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M.L.R. v. Colvin

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

September 16, 2016

M.L.R., a minor, by his mother MIKIYA S. BRANNON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          M. L. R., Plaintiff, represented by Patrick Harold Mulvany.

          CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant, represented by Kathryn E. Olivier, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE.

          ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

         Mikiya S. Brannon (the "Plaintiff"), on behalf of her minor child, M.L.R. (the "Claimant"), requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying the Claimant's application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits for a childhood disability under the Supplemental Security Income Act ("the Act"). 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)(C). The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, now rules as follows.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Claimant, through his mother, protectively filed a claim for SSI benefits on October 1, 2012, alleging disability due to attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD") commencing September 1, 2012, when the Claimant was six years old. His application was denied initially on December 7, 2012, and again upon reconsideration on February 27, 2013. Following the denial upon reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). A video hearing was held before ALJ William M. Manico on October 29, 2013, during which Brannon appeared on the Claimant's behalf and was represented by counsel. The ALJ issued his decision on November 15, 2013, denying the Plaintiff's claim. The Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ's decision on January 26, 2015. After the Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ's decision, the Plaintiff timely filed his complaint for judicial review in this Court.

         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 a medically determinable mental or physical impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 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, he is not disabled, despite his 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, " he 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.

         If the claimant has a severe impairment that does not meet or medically equal any listing, the ALJ next examines whether the impairment "functionally equals the listings." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). 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 "interferes seriously with [the claimant's] ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2)(i). An "extreme" limitation is one that "interferes very seriously with [the claimant's] ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities." 20 C.F.R. § 416.924a(e)(3)(i).

         III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         The ALJ determined at step one that the Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 1, 2012, the application date. R. at 15. At step two, the ALJ concluded that the Claimant had the severe impairment of ADHD. Id. At step three, the ALJ determined that the Claimant's impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment, stating that "there is little evidence the [C]laimant has marked difficulties with attention, impulsiveness, or hyperactivity." Id. The ALJ also determined that the Claimant's impairment did not functionally equal a listing. The ALJ examined each of the six domains and determined that the Claimant had "less than marked limitation" in the following three domains: acquiring and using information; attending and completing tasks; and interacting and relating with others. R. at 19-21. He also determined that the Claimant had "no limitation" in the other three domains. R. at 22-23. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that the Claimant was not disabled as defined by the Act.

         IV. EVIDENCE OF RECORD

         The ALJ's decision in combination with the Plaintiff's brief (Dkt. No. 18) aptly set forth the medical evidence of record, which need not be recited here. Specific facts are ...


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