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Jackson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

August 30, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL[1], Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Sharonna C. Jackson (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner” or “Agency”) denying his application for Title XVI Supplemental Security Income Benefits (“SSI”). Plaintiff filed a Motion to Augment the Administrative Record, which the Court construes as a Motion for Remand pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“Motion”). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED and this action is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this Order.



         On July 11, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2004. Administrative Record (“AR”) at 178-86. Plaintiff alleges disability based on Attention Deficit Disorder; Social Anxiety Disorder; Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Migraines; Bilateral Ankle Deformity; Asthma; and “GI Disorder.” Id. at 194. Plaintiff's application was denied initially on January 31, 2013, and upon reconsideration on October 3, 2013. Id. at 87-111.

         On November 13, 2013, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Id. at 133. On November 13, 2014, Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before the assigned ALJ. Id. at 50-82. A vocational expert (“VE”) also testified at the hearing. Id. at 82-86. On February 27, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. Id. at 27-43.

         On April 28, 2015, Plaintiff filed a request to the Agency's Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision. Id. at 22-26.

         On July 9, 2015, Plaintiff's counsel wrote to the Appeals Counsel and provided additional evidence. ECF Docket No. (“Dkt.”) 19, Ex. 1. Specifically, Plaintiff provided a Medical Source Statement from psychiatrist Catherine Stinnett, MD dated June 16, 2015 regarding Plaintiff's mental limitations and requested that it be included in Plaintiff's file. Id. The evaluation form states Dr. Stinnett first examined Plaintiff on May 6, 2010 and thereafter every six to twelve months through her most recent examination on January 8, 2015. Id. at 6. Dr. Stinnett opined Plaintiff had an extreme limitation in her ability to interact appropriately with the public, and marked limitations in her abilities to: (1) maintain attendance and punctuality during a workday and workweek; (2) perform at a consistent pace without more than regular breaks in a work day; (3) interact appropriately with supervisors; and (4) interact appropriately with co-workers. Id. at 4.

         On July 18, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. AR at 1-7. The Appeals Counsel stated it “looked at” the medical source statement from Dr. Stinnett, but noted the ALJ decided Plaintiff's case through February 27, 2015. Id. at 2. Therefore, the Appeals Counsel held the statement from Dr. Stinnett did not affect the ALJ's decision because it “is about a later time.” Id.

         On September 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant action challenging the final decision of the Commissioner denying her application for SSI. Dkt. 1, Compl. On April 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion seeking to have the Court remand the case to the ALJ for consideration of Dr. Stinnett's statement. Dkt. 19. On June 21, 2017, Defendant filed an Opposition. Dkt. 25. On June 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Reply. The matter thus stands submitted.



         To qualify for SSI, a claimant must demonstrate a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that prevents her from engaging in substantial gainful activity, and that is expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 721 (9th Cir. 1998). The impairment must render the claimant incapable of performing the work she previously performed and incapable of performing any other substantial gainful employment that exists in the national economy. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999).

         To decide if a claimant is disabled, and therefore entitled to benefits, an ALJ conducts a five-step inquiry. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The steps are:

1. Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful activity? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If not, proceed to step two.
2. Is the claimant's impairment severe? If not, the claimant is found not disabled. If so, ...

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