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Holtz v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

February 21, 2018

GREGORY MURRAY HOLTZ, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING FOR FUTHER PROCEEDINGS

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Gregory M. Holtz appeals the ALJ's decision finding him not disabled. Dkt. 3. He contends the ALJ erroneously rejected the opinions of Leslie Carter, Ph.D., and Sylvia Thorpe, Ph.D., and that the Court should remand the case for an award of benefits, or alternatively for further proceedings. Dkt. 9 at 2, 4, 11. For the reasons below, the Court finds the ALJ harmfully erred and REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the case for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. HISTORY AND ALJ'S DECISION

         Mr. Holtz applied for benefits in 2013 alleging disability beginning August 2007. Tr. 20. The ALJ found the relevant period in this case begins on December 28, 2012, id., a finding the parties do not contest. After conducting a hearing, the ALJ issued a decision in which he made the following sequential disability determination findings:

Step one: Mr. Holtz has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 1, 2007.
Step two: Anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, history of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and artistic spectrum disorder are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[1]
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Holtz can perform the full range of work at all exertional levels with the following nonexertional limitations: he can attend to and concentrate on simple routine tasks in two hour increments; he can have incidental contact with the public, is capable of working in proximity to, but not in coordination with, co-workers, and can have occasional contact with supervisor; he will be off task at work 9% of the time but can still meet minimum production requirements..
Step four: Mr. Holtz cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: Mr. Holtz can perform other jobs in the national economy and is not disabled.

         AR 22-31. The Appeals Council denied review making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. AR 1.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. The ALJ's Evaluation of the Opinions of Leslie Carter, Ph.D.

         Mr. Young contends the ALJ erroneously rejected Dr. Carter's opinions about the severity of his limitations. Dkt. 9 at 4. Dr. Carter evaluated Mr. Holtz in July 2013. Tr. 445-55. The doctor performed a clinical examination, reviewed medical documentation that Mr. Holtz's parents provided, interviewed Mr. Holtz's parents, and administered the following tests: the RAADS-R, the Millon Clinical Mutiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III), and the Adaptive Behavior Assessment (ABAS-II). Id. Dr. Carter diagnosed Mr. Holtz with ...


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