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.

Fitzpatrick v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 19, 2016

TALENA FITZPATRICK, o.b.o M.V.F., Jr., a Minor, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant,

          OPINION

          ROBERT J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a social security action brought under Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security that Plaintiff's son, M.V.F., is not entitled to Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Section 405(g) limits the Court to a review of the administrative record, and provides that if the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, it shall be conclusive. The Commissioner has found that M.V.F. is not disabled within the meaning of the Act.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The scope of judicial review in a social security case is limited to determining whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards in making her decision and whether there exists in the record substantial evidence supporting that decision. See Brainard v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court may not conduct a de novo review of the case, resolve evidentiary conflicts, or decide questions of credibility. See Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). It is the Commissioner who is charged with finding the facts relevant to an application for disability benefits, and her findings are conclusive provided they are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See Cohen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). It is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347 (6th Cir. 1993). In determining the substantiality of the evidence, the Court must consider the evidence on the record as a whole and take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight. See Richardson v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 735 F.2d 962, 963 (6th Cir. 1984). The substantial evidence standard presupposes the existence of a zone within which the decision maker can properly rule either way, without judicial interference. See Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted). This standard affords to the administrative decision maker considerable latitude, and indicates that a decision supported by substantial evidence will not be reversed simply because the evidence would have supported a contrary decision. See Bogle, 998 F.2d at 347; Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545.

         PROCEDURAL POSTURE

         Plaintiff's son, M.V.F., was born on January 6, 2005, and was nine years of age on the date of the ALJ's decision. (PageID.50, 60.) On March 8, 2012, Plaintiff submitted an application for disability benefits, asserting that M.V.F. had been disabled since June 1, 2011, due to a learning problem and ADHD. (PageID.50, 134-139.) This application was denied on July 30, 2012, after which time Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (PageID.59, 82-84.) On February 28, 2014, ALJ Stanley Chin conducted an administrative hearing at which time Plaintiff testified. (PageID.35-48.) ALJ Chin began the hearing by informing Plaintiff of her right to counsel, but Plaintiff stated she wished to proceed without one. (PageID.38.) In a written decision dated May 5, 2014, the ALJ determined that M.V.F. was not entitled to disability benefits. (PageID.60-80.) Plaintiff subsequently obtained counsel and sought review before the Appeals Council. (PageID.33-34.) On October 29, 2015, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's determination, rendering it the Commissioner's final decision in the matter. (PageID.21-24.) Plaintiff subsequently initiated this appeal under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         ALJ'S DECISION

         Federal law provides that an “individual under the age of 18” will be considered disabled if he “has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(I). To determine whether a child satisfies this standard, the Commissioner must evaluate the claim under a three-step sequential process. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924.

         In the first step, if the ALJ determines that the child is engaged in substantial gainful activity the child cannot be found to be disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b); Elam v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir. 2003). If the child is not engaged in substantial gainful activity the analysis proceeds to step two, at which point the ALJ must determine whether the child has a severe impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c); Elam, 348 F.3d at 125. If the ALJ determines that the child suffers from a severe impairment, or combination of impairments, the analysis proceeds to step three, at which point the ALJ must determine whether the impairment(s) “meet, medically equal, or functionally equal” one of the impairments identified in the Listing of Impairments (“Listings”). 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d); Elam, 348 F.3d at 125. The ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant was born on January 6, 2005. Therefore, he was a school-age child on March 8, 2012, the date the application was filed, and is currently a school-age child (20 CFR 416.926a(g)(2)).
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity at any time relevant to this decision (20 CFR 416.924(b) and 416.972).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a speech and language delay (20 CFR 416.924(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.924, 416.925 and 416.926).

(PageID.66-67.)

         Next, the ALJ was required to determine whether M.V.F. suffered from an impairment that was the functional equivalent of a listed impairment. In doing so, the ALJ was required to evaluate how M.V.F. functioned in each of six domains of functioning described as “broad areas of functioning intended to capture all of what a child can or cannot do.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a)-(b). To be considered disabled, the child's impairments must result in “marked” limitations in two domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). The six domains of functioning are:

(i) acquiring and using information,
(ii) attending and completing tasks,
(iii) interacting and relating with others,
(iv) moving about and manipulating ...

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.