoia related to her
thought content. (Id.) She denied plans to harm
herself or others and did not appear to be responding to
internal stimuli. (Id. at 332-33.) Plaintiff's
mood was depressed and her affect was dysphoric, which Dr.
Nicholson noted was appropriate and congruent with her
thought content. (Id. at 333.) Plaintiff was not
Nicholson found Plaintiff's speech to be normal and
clearly articulated. (Id.) He did not observe
stammering, dysarthria, neologisms, tangentiality,
circumstantiality, or loosened, unusual or blocked
Nicholson reported Plaintiff's intellectual functioning
was alert and oriented to time, place, person, and purpose.
(Id.) Plaintiff appeared to Dr. Nicholson to be of
average intelligence. (Id.)
Nicholson tested Plaintiff's memory and reported she was
able to recall three items immediately, two out of three
items after five minutes, and three out of three items with
hints. (Id.) He administered a digit span test of
six forward and three backward. (Id.) Dr. Nicholson
noted Plaintiff's fund of knowledge was grossly intact
and her insight and judgment appeared to be grossly intact.
(Id.) Plaintiff was also asked to spell
“world” to which she responded she had trouble
with spelling. (Id.) She was able to perform a
serial threes test and correctly stated 80 cents would be
received from a dollar if two oranges were bought at 10 cents
Nicholson's diagnostic impression consisted of the
AXIS I: 1. Psychotic Disorder, not otherwise specified.
2. Depressive Disorder, not otherwise specified.
AXIS II: No diagnosis
AXIS III: Deferred to the appropriate specialist.
AXIS IV: Psychosocial stressors during the past year:
AXIS V: Current GAF: 55
(Id. at 334.)
Nicholson reported his diagnosis of psychotic disorder was
based on Plaintiff's history of hallucinations and
paranoia. (Id.) The depressive disorder diagnosis
was based on Plaintiff's history of depressed mood,
dysphoric affect and neurovegetative symptoms of depression.
(Id.) Dr. Nicholson opined Plaintiff's condition
was expected to improve in the next twelve months with active
Nicholson's functional assessment of Plaintiff included
1. Plaintiff is able to understand, remember, and carry out
simple one or two-step job instructions.
2. Plaintiff is able to do detailed and complex instructions.
3. Plaintiff's ability to relate and interact with
coworkers and the public is mildly limited.
4. Plaintiff's ability to maintain concentration and
attention, persistence and pace is mildly limited.
5. Plaintiff's ability to accept instructions from
supervisors is not limited.
6. Plaintiff's ability to maintain regular attendance in
the work place and perform work activities on a consistent
basis is mildly limited.
7. Plaintiff's ability to perform work activities without
special or additional supervision is not limited.
(Id. at 334-335.) Dr. Nicholson also reported
Plaintiff was capable of handling funds. (Id. at
Seagate Medical Group (2012)
29, 2012, Plaintiff met with Dr. Douglas R. Dolnak, who
performed a Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation at the
request of the Department of Social Security. (Id.
at 363-368.) Dr. Dolnak also reviewed Social Security
Disability Report Form SSA-3368. (Id. at 363.)
Dolnak reported Plaintiff appeared to be a reliable
historian. (Id.) Plaintiff informed him she applied
for disability because of her chronic worry and anxiety about
finances, health, future and being homeless. (Id.)
Plaintiff also reported daily worry and frustration about her
health and a history of irregular heavy vaginal bleeding.
(Id.) Plaintiff indicated she experienced daytime
fatigue, low energy, occasional insomnia and restless sleep.
Dolnak's mental examination consisted of his observations
in several different categories. He first reported on
Plaintiff's appearance, attitude and behavior, noting
Plaintiff arrived on time, casually dressed and in no acute
distress. (Id. at 365.) She ambulated well, sat in
the chair comfortably, and was pleasant, cooperative, and not
agitated. (Id.) Dr. Dolnak noted her mood was
dysphoric with mild anxiety. (Id.) Her affect was
constricted, not labile. (Id.)
Dolnak also reported Plaintiff's thought content and
processes were clear and goal directed. (Id.) Dr.
Dolnak reported feelings of helplessness and frustration
colored the interview. (Id.) Plaintiff reported
nightmares and occasional flashbacks related to prior trauma
with occasional anticipatory anxiety. (Id.)
Plaintiff also reported she was easily startled.
(Id.) Plaintiff denied suicidal ideation with plan
or intent, but did report homicidal ideation with plan or
intent. (Id.) Plaintiff reported occasional
difficulties with attention and concentration: she stated she
gets distracted, forgets things around the house, and
misplaces objects. (Id.) Plaintiff reported her
difficulties affected her two to three days out of the week.
(Id.) Plaintiff denied other severe symptoms for
mania, bipolar disorder or psychosis. (Id.) Dr.
Dolnak reported Plaintiff did not seem to be internally
Dolnak reported Plaintiff was alert and oriented to person,
place, and time; she did not know the date, but knew the
month and year. (Id. at 366.) Dr. Dolnak performed
memory and cognition tests. (Id.) Plaintiff could
recall three items immediately, and two out of three items
after five minutes. (Id.) Plaintiff was able to
perform serial sevens and serial twos from twenty to ten.
(Id.) Plaintiff could spell “world”
forward but not backward. (Id.) Plaintiff could do
three digits backward and three digits forwards.
(Id.) Dr. Dolnak reported Plaintiff demonstrated
mild difficulty with attention and concentration during the
was able to state similarities between an apple and an orange
and between a coat and a shirt. (Id.) Plaintiff was
not able to interpret the proverb, “as plain as the
nose on your face”. (Id.) Dr. Dolnak reported
Plaintiff's insight and judgment appeared fair regarding
the current situation. (Id.)
Dolnak's diagnostic impression consisted ...