United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
KENNETH SMITH, o.b.o. S.K.W., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ROBERT J. JONKER
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. CARMODY U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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 his daughter 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
vacated and this matter remanded for further
Court's jurisdiction is confined to a review of the
Commissioner's decision and of the record made in the
administrative hearing process. See Will banks 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).
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 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).
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.
daughter (S.K.W.) was born on October 10, 2003. (PageID.162).
On September 27, 2013, Plaintiff submitted an application for
disability benefits, asserting that his daughter has been
disabled since September 1, 2010, due to a learning
disability and memory loss. (PageID.162-67, 251).
Plaintiff's application was denied, after which time he
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
(PageID.101-59). On May 14, 2015, ALJ Christopher Helms
conducted an administrative hearing at which Plaintiff and
S.K.W. testified. (PageID.69-99). In a written decision dated
August 12, 2015, the ALJ determined that S.K.W. was not
disabled. (PageID.55-65). The Appeals Council declined to
review this determination, rendering it the
Commissioner's final decision in the matter.
(PageID.43-47). Plaintiff subsequently initiated this appeal
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
law provides that an “individual under the age of
18” will be considered disabled if she “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). To determine whether a child satisfies
this standard, the Commissioner must evaluate the claim
pursuant to a three-step sequential process. 20 C.F.R. §
first step, if the ALJ determines that the child is engaged
in substantial gainful activity she cannot be found to be
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b); Elam v.
Commissioner of Social Security, 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. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d); Elam,
348 F.3d at 125.
noting that S.K.W. was not engaged in substantial gainful
activity, the ALJ proceeded to the second step of the
analysis, finding that S.K.W. suffered from a learning
disorder which constituted a severe impairment. (PageID.58).
At the third step of the analysis, the ALJ concluded that
S.K.W.'s impairments do not, individually or in
combination, meet or medically equal any impairment
identified in the Listing of Impairments detailed in 20
C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (PageID.58). The ALJ
further determined that S.K.W.'s impairments do not
functionally equal in severity any impairment identified in
the Listing of Impairments. (PageID.59-65).
determine whether a child claimant suffers from an impairment
which is the functional equivalent of a listed impairment,
the ALJ must evaluate how the child functions 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 objects,
(v) caring for yourself, and
(vi) health and physical well-being.
20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1).
found that S.K.W. experienced less than marked limitation in
domains (i)-(iii) and no limitation in domains (iv)-(vi).
(PageID.59-65). Accordingly, ...