United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
SALLY SHUSHAN, Magistrate Judge.
The plaintiff, Michelle Palmore on behalf of her minor child, I.P., seeks judicial review, pursuant to Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner") denying her claim for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3).
On January 31, 2012, Michelle Palmore ("Ms. Palmore"), submitted an application for SSI benefits on behalf of her minor son, I.P., who was born in 2005. He did not have private, group or government health insurance. R. 94-95. The onset date was January 1, 2009, with the disabling conditions were attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), speech and language delays, soils himself, and dyslexia. R. 111. On May 11, 2012, the application was denied. R. 55-58.
On March 13, 2013, there was a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Ms. Palmore and her son were present. R. 30-31. She proceeded without representation. R. 34-36 and 90. On March 27, 2013, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. 10-29. She requested review of the decision. R. 6-7. On August 6, 2013, counsel appeared for them. R. 5. On March 27, 2014, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. R. 1-4.
On May 30, 2014, Ms. Palmore filed a complaint for review of the Commissioner's decision. Rec. doc. 1. The Commissioner filed an answer and the administrative record. Rec. docs. 13 and 14. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Rec. docs. 15 and 17.
STATEMENT OF ISSUES ON APPEAL
Issue No. 1. Did the ALJ give appropriate weight to the opinion of the treating physicians?
Issue No. 2. Was there substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's decision?
THE COMMISSIONER'S FINDINGS
The ALJ made the following findings:
1. I.P. was born in 2005. He was a school-age child on January 27, 2012, the date the application was filed, and was a school-age child at the time of the decision (20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(g)(2)).
2. I.P. had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 27, 2012, the application date (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.924(b) and 416.971 et seq.).
3. I.P. had the following severe impairments: ADHD and speech and language delays (20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c); Stone v. Heckler, 752 F.2d 1099 (5th Cir. 1985)).
4. I.P. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.924, 416.925 and 416.926).
5. I.P. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that functionally equaled the severity of the listings (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.924(d) and 416.926a).
6. I.P. had not been disabled, as defined in the Act, since January 27, 2012, the date the application was filed (20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a)).
a. Standard of Review.
The function of this court on judicial review is limited to determining whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the final decision of the Commissioner as trier of fact and whether the Commissioner applied the appropriate legal standards in evaluating the evidence. Perez v. Barnhart, 415 F.3d 457, 461 (5th Cir. 2005); Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 452 (5th Cir. 2000). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427 (1971); Perez, 415 F.3d at 461. Alternatively, substantial evidence may be described as that quantum of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Carey v. Apfel, 230 F.3d 131, 135 (5th Cir. 2000). This court may not re-weigh the evidence, try the issues de novo or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's. Perez, 415 F.3d at 461; Selders v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 614, 617 (5th Cir. 1990).
The administrative law judge is entitled to make any finding that is supported by substantial evidence, regardless of whether other conclusions are also permissible. See Arkansas v. Oklahoma, 503 U.S. 91, 113, 112 S.Ct. 1046, 1060 (1992). Despite this court's limited function, it must scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the reasonableness of the decision reached and whether substantial evidence exists to support it. Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1990); Johnson v. Bowen, 864 F.2d 340, 343-44 (5th Cir. 1988). Any findings of fact by the Commissioner that are supported by substantial evidence are conclusive. Ripley v. Chater, 67 F.3d 552, 555 (5th Cir. 1995).
The issue is whether the claimant is "disabled" under the definition found in 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C) which states:
An individual under the age of 18 shall be considered disabled for the purposes of this subchapter if that individual 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.
Id. The regulations thereunder mandate the following three step analysis:
We follow a set order to determine whether you are disabled. [Step One] If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will determine that you are not disabled and not review your claim further. [Step Two] If you are not doing substantial gainful activity, we will consider your physical or mental impairment(s) first to see if you have an impairment or combination of impairments that is severe. If your impairment(s) is not severe, we will determine that you are not disabled and not review your claim further. [Step Three] If your impairment(s) is severe, we will review your claim further to see if you have an impairment(s) that meets, medically equals, or functionally equals in severity any impairment that is listed in appendix 1 of subpart P of part 404 of this chapter. If you have such an impairment(s), and it meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are disabled. If you do not have such an impairment(s), or if it does not meet the duration requirement, we will find that you are not disabled.
20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). If a claimant's impairment does not meet or medically equal in severity a listed impairment, the Commissioner considers how the child functions in terms of six domains: (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and manipulating objects; (5) caring for yourself; and (6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1). There will be a finding of functional equivalence if there are marked limitations in two of the domains, or an extreme limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(d). A "marked" limitation in a domain is when an impairment interferes seriously with the child's ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete ...