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Lehman v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

January 31, 2017

KATHALEEN LEHMAN, for her minor child, A.L., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael G. Gotsch, Sr. United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Kathleen Lehman on behalf of her minor child, (“A.L.”) filed her complaint in this Court seeking a reversal of the Social Security Commissioner's final decision denying her application for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Alternately, Lehman seeks a remand for further consideration of her application. On January 11, 2016, Lehman filed her opening brief. Thereafter, on April 16, 2016, the Commissioner filed a responsive memorandum asking this Court to affirm the decision denying A.L. benefits. Lehman filed her reply brief on May 2, 2016. This Court may enter a ruling on this matter based on the parties' consent pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. PROCEDURE

         On July 22, 2004, Lehman applied for A.L.'s disability benefits. On May 22, 2008, A.L.

         was found disabled starting March 6, 2008. On February 16, 2012, during a continuing disability review pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1590, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) found that A.L. was no longer disabled.

         On March 28, 2013, a disability hearing officer reviewed the agency's decision, and determined that A.L.'s health had improved and concluded that her disability ended on February 16, 2012. A.L. then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”).

         On October 24, 2013, Lehman and A.L. appeared at an administrative hearing in Elkhart, Indiana. A.L. was not represented by counsel. The ALJ issued a decision on February 28, 2014, finding that A.L.'s disability ceased on February 16, 2012. The Appeals Council denied A.L.'s request for review. Through this action Lehman seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A.L. was born on September 9, 2000, making her seven years old when she was originally found disabled in May 2008. A.L. met Listing 112.11, the Listing for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) and had speech and language delays. A.L. was thirteen years old at the time of the administrative hearing that resulted in the Agency's determination that her disability ended in 2012.

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         At the hearing before the ALJ, A.L. and Lehman testified regarding A.L.'s condition. A.L. testified that she takes medications for ADHD and bipolar disorder. A.L. further stated that she gets A's and B's in school but struggles with reading. Lehman testified that A.L. had to repeat the first grade and is currently in special education classes. Additionally, Lehman testified that A.L. has a hard time learning new things, has few friends, and rarely listens and responds to rules given by adults. Lehman stated that A.L. mostly does not complete homework assignments because she does not understand it. She also states that the ADHD and bipolar medications sometimes work on A.L., allowing her to focus on tasks, but sometimes they do not.

         B. Medical Evidence

         As part of A.L.'s disability review in 2013, Lehman provided the ALJ with medical evidence from February, 2012, to May, 2013. The evidence included the report from a psychological examination of A.L. conducted in 2012 by Carole Evans, the school's psychologist at Woodland Elementary School. Ms. Evans reported that A.L. did not have trouble getting along with other children and that she did not hesitate to join in play with a group of children. The psychological exam conducted by Ms. Evans noted objective observations of A.L. helping or assisting other students, and having a readily established rapport that was easily maintained, and as working “diligently” on all tasks presented. Ms. Evans also performed WISC-IV and Woodcock-Johnson-II cognitive tests on A.L. that showed cognitive ability within borderline range of intellectual functioning, with possibility of difficulty in keeping up with peers in situations that require age-appropriate thinking and reasoning ability and a low range ability to sustaining attention, concentration and ability to exert mental control. Ms. Evans summarized A.L.'s psychological exam by noting “mild” cognitive disability.

         In addition, A.L.'s teachers completed multiple teacher questionnaires. In 2008, the teacher questionnaire submitted in support of A.L.'s original application for disability benefits, indicated that A.L. had prominent difficulty with acquiring information, task completion, interaction with others, and caring for herself. In 2012, A.L.'s teachers completed a questionnaire that reported a serious problem with acquiring and using information, no more than slight problems with task completion or interaction with others, and no problems with manipulating objects or caring for herself. Teachers reported that A.L. received more or less average grades, got along with her teachers and obtained honor roll “a few times.”[DE 12 at 201-12, DE 12 at 272-74, DE 12 at 422-45]. In addition, A.L.'s teachers reported that A.L.

         liked to please others, had great school attendance, enjoyed interaction with others, and was respectful, pleasant, and able to follow school ...


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