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Tyson v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 27, 2017

LISA TYSON, as Next Friend of B.G., a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION

          RAY KENT, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff[1] brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying her claim for social security income (SSI).

         Plaintiff was born in 2010. PageID.192. An application for SSI was filed on behalf of plaintiff on January 31, 2014. PageID.38. After administrative denial of plaintiff's claim, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing, reviewed plaintiff's claim de novo, and entered a decision denying the claim on March 2, 2015 (AR 13-26). This decision, which was later approved by the Appeals Council, has become the final decision of the Commissioner and is now before the court for review.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         This court's review of the Commissioner's decision is typically focused on determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §405(g); McKnight v. Sullivan, 927 F.2d 241 (6th Cir. 1990). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Cutlip v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). A determination of substantiality of the evidence must be based upon the record taken as a whole. Young v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 925 F.2d 146 (6th Cir. 1990).

         The scope of this review is limited to an examination of the record only. This Court does not review the evidence de novo, make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Brainard v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989). The fact that the record also contains evidence which would have supported a different conclusion does not undermine the Commissioner's decision so long as there is substantial support for that decision in the record. Willbanks v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 847 F.2d 301, 303 (6th Cir. 1988). Even if the reviewing court would resolve the dispute differently, the Commissioner's decision must stand if it is supported by substantial evidence. Young, 925 F.2d at 147.

         A claimant must prove that he suffers from a disability in order to be entitled to benefits. “The proper inquiry in an application for SSI benefits is whether the plaintiff was disabled on or after her application date.” Casey v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993). An individual under the age of 18 shall be considered disabled if the

child has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted, or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i).

There is a three step process in determining whether a child is “disabled” under the new definition set forth in the Act. First, the child must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity; second, the child must have a severe impairment; and third, the severe impairment must meet, medically equal or functionally equal one of the impairments found in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.924.

Elam ex rel. Golay v. Commissioner of Social Security, 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir. 2003). See also, Kelly v. Commissioner of Social Security, 314 Fed.Appx. 827, 832 (6th Cir. 2009) (listing framework for a three-step inquiry).

         Whether a child's impairment functionally equals a listed impairment is determined by a review of six “domains” which measure the child's ability to function: (i) acquiring and using information; (ii) attending and completing tasks; (iii) interacting and relating with others; (iv) moving about and manipulating objects; (v) caring for yourself; and, (vi) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1). To establish “functional equivalence” of a listed impairment, the claimant has to show either “marked” limitations in two domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). Under the regulations, a “marked limitation” in a domain “interferes seriously with your ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities, ” while an “extreme limitation” in a domain ‘interferes very seriously with your ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.” See § 416.926a(e)(2)(i) and (3)(i).

         II. ALJ'S DECISION

         Following the three steps, the ALJ first found that plaintiff was born in 2010, was a pre-schooler when the application was filed on January 31, 2014, and is currently a pre-schooler under the regulations, 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(g)(2). PageID.41. Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date. Id. Second, plaintiff had the severe ...


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