United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
G. Edmunds United States District Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (Dkts. 12, 13)
STEPHANIE DAWKINS DAVIS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Proceedings in this Court
August 6, 2018, plaintiff, who is the father of D.A., a minor
child, filed the instant suit. (Dkt. 1). Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.1(b)(3),
District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds referred this matter to the
undersigned for the purpose of reviewing the
Commissioner's unfavorable decision denying
plaintiff's claim for supplemental security income
childhood disability benefits. (Dkt. 3). This matter is
currently before the Court on cross-motions for summary
judgment. (Dkt. 12, 13).
filed an application for supplemental security income
childhood disability benefits on January 28, 2016, on behalf
of his minor child, D.A., alleging disability beginning on
July 8, 2011. (Tr. 15). The claim was initially disapproved by
the Commissioner on June 10, 2016. Plaintiff requested a
hearing and on May 25, 2017, plaintiff and D.A. appeared,
with counsel, before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Therese Tobin, who considered the case
de novo. (Tr. 31-52). In a decision dated November
7, 2017, the ALJ found that D.A. was not disabled. (Tr.
12-27). Plaintiff requested a review of this decision, and
the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner when the Appeals Council, on June 11, 2018,
denied plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-6);
Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541,
543-44 (6th Cir. 2004).
reasons set forth below, the undersigned
RECOMMENDS that plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment be DENIED, that
defendant's motion for summary judgment be
GRANTED, and that the findings of the
Commissioner be AFFIRMED.
claimant, D.A., born July 8, 2011, was a preschooler on
November 28, 2016, the date the application was filed, and
was a school-age child on the date of the decision. (Tr. 18).
The claim for disability on D.A.'s behalf is based on an
intellectual disorder, a speech and language delay,
autism-spectrum disorder, and asthma. (Tr. 18).
I of the three-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ
found that D.A. has never engaged in substantial gainful
activity. (Tr. 18). At Step II, the ALJ found that D.A. has
an intellectual disorder, a speech and language delay,
autism-spectrum disorder, and asthma, which she found to be
severe impairments that caused more than minimal functional
limitations. Id. At Step III, the ALJ found that
D.A. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments
that met or medically equaled the Listings or that
functionally equaled the Listings. (Tr. 18-27). In denying
the claim, the ALJ found that D.A. did not meet or equal
Listing 112.05 (Intellectual Disability) or 112.10 (Autism
Spectrum Disorder). (Tr. 18). The ALJ went on to evaluate
D.A.'s degree of limitation in each of the six functional
equivalence domains and concluded that he had a
“marked” limitation in the domain of acquiring or
using information, but no marked or extreme limitations in
the other five broad functional domains and thus did not
functionally equal a listed impairment. (Tr. 19-27). The ALJ
thus determined that D.A. was not disabled from November 28,
2016, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 27).
Standard of Review
enacting the social security system, Congress created a
two-tiered system in which the administrative agency handles
claims, and the judiciary merely reviews the agency
determination for exceeding statutory authority or for being
arbitrary and capricious. Sullivan v. Zebley, 493
U.S. 521 (1990). The administrative process itself is
multifaceted in that a state agency makes an initial
determination that can be appealed first to the agency
itself, then to an ALJ, and finally to the Appeals Council.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137 (1987). If a claimant
finds no relief during this administrative review process,
the claimant may file an action in federal district court.
Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 537 (6th Cir.1986).
Court has original jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review is limited in that
the 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); Walters v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). In
deciding whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
decision, “we do not try the case de novo, resolve
conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of
credibility.” Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506,
509 (6th Cir. 2007); Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d
383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). “It is of course for the ALJ,
and not the reviewing court, to evaluate the credibility of
witnesses, including that of the claimant.” Rogers
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 247 (6th Cir.
2007); Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d
469, 475 (6th Cir. 2003) (an “ALJ is not required to
accept a claimant's subjective complaints and may . . .
consider the credibility of a claimant when making a
determination of disability.”); Walters, 127
F.3d at 531 (“Discounting credibility to a certain
degree is appropriate where an ALJ finds contradictions among
medical reports, claimant's testimony, and other
evidence.”). “However, the ALJ is not free to
make credibility determinations based solely upon an
‘intangible or intuitive notion about an
individual's credibility.'” Rogers,
486 F.3d at 247, quoting Soc. Sec. Rul. 96-7p, 1996 WL
supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's
findings of fact are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Therefore, this Court may not reverse the Commissioner's
decision merely because it disagrees or because “there
exists in the record substantial evidence to support a
different conclusion.” McClanahan v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006); Mullen
v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (en
banc). 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.” Rogers, 486
F.3d at 241; Jones, 336 F.3d at 475. “The
substantial evidence standard presupposes that there is a
‘zone of choice' within which the Commissioner may
proceed without interference from the courts.”
Felisky v. Bowen, 35 F.3d 1027, 1035 (6th Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted) (citing Mullen, 800 F.2d at
scope of this Court's review is limited to an examination
of the record only. Bass, 499 F.3d at 512-13;
Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d 348, 357 (6th Cir. 2001).
When reviewing the Commissioner's factual findings for
substantial evidence, a reviewing court must consider the
evidence in the record as a whole, including evidence which
might subtract from its weight. Wyatt v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir.
1992). “Both the court of appeals and the district
court may look to any evidence in the record, regardless of
whether it has been cited by the Appeals Council.”
Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 535
(6th Cir. 2001). There is no requirement, however, that
either the ALJ or the reviewing court discuss every piece of
evidence in the administrative record. Kornecky v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 167 Fed.Appx. 496, 508 (6th
Cir. 2006) (“[a]n ALJ can consider all the evidence
without directly addressing in his written decision every
piece of evidence submitted by a party.”) (internal
citation marks omitted); see also Van Der Maas v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 198 Fed.Appx. 521, 526 (6th
Legal Standards - Eligibility for SSI Childhood
will be considered disabled if he has a “medically
determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in
marked and severe functional limitations.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(C)(I). To determine whether a child's
impairments result in marked and severe limitations, Social
Security Administration (SSA) regulations prescribe a
three-step sequential evaluation process:
1. A child will be found “not disabled” if he
engages in substantial gainful activity.
2. A child will be found “not disabled” if he
does not have a severe impairment or combination of
3. A child will be found “disabled” if he has an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets,
medically equals, or functionally equals an impairment listed
in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. 20 C.F.R. §
determine whether a child's impairment functionally
equals the listings, the SSA will assess the functional
limitations caused by the child's impairment. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(a). ...