Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cropsey v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 23, 2019

MARK O. CROPSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NOS. 19, 20

          DONNA M. RYU, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Mark O. Cropsey moves for summary judgment to reverse the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration’s (the “Commissioner’s”) final administrative decision, which found Plaintiff not disabled and therefore denied his application for benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. The Commissioner cross-moves to affirm. For the reasons stated below, the court grants Cropsey’s motion in part and denies it in part and remands this matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Cropsey filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits on July 15, 2015, alleging disability beginning on April 8, 2014. Administrative Record (“A.R.”) 184-190. His application was initially denied on September 25, 2015 and again on reconsideration on April 7, 2016. A.R. 119-123, 125-130. Cropsey then filed a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). A.R. 131-132. ALJ David LaBarre held a hearing on February 21, 2017. A.R. 50-83.

         After the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision finding Cropsey not disabled. A.R. 30-45. The ALJ determined that Cropsey has the following severe impairments: major neurocognitive disorder due to multiple etiologists (traumatic brain injury and substance abuse) with behavioral disturbance (DSM-IV: dementia due to multiple etiologies); anxiety disorder (stimulant induced- nasal decongestant); and affective disorder (major depressive disorder and bipolar). A.R. 35-36. The ALJ found that Cropsey retains the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

[F]ull range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: assume an individual of the claimant’s age, education and work experience who is able to perform work at all exertional levels. The individual is able to understand, carry out, and remember simple, routine and repetitive tasks, involving only simple work-related decisions with the ability to adapt to routine work place changes. The individual is able to tolerate a work environment where the supervisor delivers work instructions verbally or by demonstration. The individual could tolerate occasional interaction with the general public. The individual can work in proximity to others, but with only brief, incidental interaction with others and no tandem job tasks requiring cooperation with other workers to complete the task. The individual could work where supervisors occasionally interact with the worker throughout the day.

A.R. 38.

         Relying on the opinion of a vocational expert (“VE”) who testified that an individual with such an RFC could perform Cropsey’s past relevant work as a dishwasher, as well as other jobs existing in the economy, including hand packager, linen room attendance, and janitor, the ALJ concluded that Cropsey is not disabled. A.R. 43-44.

         The Appeals Council denied Cropsey’s request for review on April 26, 2018. A.R. 1-7. The ALJ’s decision therefore became the Commissioner’s final decision. Taylor v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 659 F.3d 1228, 1231 (9th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff then filed suit in this court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. THE FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS

         To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must demonstrate a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that prevents her from engaging in substantial gainful activity[1] 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) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)). 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) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A)).

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

         1. At the first step, the ALJ considers the claimant’s work activity, if any. If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the ALJ will find that the claimant is not disabled.

         2. At the second step, the ALJ considers the medical severity of the claimant’s impairment(s). If the claimant does not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the duration requirement in [20 C.F.R.] § 416.909, or a combination of impairments that is severe and meets the duration requirement, the ALJ will find that the claimant is not disabled.

         3. At the third step, the ALJ also considers the medical severity of the claimant’s impairment(s). If the claimant has an impairment(s) that meets or equals one of the listings in 20 C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 [the “Listings”] and meets the duration requirement, the ALJ will find that the claimant is disabled.

         4. At the fourth step, the ALJ considers an assessment of the claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) and the claimant’s past relevant work. If the claimant can still do his or her past relevant work, the ALJ will find that the claimant is not disabled.

         5. At the fifth and last step, the ALJ considers the assessment of the claimant’s RFC and age, education, and work experience to see if the claimant can make an adjustment to other work. If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the ALJ will find that the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work, the ALJ will find that the claimant is disabled.

         20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520; Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-99.

         III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Cropsey’s Testimony

         Cropsey testified that at the time of the hearing, he was living in a shelter. A.R. 53. He explained that he has a driver’s license but does not drive because he cannot afford a car. His mother drove him to the hearing. A.R. 56-57.

         Cropsey testified that he last worked in April 2014 at Life House, working with adults with developmental disabilities as a Residential Technician. He held that position for seven years. A.R. 58. Cropsey testified that his basic responsibilities were to make meals according to a set menu, prepare the residents for bed, and “d[o] activities with them.” A.R. 58-60. He also helped residents with dressing, grooming, and getting into and out of bed. A.R. 60. He worked eight hours per day. A.R. 58.

         Prior to his position at Life House, Cropsey worked for 13 years for Cedars of Marin, which serves adults with developmental disabilities. A.R. 60-61. In his position as Instructor, Cropsey “wrote objectives” for the residents’ individual service plans, taught residents kitchen and cleaning skills, and did art and music therapy with the residents. A.R. 61, 70. He left the position at Life House because “the responsibilities of the job became more than [he] could handle.” Cropsey testified that his work responsibilities triggered panic attacks. A.R. 62.

         Cropsey testified that he is unable to work because he “fatigue[s] easily” and has “very bad anxiety.” A.R. 62. He testified that he is unable to do any job, because he believes that “[t]he responsibilities [of any job] will overwhelm [him]” and he will start having embarrassing panic attacks. A.R. 67.

         He takes Lorazepam, Risperdal, and Paxil for his panic and anxiety, and testified that the medications decrease his panic and anxiety and helps him “cope better, ” but that the medication is “not very helpful as in enabling [him] to work.” A.R. 62. Cropsey sees a therapist, Gardner Fair, once per week. A.R. 67. He testified that he has several panic attacks per week, lasting “a number of hours.” During his panic attacks, he feels “very tensed up” and apprehensive, and experiences constricted breathing. A.R. 63. He also “move[s] around a lot” and does not “stay in his seat.” A.R. 63. Activities like riding the bus can trigger panic attacks. He also has anxiety around food; he explained “when I first started having the panic attacks I was afraid I was going to choke.” A.R. 64. Cropsey also testified that “I think to myself I’m not contributing anything just through cosmic welfare why should I . . . eat.” A.R. 64. Cropsey experiences claustrophobia; in particular, he is “scared to death” to use elevators because he is afraid they will get stuck. A.R. 64-65.

         Cropsey testified that he has problems concentrating. He also has problems maintaining conversation, which causes him anxiety. A.R. 65. He is able to do his “daily chores” but has difficulty maintaining his personal hygiene because “[t]he thought of taking a shower triggers a panic attack.” A.R. 65-66.

         Cropsey is able to go to appointments with his mother’s assistance; she keeps track of his appointments and drives him. A.R. 66. His anxiety increases if his daily routine deviates or if he has “an unusual number of responsibilities in a given week.” A.R. 66-67.

         B. Relevant Medical Evidence

         1. State Agency Medical Consultants

         State agency medical consultant J. Patrick Peterson, Ph.D., reviewed the records on September 21, 2015. A.R. 93-97. Dr. Peterson opined that Cropsey can carry out simple and detailed instructions; maintain attention and concentration for extended periods; perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual; sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision; work in coordination with or in proximity to others without being distracted by them; and make simple work-related decisions. A.R. 94. He concluded that while Cropsey is moderately limited in his ability to complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically-based symptoms and to perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods, he “remains capable of completing simple & complex tasks in a timely manner.” A.R. 94. Dr. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.