Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

E.H. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division, Lafayette

September 29, 2017

E.H., a minor, by her mother Lisa Hayes, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This 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.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, 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, Appendix 1.
5. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that functionally equals the severity of the listings.
The claimant has less than marked limitation in acquiring and using information.
The claimant has less than marked limitation in attending and completing tasks.
The claimant has less than marked limitation in interacting and relating with others.
The claimant has no limitation in moving about and manipulating objects.
The claimant has less than marked limitation in the ability to care for herself.
The claimant has less than marked limitation in health and physical well-being.
6. The claimant has not been disabled, as defined in the Social Security Act, since February 20, 2013, the date the application was filed.

(AR 14-23).

         The 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 Agency's decision.

         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. § 405(g).

         DISABILITY STANDARD

         For an 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.

         At step 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.” Id.

         In 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).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The 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)).

         A court 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. 1997)).

         At a 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 bridge' ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.