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Boyd v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 8, 2017





         Plaintiff Devon Michael Boyd (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denying his application for disability benefits pursuant to the Social Security Act. The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone.[1]

         Plaintiff suffers from a psychotic disorder and polysubstance dependence in reported remission. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Social Security appeal shall be granted.



         Plaintiff protectively filed a Title XVI application for supplemental security income on September 17, 2012. (AR 54, 124-130.) Plaintiff's application was initially denied on April 10, 2013, and denied upon reconsideration on January 10, 2014. (AR 64-67, 75-78.) Plaintiff requested and received a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Sharon L. Madsen (“the ALJ”). Plaintiff appeared for a hearing on September 22, 2015. (AR 25-46.) On October 13, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 8-20.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 7, 2016. (AR 1-3.)

         A. Relevant Hearing Testimony

         Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at the September 22, 2015 hearing. (AR 28-41.) Plaintiff was born on October 27, 1970. (AR 28.) Plaintiff is separated and has children who live with their mother. (AR 29.) Plaintiff lives in an apartment with his mother, sister, a niece, and a nephew. (AR 29.) Plaintiff has a driver's license but does not drive very often. (AR 29.)

         Plaintiff completed the tenth grade and received his GED. (AR 29.) Plaintiff has spent some time in custody. (AR 30.) Since he filed his application on September 2012, Plaintiff has been in custody for maybe a month and a half. (AR 30.) Plaintiff worked at various temporary jobs but only for short periods of time. (AR 32.)

         Plaintiff needs reminders on dressing. (AR 30.) He does not think about showering because he has too much other stuff going on in his head. (AR 40-41.) He does not do any household chores, but he does do things like washing dishes and making his bed. (AR 30-31.) Plaintiff does not cook, shop, or engage in social activities outside of the family with which he lives. (AR 31.) In the morning, Plaintiff will get up, have breakfast and coffee and read the newspaper. (AR 31.) He does not watch television, listen to the radio, or leave the house. (AR 31.) Plaintiff will visit with his mother and then go outside and sit on the balcony. (AR 31.) Plaintiff will nap during the day. (AR 32.)

         Plaintiff is afraid to leave the house. (AR 32.) Plaintiff was uncomfortable because there were too many people in the room during the hearing. (AR 32.) Plaintiff is only comfortable with his family. (AR 35.) Plaintiff will talk to his friends on the phone once or twice a week. (AR 33.) Plaintiff hears voices twenty-four hours a day and it really does “a number on him.” (AR 33.) The voices ask him why he is going to eat today, why he took a shower, or tell him to not even think about leaving the house. (AR 34.) Plaintiff tries to ignore the voices. (AR 34.) The medication Plaintiff is on now makes the voices quieter. (AR 34.) Plaintiff goes to counseling. (AR 35.) They talk about various things and it keeps him calm. (AR 35.) Plaintiff has mood swings but they are getting better because his medication helps with that. (AR 41.) When his mood swings are really bad, Plaintiff will punch things like brick walls. (AR 41.) Plaintiff used to cut himself but he stopped doing that. (AR 41.)

         Plaintiff has difficulty concentrating. (AR 35.) He can only focus for five minutes when he reads the paper. (AR 35.) Plaintiff would need help managing his funds if he received them. (AR 36.) Plaintiff thinks that at some time he will end up in the hospital from his mental illness. (AR 36.) Plaintiff's appetite also suffers and it is a struggle for him to eat. (AR 36-37.) Sometimes he will eat and sometimes he will not. (AR 37.) Plaintiff weighs about 200 pounds. (AR 37.) His weight varies. (AR 37.) A couple of months ago he was down to 149 pounds. (AR 37.) Plaintiff has constant fatigue. (AR 37.)

         Plaintiff was in rehab but completed it. (AR 34.) Plaintiff has been clean and sober for years. (AR 35.) Plaintiff went through counselling for a whole year. (AR 38.) He had difficulty maintaining his concentration during the two hour classes. (AR 38.) He could not be still. (AR 38.) They would ask him one or two questions and then he would be waiting to go. (AR 38.) He left early once or twice because of his symptoms. (AR 38.)

         Plaintiff sees Dr. Collado for 30 to 40 minute sessions. (AR 39.) On a bad day, Plaintiff does not want to be around anybody and just wants to sit and be left alone. (AR 39.) He will not even want to be around family. (AR 39.) Plaintiff will have five or six bad days a month. (AR 39-40.) During these times he will just shut down. (AR 40.)

         Thomas C. Dachelet, a vocational expert (“VE”) also testified at the hearing. (AR 42-44.)

         B. ALJ Findings

         The ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

• Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 17, 2012, the application date.
• Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: a psychotic disorder and polysubstance dependence in ...

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