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Hutchings v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

February 6, 2018

TONYA HUTCHINGS o.b.o. T.K.H., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELLEN S. CARMODY, U.S. Magistrate Judge

         This is an action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's claim that her son is entitled to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits 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. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), authorizing United States Magistrate Judges to submit proposed findings of fact and recommendations for disposition of social security appeals, the undersigned recommends that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court's jurisdiction is confined to a review of the Commissioner's decision and of the record made in the administrative hearing process. See Willbanks v. Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 847 F.2d 301, 303 (6th Cir. 1988). 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 and Human Services, 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. See42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See Cohen v. Sec'y of Dep't of Health and Human Services, 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 and Human Services, 735 F.2d 962, 963 (6th Cir. 1984).

         As has been widely recognized, 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 (T.K.H.) was born on December 6, 2002. (PageID.188). On June 5, 2013, Plaintiff submitted an application for disability benefits, asserting that her son has been disabled since January 1, 2010, due to ADHD, learning disabilities, and depression. (PageID.188-91, 205). Plaintiff's application was denied, after which time she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (PageID.96-186). On August 11, 2015, ALJ Romona Scales conducted an administrative hearing at which Plaintiff and T.K.H. testified. (PageID.67-94). In a written decision dated December 29, 2015, the ALJ determined that T.K.H. was not disabled. (PageID.48-62). The Appeals Council declined to review this determination, rendering it the Commissioner's final decision in the matter. (PageID.38-40). Plaintiff subsequently initiated this appeal pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         RELEVANT EVIDENCE

         Treatment notes dated May 10, 2011, indicate that T.K.H.'s symptoms are “somewhat improved” with medication. (PageID.431). On June 13, 2011, Plaintiff reported that T.K.H.'s medications were “working better.” (PageID.429). On July 8, 2011, T.K.H. reported that his medications “help him to focus on things.” (PageID.427). Treatment notes dated November 9, 2011, indicate that T.K.H. was doing well on his current medication regimen. (PageID.490-91).

         On December 8, 2011, T.K.H. participated in a consultive psychological examination. (PageID.274-79). The results of a mental status examination were unremarkable. (PageID.277-78). T.K.H. was diagnosed with ADHD and his GAF score was rated as 60.[1] (PageID.279). The examiner concluded:

The patient is a nine year old boy. He has a diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder for which he is being successfully treated with prescription medication. He continues to perform below grade level in reading and writing, but he interacts appropriately with school authorities and peers. He does not have any difficulty moving about, manipulating objects, or performing age-appropriate self care tasks.

(PageID.279).

         Treatment notes dated February 6, 2012, indicate that T.K.H. exhibited “normal mood and affect” and “his mood appears not anxious.” (PageID.501). It was further noted that T.K.H.”does not express impulsivity” and “does not exhibit a depressed mood.” (PageID.501). Treatment notes dated March 5, 2012, indicate that “school has been going well” for T.K.H. and his “mom feels he is doing ok.” (PageID.510). Treatment notes dated April 9, 2012, indicate that T.K.H. “is attentive” and “does not exhibit a depressed mood.” (PageID.521). The doctor also noted that T.K.H. was “not anxious. . .not angry. . .not hyperactive. . .[and] does not express impulsivity.” (PageID.521). Treatment notes dated May 25, 2012, indicate that “things are going ok at school” for T.K.H. (PageID.313).

         Treatment notes dated June 12, 2012, indicate that T.K.H. was “doing well” with no evidence of behavioral problems. (PageID.544). Treatment notes dated August 17, 2012, indicate that T.K.H. was “doing well.” (PageID.566). Treatment notes dated September 17, 2012, indicate that T.K.H. was “doing well at school as far as behavior.” (PageID.576). Treatment notes dated January 15, 2013, indicate that T.K.H. was doing “much better” on a modified ...


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