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Ratcliff v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 20, 2017


         SECTION “B”


         Before the Court are petitioner Trenise Ratcliff objections, on behalf of her minor son (“T.W.”) to the Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendation (Rec. Doc. 20). Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson Jr issued Findings and Recommendation (“Findings and Recommendations”) upholding the denial of the petitioner's claim for Supplemental Security Income Benefits (“SSI”) under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. § 402 et seq. (Rec. Docs. 16 and 19).

         For the reasons outlined below, IT IS ORDERED that the Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendation are adopted, overruling objections to same, and this matter is dismissed.


         Ratcliff, on behalf of T.W., filed for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits on October 2, 2013 alleging a disability beginning August 15, 2006. (Rec. Doc. 13-2 at 46). Specifically, Ratcliff alleges T.W. has severe impairments of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”), Borderline Intellectual Functioning (“BIF”) and Depressive Disorder. (Rec. Doc. 13-2 at 49). Ratcliff's claim for SSI benefits was denied on January 10, 2014. (Rec. Doc. 13-2 at 46). The matter was referred to an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) who conducted a hearing on August 29, 2014 and denied the claim. (Rec. Doc. 13-2 at 59). Petitioner filed a timely petition in this Court to review the appeals council denial of her request of the ALJ's decision on September 23, 2013. (Rec. Doc. 13-2 at 46). As noted earlier, the matter is now before us following objections to the Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations.


         The Administrative Law Judge determined T.W. has “some limitations in the ability to function, but those limitations are not severe enough to be considered disabling.” (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 4). The Magistrate Judge found that “substantial evidence supports the ALJ's findings that T.W. has less than marked limitations in the domains of acquiring and using information and attending and completing tasks.” (Rec. Doc. 19 at 23).


         Judicial review of any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is limited to: (1) whether the final decision is supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standard when evaluating evidence. Spellman v. Shala, 1 F.3d 357, 360 (5th Cir. 1993); see also Griego v. Sullivan, 940 F.2d 942, 943 (5th Cir. 1991); Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir. 1991). If substantial evidence supports the commissioner's findings, they are conclusive and must be affirmed. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Spellman, 1 F.3d at 360; Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Selders v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 614, 617 (5th Cir. 1990). Substantial evidence is that which is relevant and sufficient for a reasonable mind to accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Spellman, 1 F.3d at 360; see also Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401.

         This Court may not reweigh the evidence, try the issues de novo or substitute its judgement for the Commissioner's even if the evidence weighs against the Commissioner's decision. Bowling v. Shala, 36 F.3d 431, 434 (5th Cir. 1994); see also Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 452 (5th Cir. 2000). The Commissioner, rather than the court, must resolve the conflicts in the evidence. Id. Nevertheless, this Court must scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the reasonableness of the decision and whether substantial evidence exists to support it. Johnson v. Bowen, 864 F.2d 340, 343-44 (5th Cir. 1988); see also Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1990).


         Petitioner requests rejection of the Findings and Recommendation and seeks remand “to SSA for further action.” (Rec. Doc. 20-1 at 7). Four objections are raised. First, T.W.'s depressive disorder caused several incidents at school, markedly diminished his interest or pleasure in almost all activities, decreased appetite, caused psychomotor agitation, and caused difficulty concentrating. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 20). Second, the screen information shows T.W. needs improvement in the areas of listening attentively, completing tasks in a reasonable time, working well independently, and completing homework. (Rec. Doc. 20-1). Third, T.W.'s difficulties in cognitive activities are well-documented because T.W.'s teacher stated he has difficulty in writing, social studies, and science. In addition, T.W. exhibits a marked cognitive impairment when compared to his same-aged peers. (Rec. Doc. 20-1). Lastly, Petitioner argues T.W. experiences marked or extreme limitations in acquiring and using information. Id.

         Disability Determination Process

         In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (“The Act”) that stated “an individual under the age of 18 shall be considered disabled if that individual has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which results in marked and severe functional limitations.” Personal ...

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