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Espinosa v. Astrue

United States District Court, District Circuit

July 2, 2013

KEVIN ESPINOSA, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL ASTRUE, Commissioner, Social Security Administration Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Kevin Espinosa brings this action under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking a reversal of the Social Security Administration's ("SSA") denial of his claims for disability benefits and supplemental security income benefits. In the alternative, plaintiff seeks a remand to the SSA for a new administrative hearing. Currently before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant plaintiffs motion for reversal of judgment and deny defendant's motion for affirmance.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Kevin Espinosa, a 31-year-old man, resides in Washington, D.C. (Administrative Record, Oct. 26, 2012 [ECF No. 6] ("AR") at 28.) He has completed two years of community college and has prior work experience as an account agent and front office manager at a hotel, an account manager at a performing rights organization, a class teacher at a daycare center, a program coordinator at a youth center, and a counselor at a teen center. (Id. at 29, 139, 145.) In July 2009, plaintiff filed an application for social security disability benefits. (Id. at 107-20.) He alleged that since June 2, 2009, he has been disabled due to obsessive- compulsive disorder ("OCD") and depression. (Id.) The SSA denied plaintiff benefits initially in October 2009, and again upon reconsideration in March 2010. (Id. at 53-59, 62-68.) In July 2011, plaintiff appeared with his attorney at an administrative hearing. (Id. at 25-41, 75-92.) After the hearing, the administrative law judge ("ALJ"), Eugene Bond, denied plaintiffs claims because he found plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Id. at 12-20.) In June 2012, the Appeals Council denied plaintiffs request for review. (Id. at 1-6.)

I. THE EVIDENCE AT THE ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING

The evidence in the administrative record included plaintiffs self-assessment reports, medical records from his treating physician and several other doctors, and the hearing testimony.

A. Plaintiff's Reports

Plaintiffs disability and functional capabilities were set forth in reports that he filed with his application for benefits. (Id. at 107-88.) In three disability reports filed in July 2009, December 2009, and May 2010, plaintiff reported that he suffered from depression, OCD, anxiety, sleep disturbances, panic attacks, social isolation, and an eating disorder. (Id. at 134-44, 161-71, 180-88.) He reported that these conditions limited his ability to work. (Id. at 138.) For example, he would disregard job duties, wait until he thought he would be fired, and then leave his job. (Id.) Plaintiff explained that he did not plan to return to work because he could not focus and his condition had become worse. (Id.)

In two function reports filed in September 2009 and January 2010, plaintiff reported that he spent most of the day taking care of his infant son, including playing with him and reading to him. (Id. at 153.) Plaintiff stated that during a "good week, " he made dinner daily, and he performed chores and shopped for food and baby materials on a weekly basis. (Id. at 153-60, 172-79.) Plaintiff also stated that he often missed appointments and procrastinated performing hygienic routines such as shaving and showering. (Id. at 172.)

B. Medical Records

i. Plaintiffs Treating Physician

Plaintiffs medical records cover a three-year span, and they include records from several doctors. Plaintiff first saw his treating physician, psychologist Dr. Don Miller, in 2009. (Id. at 239-44.) In September of 2009, Dr. Miller provided a report stating that his diagnostic impressions of plaintiff included recurrent and severe major depressive disorder, OCD, and attention deficit/hyperactive disorder, and, therefore, plaintiff is "totally disabled and is unable to work at the present time and in all probability ... for an additional twelve months." (Id. at 241.) Dr. Miller recommended that plaintiff be "referred for further evaluation, academic or vocational training, " continue psychotherapy, and enroll in leisurely activities in line with his interests and abilities. (Id.)

In January 2010, Dr. Miller provided another report, in which he stated that plaintiff continued to be unable to work. (Id. at 289-91.) In a November 2010 report, Dr. Miller again stated that his diagnostic impressions of plaintiff included recurrent and severe major depressive disorder and OCD. (Id. at 297.) Dr. Miller also noted post-traumatic stress disorder in partial remission and polysubstance dependence in full remission. (Id) He recommended continued therapy, routine psychiatric and general medical examinations, attendance at twice weekly narcotics anonymous meetings, and if that level of intervention did not work, "day treatment and/or partial hospitalization." (Id. at 298.) Dr. Miller also explained that "quite surprisingly. . . [plaintiff] appears to be adjusting well in, entirely committed to, and performing above expectations in the role and related responsibilities of a single parent father." (Id.)

On July 1, 2011, Dr. Miller provided another report, indicating that he found plaintiff had marked[1] limitations in several areas of functioning. (Mat 301-03.) For example, Dr. Miller noted, among other things, that plaintiff had trouble carrying out detailed instructions, maintaining attention and concentration for extended periods of time, sustaining an ordinary routine, working in coordination or in proximity with others, making simple work-related decisions, and behaving in a socially appropriate way. (Id.) Dr. Miller wrote that plaintiff has been fully and completely disabled for the past several years and will likely suffer from "this level of disability for some time to come." (Id. at 304.) Dr. Miller amended this report ...


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