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Peterson v. Commissioner of SSA

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

April 28, 2017

Kimberly D. Peterson, on behalf on Minor KDP, and KDP, Plaintiffs,
v.
Commissioner of SSA, Defendant.

          Mag. Judge, Elizabeth A. Stafford

          OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [14], GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR EXTENSION OF TIME [15], DENYING PLAINTIFFS' OBJECTIONS [16], DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [10], AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [13]

          JUDITH E. LEVY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kimberly D. Peterson, on behalf of her 16-year-old minor child K. D. P., filed this case on December 22, 2015, seeking that the Court reverse the decision of defendant Commissioner of Social Security Administration denying K. D. P.'s application for social security disability benefits. (See Dkt. 1.) The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and on February 15, 2017, the Magistrate Judge filed a Report and Recommendation that defendant's motion (Dkt. 13) be granted, plaintiffs' motion (Dkt. 10) be denied, and the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. (Dkt. 14 at 2.) Plaintiffs' filed untimely objections to the report and recommendation (Dkt. 16) and a motion for extension of time “due to computer error.” (Dkt. 15.) Defendant consented to the late filing of the Objections (id. at 2), so the motion is granted and the merits of the objections will be addressed. For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, denies plaintiffs' objections, denies plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, and grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff K. D. P. was born on December 4, 1999, and alleges that he began suffering from narcolepsy on November 18, 2012. (Dkt. 7-3 at 3.) His narcolepsy was confirmed by Dr. Gloria Chaney of the Children's Hospital of Michigan at the Detroit Medical Center in October 2013. (Dkt. 7-7 at 82.) Narcolepsy is “a chronic disorder that is characterized by permanent and over-whelming feelings of sleepiness . . . . that interferes with the[] ability to concentrate and perform daily functions.” (Id. at 75.)

         In December 2012, at the time he was repeating the sixth grade, K. D. P. had a Psychoeducational Evaluation at the request of his mother Kimberly Peterson. (Id. at 57-66.) The Evaluation was performed by Muna Mashrah, M.A., a Certified School Psychologist, who observed K. D. P. in the classroom, reviewed records, and received input from K. D. P.'s teachers and his mother. (Id. at 57.) K. D. P.'s teacher reported that he was performing at grade-level, but “he tends to fall asleep often” and “his progress is hindered by him sleeping in class.” (Id. at 58.) Mashrah evaluated K. D. P. using the Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities, Third Edition, and concluded that K. D. P. performed at the average level in General Intellectual Ability, Visual-Spatial Thinking, Auditory Processing, Fluid Reasoning, Processing Speed, Short-term Memory, and Working Memory. (Id. at 61.) He performed below average in Long-term Retrieval and low in Comprehension-Knowledge (id.), which Mashrah qualified by noting that “limited exposure to vocabulary and experiences may have affected his performance on comprehension tasks.” (Id. at 66.)

         Mashrah also evaluated K. D. P. using the Woodcock Johnson Test of Achievement, Third Edition, and concluded that K. D. P. performed at the average level for Basic Reading Skills and Math Calculation, but below average for Reading Comprehension, Reading Fluency, and Math Reasoning. (Id. at 63.) Mashrah concluded that K. D. P. “would benefit from academic interventions to target fractions, mathematical symbols, vocabulary, and abbreviations, as well as vocabulary words for reading comprehension” (id. at 63), but recommended against the need for special education services. (Id. at 66.)

         Plaintiff Kimberly Peterson filed K. D. P.'s application for disability benefits on May 3, 2013, (Dkt. 7-5 at 1), and the Administrative Law Judge held a hearing on May 6, 2014. (Dkt. 7-2 at 52.) The ALJ found that K. D. P. was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (Dkt. 7-2 at 36-38), and the Appeals Council denied review. (Dkt. 7-2 at 2.) The ALJ's opinion is thus the final decision of the Commissioner.

         II. Standard

         An applicant for disability benefits who is not satisfied with the Commissioner's final decision may obtain review in federal district court. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The district court “must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standard or has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.” Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court may affirm, modify, or reverse the Commissioner's decision, and may also choose to remand the case for rehearing when appropriate. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         The Commissioner's findings of fact are given substantial deference on review and are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. Barker v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 789, 795 (6th Cir. 1994); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). If there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision, the district court must affirm it even if substantial evidence also supports a contrary conclusion. Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007); Wright v. Massanari, 321 F.3d 611, 614 (6th Cir. 2003); see also Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (if the decision is supported by substantial evidence, “it must be affirmed even if the reviewing court would decide the matter differently . . . and even if substantial evidence also supports the opposite conclusion”).

         When deciding whether there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's factual findings, the district court is limited to an examination of the record and should consider the record as a whole. Bass, 499 F.3d at 512-13; Wyatt v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992). However, neither the Commissioner nor the reviewing court must discuss every piece of evidence in the administrative record. Kornecky v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 167 F. App'x 496, 508 (6th Cir. 2006).

         When a Magistrate Judge has submitted a Report and Recommendation and a party has filed timely objections, the district court conducts a de novo review of those parts of the Report and ...


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