United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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).
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.
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. §
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.
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
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).
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
(i) acquiring and using information,
(ii) attending and completing tasks,
(iii) interacting and relating with others,
(iv) moving about and manipulating ...