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D.Z.J. v. Colvin

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

May 13, 2015

D.Z.J., a minor by her mother ANIKA J. STONE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

Plaintiff's mother, Anika J. Stone, requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying her application on behalf of her minor daughter, D.Z.J., for Supplemental Social Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, now rules as follows.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Stone filed an application for SSI on June 16, 2011, alleging that D.Z.J. became disabled on May 16, 2011, due to asthma and premature birth. The application was denied initially on August 1, 2011, and again upon reconsideration on November 18, 2011. Thereafter, D.Z.J.'s mother requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). A video hearing was held on November 20, 2012, before ALJ Gregory M. Hamel. On January 4, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision denying Stone's application for benefits. The Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's decision and denied a request for review on April 3, 2014. This action for judicial review ensued.

II. APPLICABLE STANDARD

To be eligible for SSI, a claimant must meet the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 423. Pursuant to that statute, "disability" means the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The standard is a stringent one. The Act does not contemplate degrees of disability or allow for an award based on partial disability. See Stephens v. Heckler, 766 F.2d 284, 285 (7th Cir. 1985).

In determining whether a claimant under the age of eighteen is disabled, the Commissioner employs a three-step sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled, despite her medical condition. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b). At step two, if the claimant does not have a "severe" impairment or a combination of impairments that is "severe, " she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c). At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets, medically equals, or functionally equals any impairment that appears in the Listing of Impairments, codified at 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d). If the claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets, medically equals, or functionally equals the listings, and meets the twelve-month duration requirement, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.906.

In determining whether an impairment functionally equals the listings, the ALJ must examine the following 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 oneself; and (6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1)(i)-(vi). The claimant's impairment or combination of impairments must result in "marked" limitations in two or more domains or an "extreme" limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). A "marked" limitation is one that seriously interferes with the claimant's ability to sustain and complete activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2)(i). An "extreme" limitation is one that very seriously interferes with the claimant's ability to sustain and complete activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924a(e)(3)(i).

On review, the ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive and must be upheld by this Court "so long as substantial evidence supports them and no error of law occurred." Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). "Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, " id., and the Court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th Cir. 2008). The ALJ "need not evaluate in writing every piece of testimony and evidence submitted." Carlson v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir. 1993). Rather, the ALJ is required to articulate only a minimal, but legitimate, justification for his acceptance or rejection of specific evidence of disability. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 2004). In order to be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate his analysis of the evidence in his decision; while he "is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony, " he must "provide some glimpse into [his] reasoning... [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [his] conclusion." Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1177.

III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

At step one, the ALJ found that D.Z.J. had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 16, 2011, the application date. At step two, the ALJ concluded that D.Z.J. had the following severe impairments: premature birth and asthma. At step three, the ALJ determined that D.Z.J. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met, medically equaled, or functionally equaled a listed impairment. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that D.Z.J. was not disabled from June 16, 2011, through the date of his decision.

IV. EVIDENCE OF RECORD

The medical evidence of record is aptly set forth in Stone's brief (Dkt. No. 16) and need not be recited here. Specific facts are set forth in the ...


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