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Young v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

March 31, 2017

APRIL YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CAROL MIRANDO, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff April Young, on behalf of D.Y., a minor, appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her child's claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). For the reasons discussed herein, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

         I. Issue on Appeal

         Plaintiff raises one issue on appeal:[1] whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed to fully and fairly consider or develop the evidence of record.

         II. Procedural History and Summary of the ALJ's Decision

         On April 10, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on behalf of her minor child, D.Y., born on August 10, 2006, alleging disability that began on April 1, 2012 due to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”), asthma, allergies, and stomach issues. Tr. 77, 87, 162-67. The Social Security Administration denied the claim initially on June 28, 2012 and upon reconsideration on August 28, 2012. Tr. 77-105; 110-115. Plaintiff then requested and received a hearing before ALJ Erik Eklund on May 6, 2014, during which she was represented by an attorney. Tr. 41; 116-18. Plaintiff and D.Y. testified at the hearing.[2] Tr. 41-75.

         On May 28, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding D.Y. is not disabled and denying his claim. Tr. 24-36. The ALJ first determined that D.Y. has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 10, 2012, the application date. Tr. 27. Next, the ALJ found D.Y. has the following severe impairments: attention deficit hyperactive disorder, asthma, allergies, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues. Id. At step three, the ALJ found D.Y. “does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.” Id.

         Taking into account all relevant evidence, the ALJ then determined D.Y. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that results in either “marked” limitation in two domains of functioning, or “extreme” limitation in one domain of functioning, as is required to functionally meet a listing. Tr. 25-36; 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(d). Accordingly, the ALJ found D.Y. is not disabled, and denied his claim. Tr. 27.

         Following the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff filed a request for review by the Appeals Council, which was denied on December 11, 2015. Tr. 1-3. Thus, the ALJ's May 28, 2014 decision is the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff filed an appeal in this Court on February 11, 2016. Doc. 1. Both parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge, and this matter is now ripe for review. Docs. 15; 17.

         III. Social Security Act Eligibility and Standard of Review

         An individual under the age of eighteen is disabled for purposes of seeking child SSI benefits when he has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which results in marked and severe functional limitations and can be expected to either result in death or last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). The Commissioner has established a three-step sequential analysis for evaluating a claim of disability for a child. To qualify for benefits, the child claimant must show that: (1) he is not engaging in substantial gainful activity; (2) he has an impairment or combination of impairments that is severe; and (3) his impairment or combination of impairments meets, medically equals, or functionally equals a listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a).

         At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. If not, the Commissioner decides whether it results in limitations that functionally equal the listings. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). In determining whether an impairment or combination of impairments functionally equals the listings, the Commissioner assesses the claimant's functioning in terms of six domains: (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and manipulating objects; (5) caring for yourself; and (6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1). To functionally equal the listings, the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments must result in “marked” limitations in two domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(d). A “marked limitation” in a domain results when the child's impairment(s) “interferes seriously” with the ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2). An “extreme limitation” in a domain results when the child's impairment(s) interferes “very seriously” with his ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(3).

         The scope of this Court's review is limited to determining whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence. McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir. 1988) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971)). The Commissioner's findings of fact are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla, i.e., evidence that must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be established, and such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support the conclusion.” Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995) (internal citations omitted); see also Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (finding that “[s]ubstantial evidence is something more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance”) (internal citation omitted).

         The Eleventh Circuit has restated that “[i]n determining whether substantial evidence supports a decision, we give great deference to the ALJ's fact findings.” Hunter v. Soc. Sec. Admin., Comm'r, 808 F.3d 818, 822 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Black Diamond Coal Min. Co. v. Dir., OWCP, 95 F.3d 1079, 1082 (11th Cir. 1996)). Where the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the court will affirm, even if the reviewer would have reached a contrary result as finder of fact, and even if the reviewer finds that the preponderance of the evidence is against the Commissioner's decision. Edwards v. Su livan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th Cir. 1991); Barnes v. Su livan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir. 1991). “The district court must view the record as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the decision.” Foote, 67 F.3d at 1560; see also Lowery v. Su livan, 979 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1992) (stating that the court must scrutinize the entire record to determine the reasonableness of the factual findings).

         IV. ...


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