United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
VIRGINIA HOPKINS, on behalf of George Garcia, deceased, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HARRIS TOLIVER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Court now considers the merits of the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment. Doc. 15; Doc. 19. For the
reasons detailed below, Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment is GRANTED,
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is
DENIED, the Commissioner's decision is
REVERSED, and this case is
REMANDED for further proceedings.
on behalf of her deceased brother, seeks judicial review of a
final decision by the Commissioner denying the decedent's
claim for disability insurance benefits under the Social
Security Act (“the Act”). The decedent, George
Garcia (“Garcia”), originally filed for benefits
in November 2011, claiming that he became disabled in April
2011. Doc. 8-6 at 4. Garcia's application (the
“First Application”) was denied at all
administrative levels, and he appealed to this Court pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Doc. 8-5 at 6, 12; Doc. 8-3 at
2-7; Doc. 8-3 at 18-30.
his appeal was pending in this Court, Garcia filed another
application for disability benefits in July 2013 (the
“Second Application”). Doc. 8-26 at 17. The
Second Application was denied at the initial and
reconsideration levels, Doc. 8-24 at 90 & Doc. 8-25 at
2-3, and a different administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) convened a hearing with respect to the
Second Application in March 2014. Doc. 8-22 at 42-61. Shortly
after that hearing, this Court remanded the case concerning
the First Application for further review, after which, the
ALJ consolidated the First and Second Applications. Doc. 8-22
at 64-66; Doc. 8-23 at 22-31. Following an administrative
hearing, after which Garcia passed away, the ALJ determined
that Garcia was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
Doc. 8-22 at 15, 35. This appeal followed.
was born in April 1960 and was 51 years old at the alleged
onset of his disability. Doc. 8-6 at 4. He had a high school
education, went to college for a year, and his past relevant
work included employment as a cashier/checker and counter
clerk. Doc. 8-22 at 71, 84. In terms of his medical history,
Garcia went to the hospital in Fall 2011 to establish care
for a history of HIV. Doc. 8-10 at 22. In addition to HIV, he
was diagnosed with hepatitis C, diarrhea, proteinuria,
syphilis, hypertension, gout, heel pain, and epistaxis
(nosebleeds). Doc. 8-10 at 11-12; Doc. 8-10 at 26-27; Doc.
8-18 at 71, 75; Doc. 9-6 at 31, 34; Doc. 9-6 at 81, 83; Doc.
9-23 at 18-19. During some medical visits, Garcia exhibited
depression and “seem[ed] not to care about anything,
” but he was not receiving mental health treatment.
Doc. 8-19 at 18; Doc. 8-19 at 81; see alsoDoc. 8-16
at 39; Doc. 9-6 at 40; Doc. 9-6 at 80; Doc. 9-10 at 4; Doc.
9-11 at 31.
December 2013, Dr. George Mount, Ph.D. performed a
consultative examination of Garcia. Doc. 9-2 at 2. Testing
indicated that Garcia had “a tendency to magnify
illness” and endorse feelings of extreme vulnerability,
suggesting the presence of a severe mental disorder. Doc. 9-2
at 4. Dr. Mount indicated that Garcia appeared to suffer from
(1) dependent personality disorder with depressive
personality traits, schizoid personality features, and
avoidant personality features; (2) major depression,
recurrent, severe, without psychotic features; (3) adjustment
disorder with anxiety; and (4) posttraumatic stress disorder.
Doc. 9-2 at 4, 9.
different test administered by Dr. Mount indicated that
Garcia was “experiencing substantially more depressive
symptoms than the typical medical patient, ” and it was
noted that the “ordinary responsibilities and
give-and-take of everyday life may be more than [Garcia] can
bear.” Doc. 9-2 at 14. Dr. Mount concluded that Garcia
could not likely tolerate having his work judged and
evaluated by a supervisor. Doc. 9-2 at 19. Dr. Mount also
predicted that Garcia could not sustain a normal workday or
workweek without significant interruptions from
psychologically based symptoms. Doc. 9-2 at 19. Additionally,
Dr. Mount reported that Garcia was markedly limited in (1)
maintaining attention and concentration for extended periods;
(2) performing activities within a regular schedule,
maintaining regular attendance, and being punctual; (3)
interacting with coworkers without exhibiting behavioral
extremes; (4) accepting instructions and responding
appropriately to criticism from supervisors; and (5)
sustaining an ordinary routine without special supervision.
Doc. 9-2 at 20-21.
The ALJ's Findings
March 2016, the ALJ determined that Garcia, had had the
severe impairments of HIV, chronic kidney disease, anemia,
tinnitus, hypertension, depressive disorder, adjustment
disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, dependent
personality disorder, and hepatitis. Doc. 8-22 at 17-18.
noted that while Garcia had reported feeling depressed, there
was no evidence in the record suggesting that he had pursued
medical treatment, and the record did not support the marked
limitations that Dr. Mount found or reveal that Garcia's
depression or anxiety had imposed work-related limitations
for 12 consecutive months. Doc. 8-22 at 22.
reaching that conclusion, the ALJ noted that Garcia took care
of his pets, picked up his clothes, made his bed, cleaned the
kitchen, washed dishes, and did not need a reminder for
medications or grooming. Doc. 8-22 at 24. The ALJ
acknowledged that Garcia's 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” was at issue, but noted that “no
clinician has directly addressed the frequency or
duration” of any such interruptions. Doc. 8-22 at 26;
see alsoDoc. 8-22 at 26 (ALJ noting that “a
work evaluation is the vehicle by which the claimant's
adverse responses to demands of work and any GAF predictions
are put to the test. But . . . no work evaluation has been
performed. Thus, the potential triggers for decompensation in
the workplace remain unclear.”); Doc. 8-22 at 35 (ALJ
stating that “[Garcia] was not screened-in for a full
vocational assessment and thus the capacity to actually