United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division, Lafayette
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff E.H., a minor, by her mother next friend, Lisa
Hayes, on May 12, 2016, and a Plaintiff's Brief in
Support of Her Request for Review and Remand of the
Commissioner of Social Security's Final Decision [DE 17],
filed on October 13, 2016. Plaintiff requests that the
February 2, 2015 decision of the Administrative Law Judge
denying her claim for supplemental security income be
reversed and remanded for further proceedings. On November
28, 2016, the Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff
filed a reply on December 12, 2016. For the following
reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.
through her mother, as she is a minor, filed an application
for supplemental security income on February 20, 2013,
alleging an onset date of April 1, 2007. Her claim was denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff timely
requested a hearing, which was held by video on January 8,
2015. Plaintiff's mother testified at the hearing, but
Plaintiff was not present because she was in the hospital
being treated for a urinary tract infection. On February 2,
2015, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) George
Michael Gaffaney issued a written decision denying benefits,
making the following findings:
1. The claimant was born [in 2005]. Therefore, she was a
school-age child on February 20, 2013, the date the
application was filed, and is currently a school-age child.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since February 20, 2013, the application date.
3. The claimant had the following severe impairment:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
5. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that functionally equals the severity of the
The claimant has less than marked limitation in acquiring and
The claimant has less than marked limitation in attending and
The claimant has less than marked limitation in interacting
and relating with others.
The claimant has no limitation in moving about and
The claimant has less than marked limitation in the ability
to care for herself.
The claimant has less than marked limitation in health and
6. The claimant has not been disabled, as defined in the
Social Security Act, since February 20, 2013, the date the
application was filed.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for review of the
parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to
a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further
proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in
this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide
this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C.
individual under the age of 18 years, the Social Security Act
and regulations apply a sequential three-step inquiry to
determine whether the claimant is disabled and entitled to
benefits. The steps are: (1) Is the child engaged in
substantial gainful activity? If yes, the child is not
disabled, and the claim is denied; if no, the inquiry
proceeds to step two; (2) Does the child have a severe
impairment, that is, one that causes more than minimal
functional limitations? If no, the child is not disabled, and
the claim is denied; if yes, the inquiry proceeds to step
three; (3) Does the impairment meet, equal, or functionally
equal an impairment listed in the social security
regulations? If no, the child is not disabled, and the claim
is denied; if yes, the child is considered disabled. 20
C.F.R. § 416.924.
three, if the child does not meet or equal a Listing,
eligibility for benefits may nevertheless be found based on
“functional equivalence.” 20 C.F.R. §
416.926a (“Functional equivalence for children”).
To determine functional equivalence, the ALJ rates the
child's degree of limitation as either “no
limitation, ” “less than marked, ”
“marked, ” or “extreme” in the
following 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 oneself; and (6) health
and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. §
416.926a(b)(1)(i)-(vi). A finding of “marked”
limitation in two domains or an “extreme”
limitation in one domain results in a finding of disability.
20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a), (d). A “marked”
limitation is found when the child's “impairment(s)
interferes seriously with [her] ability to independently
initiate, sustain, or complete activities.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(e)(2)(i). A “marked” limitation
also means a limitation that is “more than
moderate” but “less than extreme.”
making the findings, the ALJ considers the child's
functioning in her activities, which includes everything she
does at home, at school, and in the community. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(b)(1). For functional equivalence, the
child's functioning is not compared to the requirements
of any specific Listing. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(d).
Social Security Act authorizes judicial review of the final
decision of the agency and indicates that the
Commissioner's factual findings must be accepted as
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Thus, a court reviewing the findings of an ALJ
will reverse only if the findings are not supported by
substantial evidence or if the ALJ has applied an erroneous
legal standard. See Briscoe v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d
345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence consists of
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir.
2005) (quoting Gudgel v. Barnhart, 345 F.3d 467, 470
(7th Cir. 2003)).
reviews the entire administrative record but does not
reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in
evidence, decide questions of credibility, or substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ. See Boiles v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir. 2005);
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir.
2000); Butera v. Apfel, 173 F.3d 1049, 1055 (7th
Cir. 1999). Thus, the question upon judicial review of an
ALJ's finding that a claimant is not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act is not whether the
claimant is, in fact, disabled, but whether the ALJ
“uses the correct legal standards and the decision is
supported by substantial evidence.” Roddy v.
Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing
O'Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 618
(7th Cir. 2010); Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d
731, 734-35 (7th Cir. 2006); Barnett v. Barnhart,
381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004)). “[I]f the
Commissioner commits an error of law, ” the Court may
reverse the decision “without regard to the volume of
evidence in support of the factual findings.” White
v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 369, 373 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing
Binion v. Chater, 108 F.3d 780, 782 (7th Cir.
minimum, an ALJ must articulate his analysis of the evidence
in order to allow the reviewing court to trace the path of
his reasoning and to be assured that the ALJ considered the
important evidence. See Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d
589, 595 (7th Cir. 2002); Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d
300, 307 (7th Cir. 1995); Green v. Shalala, 51 F.3d
96, 101 (7th Cir. 1995). An ALJ must “‘build an
accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [the]
conclusion' so that [a reviewing court] may assess the
validity of the agency's final decision and afford [a
claimant] meaningful review.” Giles v. Astrue,
483 F.3d 483, 487 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Scott,
297 F.3d at 595)); see also O'Connor-Spinner,
627 F.3d at 618 (“An ALJ need not specifically address
every piece of evidence, but must provide a ‘logical