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Christopher D. M. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 13, 2019

CHRISTOPHER D. M., [1]Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.

          ORDER REGARDING CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT REGARDING DOCKET NOS. 15, 20

          SALLIE KIM, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court upon consideration of the motion for summary judgment by Plaintiff Christopher D.M. (“Plaintiff”) and the cross-motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”). Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 16-5, the motions have been submitted on the papers without oral argument. Having carefully considered the administrative record, the parties' papers, and relevant legal authority, and the record in the case, the Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff's motion and DENIES the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment for the reasons set forth below. The Court REMANDS the action for further proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on December 23, 1988. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 219.) On August 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits, alleging he was disabled starting on June 13, 2013. (AR 219-20, 221.) On August 15, 2013, Plaintiff also filed a claim for supplemental social security income. (AR 221-23.)

         On May 23, 2016, Plaintiff, accompanied by counsel, testified at a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id.) Plaintiff and vocational expert Pamela A. Bowman both testified at the hearing.

         The ALJ issued an opinion on November 2, 2016, denying benefits to Plaintiff. ALJ found that Plaintiff satisfied the requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2017 and that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2008, his alleged onset date. (AR 27.)

         The ALJ further found that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: mood disorder, bipolar disorder, sensory integration disorder, and Asperger's syndrome. (AR 27.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations:

the claimant's work is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks; performed in a work environment free of fast paced production requirements; involving only simple, work-related decisions; and with few, if any work place changes. The claimant can have only occasional interaction with the public and only occasional incidental interaction with coworkers with no tandem tasks and only occasional supervision. The claimant can be exposed to no more that noise at level 3 at work.

         (AR 29.)

         Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, William Sastry, M.D., wrote a letter dated September 26, 2014, in which he stated:

[Plaintiff] is a patient who I have evaluated . . . for treatment and recommendations related to diagnoses of Intellectual Disability NOS (i.e., a variant of Sensory Processing Disorder), AHDH . . . and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. . . .
Although [Plaintiff] presents as well-spoken, and likely has a high IQ, his mental health symptoms have affected his performance in school and workplace settings for most of his life. His sensory integration and generalized anxiety symptoms result in his being overwhelmed emotionally in otherwise benign workplace or classroom settings . . . . Moreover he has trouble focusing on seemingly simple tasks as his mind will become preoccupied with non-task-related topics.
While he might seem OK at the beginning of a work or school placement, within weeks he is overwhelmed and has to drop out. This pattern has played out over and over in [Plaintiff's] life. Recently, [Plaintiff] had to drop out of UC Berkeley due to mental health symptoms. Additionally, he has been unable to maintain regular jobs in workplace settings as well, holding jobs for no longer than weeks at a time. For example, in his last short-term job, he only worked ten hours/week but still missed multiple days due to being overwhelmed.
In conclusion, in my medical opinion, [Plaintiff] is disabled based on his mental health symptoms. I do not believe based on the above history, he can hold any ...

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