Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Smith v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 12, 2018

KENNETH SMITH, o.b.o. S.K.W., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          HON. ROBERT J. JONKER

          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 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 administrative action.

         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 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).

         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 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 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).

         ANALYSIS OF THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Federal 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. § 416.924.

         In the 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.

         After 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).

         To 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[1] in two domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation[2] 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).

         The ALJ 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, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.