United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER RE SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NOS. 33,
DONATO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Marshaun Williams challenges a decision by a Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) that denied Williams' claim for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act. The parties have filed
cross-motions for summary judgment. Dkt. Nos. 33, 38. The
case is remanded to the SSA for further proceedings
consistent with this order.
is a 35-year-old male, born in 1984. He was previously
granted SSI benefits for bipolar disorder in 2003, when he
was 19 years old. Dkt. No. 11 (Administrative Record or
“AR”) 22, 26; Dkt. No. 33 at ECF p. 8. Williams
was later incarcerated for five years from 2005 to 2010,
during which time his SSI benefits were terminated. AR 23;
Dkt. No. 33 at ECF p. 8; Dkt. No. 38 at 3. Williams also
states that, “[a]t all relevant times, plaintiffs
[sic] father Kevin Williams now at age 65 is a
recipient of Social Security disability and retirement
benefits.” Dkt. No. 42 at 6.
March 18, 2014, Williams “applied for Supplemental
Security Income and any federally administered State
supplementation under title XVI of the Social Security Act,
for benefits under the other programs administered by the
Social Security Administration, and where applicable, for
medical assistance under title XIX of the Social Security
Act.” AR 173. On September 4, 2014, the SSA issued to
him a “Notice of Disapproved Claims.” AR 118. On
the first page of the letter, under the heading, “The
Decision on your Case, ” the notice stated: “We
have determined that your condition was not disabling before
age 22. In deciding this, we studied your records, including
the medical evidence, and considered your education and
training in determining how your condition affects your
ability to work.” Id. On the second page of
the letter, the SSA set out the “Rules for Social
Security Disability, ” explaining that “[y]ou
must meet certain rules to qualify for disabled child's
Social Security benefits.” AR 119. The third page
included the rules to “qualify for SSI payments based
on disability.” AR 120.
October 16, 2014, Williams requested reconsideration of the
SSA's decision, stating that he disagreed “with the
determination made on my claim for Supplemental Security
Income benefits.” AR 123. On December 2, 2014, the SSA
issued a “Notice of Reconsideration, ” which
stated, “[y]ou asked us to take another look at your
claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments,
” and the SSA's conclusion that it had “found
that the first decision was correct.” AR 126. This
time, “The Decision on Your Case” portion of the
letter stated, “We have determined that your condition
is not severe enough to keep you from working.”
Id. This notice letter set out rules only for
“SSI payments based on disability, ” and this
time omitted any mention of disabled child's social
security benefits. Id. 127.
January 12, 2015, Williams requested a hearing before an ALJ.
The request stated, “I disagree with the determination
made on his claim for Supplemental Security Income benefits
because the SSA's notice of disapproved claim issued on
9/4/14 is in direct conflict with its subsequent December 2,
2014 notice of reconsideration denying the claim. Disapproval
of the claim had strictly been based on Mr. Williams'
condition not being disabling before age 22. He proved that
his disability began at age 16.” AR 131.
was issued a notice of hearing on July 22, 2016, setting a
hearing for October 14, 2016. AR 155. Under “Issues I
Will Consider, ” the ALJ stated, “[t]he hearing
concerns your application of March 18, 2014, for Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) under section 1614(a)(3) of the Social
Security Act (the Act). I will consider whether you are
disabled under section 1614(a)(3) of the Act.” AR 157.
The Administrative Record also contains a letter from the ALJ
to vocational expert, Robert A. Raschke, that requests
Raschke's appearance and testimony at Williams'
hearing and states, “Your testimony will primarily
cover the following period: May 1, 2003 through
present.” AR 165.
hearing went forward as scheduled on October 14, 2016. AR 33.
Williams appeared with his father, Kevin Williams, who acted
as his representative. Id. 35. Kevin Williams
expressed surprise that the ALJ did not have his son's
historical medical records from Kaiser Permanente or the
prison where he had been incarcerated. Id. 54-55. In
response to the ALJ's statement that “what I have
to consider is his disability status as of February 28, 2014,
” Kevin Williams responded, “Your Honor, the
basis he was denied was because he could not show proof of a
disability before 22, which then I showed proof that he had a
medical disability, psychological disability . . . [b]efore
the age 22.” Id. 56. The ALJ simply responded,
“Okay.” Id. This point came up
repeatedly. When the ALJ asked, “So are there any
treatment notes or treatment reports from 2014 to
2016?” Kevin Williams responded, “No . . .
because the basis for the denial was he didn't show any
before. He didn't show any proof before. That was the
basis for the reconsideration.” AR 56-57; see also
id. 59 (“[T]he basis for the denial, is because he
couldn't show that he had any psychological problems
before the age of 22. . . . That is why the focus has been
not after 2014, but before.”); id. 67
(“I think it would be a miscarriage of justice for him
to be denied the continuation of benefits after he was
already previously evaluated and determined that he should
receive the benefits. And then the decision that denied him
was predicated on him not showing or having them losing
medical records or not having medical records that were
previously submitted before the age of 22.”).
issued a decision on March 2, 2017, concluding that
“the claimant has not been under a disability within
the meaning of the Social Security Act since February 28,
2014 [sic], the date the application was
filed.” AR 17. The date of Williams' application
was March 18, 2014. AR 157, 173. The ALJ's decision also
stated that “the claimant's representative [had]
stated the record was complete at the time of the hearing,
” AR 17, which is a conclusion that does not square
with the October 14, 2016, hearing transcript. AR 33-70.
a somewhat atypical appeal of an SSA decision. The record
shows that the claimant was unclear, and possibly confused,
about which of his claims were at issue, as well as the time
period that was relevant for the determination of his claims.
appears to believe he applied not just for SSI benefits, but
also for child's social security benefits under 42 U.S.C.
§ 402(d), as the disabled child of an individual
receiving old-age and disability benefits. See,
e.g., Dkt. No. 42 at 6 (stating, under “Relief
Requested, ” “Disabled Adult Child Benefits are
available to the children of persons who are deceased or who
are drawing Social Security disability or retirement
benefits. The child must have become disabled before age 22.
See generally 42 U.S.C. § 402.”).
language used is not crystal clear, but Williams'
application filed on March 18, 2014, does state that he
applied for both SSI benefits as well as “benefits
under the other programs administered by the Social Security
Administration.” AR 173. And the September 4, 2014,
Notice of Disapproved Claims made express reference to
“disabled child's Social Security benefits, ”
AR 119, as well as stating that Williams' application as
a whole was denied because the SSA had determined his
condition “was not disabling before age 22.” AR
118. Disability before age 22 can be important for
child's social security benefits eligibility.
See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B) (one criteria for