United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON, JUDGE
Teresa Hayes, brings this action on behalf of her minor son,
B.H., pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c),
for review of Defendant's final administrative decision
denying B.H.'s application for supplemental security
income (SSI). I find that the ALJ's decision was not
supported by substantial evidence because he did not properly
consider four of the functional equivalence domains used to
determine if a child is disabled.
B.H. filed for Supplemental Security Income benefits when he
was 13 years old, and the initial claim was denied. [Tr.
161-66, 90-93.] B.H. then had a hearing before an
administrative law judge who ultimately issued a decision
denying benefits. [Tr. 41-64.] The ALJ found B.H. had the
following severe impairments: attention-deficit hyperactivity
disorder (“ADHD”), expressive language disorder,
scoliosis, neck pain, patellar mal-alignment syndrome, and
Ehlers-Danlos disease (which is a connective tissue
disorder). [DE 47.] But the ALJ found B.H. did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled one of the listed impairments, and B.H. did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
functionally equaled the severity of the listings.
[Id.] The ALJ found B.H. had less than marked
limitation in the six functional equivalence domains.
home schooled and receives speech therapy through the local
school system. [Tr. 191.] B.H.'s medical issues are
described in a comprehensive fashion in the ALJ's
opinion, and need not be recited in their entirety here. [Tr.
reviewing the work of the ALJ, my role is limited. It is
impermissible for me to “reweigh evidence, resolve
conflicts in the record, decide questions of credibility, or,
in general, substitute [my] own judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d
995, 1001 (7th Cir. 2004). Instead, my review of an ALJ's
decision is limited to determining whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. “Evidence is
substantial if a reasonable person would accept it as
adequate to support the conclusion.” Id.
“[T]he ALJ must identify the relevant evidence and
build a ‘logical bridge' between that evidence and
the ultimate determination.” Moon v. Colvin,
763 F.3d 718, 721 (7th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). Where
the Commissioner's decision “lacks evidentiary
support or is so poorly articulated as to prevent meaningful
review, the case must be remanded.” Steele v.
Barnhart, 290 F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir. 2002).
Supplemental Security Income rules, a child is disabled if he
has a “medically determinable physical or mental
impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked
and severe functional limitations” that “has
lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of
not less than 12 months.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.906.
This assessment has a three-step analysis. 20 C.F.R. §
416.924(a). At step one, if the child is engaged in
substantial gainful activity, then he is not disabled.
Id. At step two, if the child does not have a severe
medical impairment or combinations of impairments, then he is
not disabled. Id. At step three, a child will
qualify as disabled only if his impairments “meet,
” “medically equal, ” or
“functionally equal” any of the listings.
issue in this case is whether B.H. functionally equaled any
of the listings. To determine if a child's impairments
are “functionally equivalent” to a listing, an
ALJ analyzes their severity in 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); see Sanchez v. Barnhart, 467 F.3d
1081, 1082 (7th Cir. 2006) (rationalizing since children do
not generally have work history, the structure of the
disability program for them differs from that for adults, and
focuses on the functioning of the child in specific areas of
child to functionally equal a listing, the ALJ must find an
“extreme” limitation in one domain or a
“marked” limitation in two domains. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(a), (e)(2)(i). An “extreme”
limitation occurs when the impairment interferes very
seriously with the child's ability to independently
initiate, sustain or complete activities. 20 C.F.R. §
416.926a(e)(3)(i). A “marked” limitation is one
which interferes seriously with the child's ability to
independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.
Id. § 416.926a(e)(2)(i).
argues that the ALJ did not set forth a supported rationale
for finding a less than marked limitation in the domains of:
“acquiring and using information, ”
“attending and completing tasks, ” “moving
about and manipulating objects, ” and “health and
physical well-being.” [DE 16 at 1-5.]
and Using Information
domain of acquiring and using information, the ALJ found:
“The claimant has less than marked limitation in
acquiring and using information. Considering the
plethora of intelligence testing in the evidence and detailed
in this determination, the claimant certainly has no more
tha[n] a less than marked limitation in his ability to
acquire and use information.” [Tr. 54 (emphasis in
“acquiring and using of information” domain
measures more than just intelligence, or IQ - it refers to
how well a child acquires or learns information and how well
he uses the information he has learned. Hopggod ex rel.
L.G. v. Astrue, 578 F.3d 696, 699 (7th Cir. 2009)
(citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(g)). As Social Security
Ruling (“SSR”) 09-3p makes clear, the domain of
acquiring and using information “considers more than
just assessments of cognitive ability as measured by
intelligence tests, academic achievement instruments, or
grades in school.” SSR 09-3P, 2009 WL 396025 (Feb. 17,
2009). Moreover, the regulations are clear that an ALJ may
not rely on any single test score when deciding if an
impairment is marked or ...