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Tyson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

August 13, 2018

TIFFANY D. TYSON o/b/o B.D.T.
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAREN L. HAYES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is plaintiff's petition for review of the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of disability insurance benefits. The appeal was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for proposed findings of fact and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C). For the reasons assigned below, it is recommended that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED, and this matter DISMISSED with prejudice.

         Background

         On August 26, 2014, Tiffany D. Tyson protectively filed the instant application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on behalf of her minor child, B.D.T. (claimant),[1] who was born in September 2011. (Tr. 61-66). Tyson alleged in her application that S.J.M. had been disabled since August 1, 2014, because of developmental delays. (Tr. 88). The claim was denied at the initial stage of the administrative process. (Tr. 34-45). Thereafter, Tyson requested and received a February 9, 2016, hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 19- 33). By decision dated March 24, 2016, however, the ALJ determined that the claimant was not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 5-16).

         Plaintiff appealed the adverse decision to the Appeals Council. On January 24, 2017, the Appeals Council denied the request for review; thus the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3).

         On March 24, 2017, Tyson sought review before this court. Following submission of the administrative transcript and supporting memoranda, the matter is now before the court.

         Standard of Review

          This court's standard of review is (1) whether substantial evidence of record supports the ALJ's determination, and (2) whether the decision comports with relevant legal standards. Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir. 1990). Where the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the findings therein are conclusive and must be affirmed. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971). The Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence when the decision is reached by applying improper legal standards. Singletary v. Brown, 798 F.2d 818 (5th Cir. 1986). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. While substantial evidence lies somewhere between a scintilla and a preponderance, it contemplates “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Muse v. Sullivan, 925 F.2d 785, 789 (5th Cir. 1991). Conversely, a finding of no substantial evidence is proper when no credible medical findings or evidence support the ALJ's determination. Johnson v. Bowen, 864 F.2d 340, 343-44 (5th Cir. 1988). The reviewing court may not reweigh the evidence, try the issues de novo, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted).

         Law

          On August 22, 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Pub.L. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105, which amended 42 U.S.C. §1382c(a)(3). Pursuant to this law, a child under the age of eighteen is considered disabled for purposes of SSI benefits 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 last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(I) (1997).

         The regulations set forth a three-step sequential evaluation process for a child seeking benefits. First, the ALJ must determine if the child is engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924. If the child is not so engaged, then the ALJ determines whether the child has a medically determinable impairment(s) that is severe. Id. An impairment(s) will not be deemed severe if it constitutes a “slight abnormality or a combination of slight abnormalities that causes no more than minimal functional limitations.” Id. Finally, an impairment(s) that is severe also must meet, medically equal, or functionally equal a listed impairment. Id.

         The Listing of Impairments describes impairments for each major body system that cause marked and severe functional limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.925(a). An impairment(s) meets a listing when it satisfies all of the criteria of that listing, including any relevant criteria in the introduction, and meets the duration requirement. 20 C.F.R. § 416.925(c)(3).

         If an impairment(s) does not meet all of the criteria of a listing, it still can medically equal the criteria of a listing when the claimant has other findings related to the impairment(s) that are at least of equal medical significance to the required criteria. See 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 416.925(c)(5) & 926(b). Medical equivalence may be appropriate in circumstances where the claimant: 1) has an impairment described in the Listing of Impairments, but a) does not exhibit one or more of the findings of the specified listing, or b) exhibits all of the findings, but one or more of the findings is not as severe as specified by the listing; 2) has an impairment(s) that ...


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