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A.D.B. v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 26, 2014

A.D.B., a minor, by his mother SHAWANNA L. BURNETT, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


RICHARD L. YOUNG, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff, A.D. B., a minor, by his mother, Shawanna Burnett, appeals the Administrative Law Judge's decision denying his application for social security disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the court referred the matter to the Magistrate Judge (Filing No. 30), who submitted his report and recommendation on August 6, 2014. (Filing No. 34). The Commissioner objects to the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation. (Filing No. 35). Plaintiff did not respond to the Commissioner's objections. For the reasons set forth below, the court ADOPTS in part and REJECTS in part the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation.

I. Background

A. D. B. is 8 years old. On August 13, 2010, his mother filed an application for Social Security Supplemental Income disability benefits on his behalf. His application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrate Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing and, on February 1, 2012, denied his application again. The Appeals Council denied the application for review on March 19, 2013. A.D. B. now appeals to this court.

The ALJ found that A.D. B. has the following severe impairments: asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, speech delay, borderline intellectual functioning, and disruptive behavior disorder. (Filing No. 13-2, at ECF p. 20). Additionally, the ALJ concluded that A.D. B. does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of a listed impairment.

II. Standards

A. Review of Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

When a party raises specific objections to elements of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court reviews those elements de novo, determining for itself whether the magistrate judge's decision as to those issues is supported by substantial evidence or was the result of an error of law. FED. R. CIV. PRO. 72(b). The district court "makes the ultimate decision to adopt, reject, or modify' the report and recommendation, and it need not accept any portion as binding;" the court may, however, defer to and adopt those conclusions where a party did not timely object. Sweet v. Colvin, No. 1:12cv-00439-SEB-TAB, 2013 WL 5487358, * 1 (S.D. Ind. Sept. 30, 2013) (quoting Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 759-761 (7th Cir. 2009)).

B. Review of the ALJ's Decision

In reviewing the Commissioner's factual findings, courts are deferential; if her findings are supported by substantial evidence, then courts must affirm. See Skarbek v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 500, 503 (7th Cir. 2004); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). "Although a mere scintilla of proof will not suffice to uphold an ALJ's findings, the substantial evidence standard requires no more than such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Blakes v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 565, 568 (7th Cir. 2003). In other words, substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance of the evidence. See Wood v. Thompson, 246 F.3d 1026, 1029 (7th Cir. 2001). The ALJ is obligated "to consider all relevant medical evidence and cannot simply cherry-pick facts that support a finding of non-disability while ignoring evidence that points to a disability finding." Denton v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 419, 425 (7th Cir. 2010). An ALJ is not required to discuss every piece of evidence, but if the decision lacks an adequate discussion of the issues, the court will remand it. See Campbell v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 299, 306 (7th Cir. 2010). An adequate discussion ensures that the ALJ built a logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusion. Denton, 5996 F.3d at 425.

III. Discussion

The Magistrate Judge found that the ALJ erred by (1) failing to discuss significant evidence that favored finding a disability under listing 103.03(C) (asthma); (2) failing to discuss or mention listing 112.08 (personality disorders); and (3) failing to explain why he rejected the opinion of one of A.D. B.'s teachers that A.D. B. had extreme and marked limitations. The Commissioner objects to each of the three reasons. The court will consider each in turn.

A. Listing 103.03(C) - Asthma

The Magistrate Judge determined that the ALJ erred in evaluating whether A.D. B. met listing 103.03(C) for asthma by concluding that "there is no indication that the claimant has had persistent wheezing with acute attacks." (Filing No. 13-2, at ECF p. 21). According to A.D. B. and the Magistrate Judge, the ALJ failed to mention four medical documents that allegedly contradict this conclusion. (Filing No. 13-9, at ECF p. 8-9, 15, 19). Additionally, the ALJ failed to mention the short course steroid treatment Dr. Zwick prescribed. ( Id. ). Further, the ALJ relied on A.D. B.'s mother's testimony that her son had not visited the doctor or emergency room for an asthma attack; however, evidence in the record, not mentioned by the ALJ, shows that on March 8, 2008, A.D. B. visited the St. Vincent Hospital's emergency room for wheezing and sobbing. (Filing No. 13-7, ...

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