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Howell v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 4, 2019

MARK ALLEN HOWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CAROLYN K. DELANEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying an application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”). The parties have consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction to conduct all proceedings in the case, including the entry of final judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and deny the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, born in 1982, applied on January 4, 2012 for SSI and disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning July 30, 2007. Administrative Transcript (“AT”) 21, 28. Plaintiff alleged he was unable to work due to seizures, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, epilepsy, and psychosis. AT 79. In a decision dated September 4, 2013, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled.[1] AT 21-30.

         Plaintiff sought review of the final decision with the United States District Court, and on March 9, 2017, Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and remanded the matter to the Commissioner. AT 636-643. Specifically, Judge Barnes found that the ALJ, while claiming to assign the 2012 opinion of Dr. T. Renfro considerable weight, failed to include in the RFC Dr. Renfro's finding that plaintiff had moderate limitations in his ability to interact with coworkers. AT 640. While the RFC limited plaintiff to no public contact, it had no limitation on coworker interactions. AT 637. Judge Barnes further found that the ALJ's error was not harmless, as the vocational expert (VE) testified that someone with plaintiff's RFC who was unable to interact with coworkers or supervisors would be unable to perform any jobs. AT 641.

         Following remand and a hearing on November 30, 2017, the ALJ made the following findings in the decision at issue in this matter (citations to 20 C.F.R. omitted):

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2010.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 30, 2007, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: history of seizures and mood disorder.
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: the claimant could perform unskilled work. The claimant could understand, remember, and apply simple instructions. The claimant could maintain concentration for simple tasks. The claimant could never interact with the public. The claimant could occasionally interact with coworkers. The claimant could never participate in teamwork assignments. The claimant could never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. The claimant could never work at heights or around dangerous machinery. The claimant could frequently climb ramps and stairs. The claimant could frequently crouch.
6. The claimant has no past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born on XX/XX 1982, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49 on the alleged disability onset date.
8. The claimant has at least a high-school education and is able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case because the claimant does not have past relevant work.
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform.
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from July 30, 2007, through the date of this decision.

AT 550-563.

         ISSUES ...


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