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Marshall v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 19, 2019

QUIANA K. MARSHALL, ON BEHALF OF HER MINOR CHILD, K.P.
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

         SECTION “G” (2)

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOSEPH C. WILKINSON, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Quiana K. Marshall, proceeding pro se on behalf of her minor child, K.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 plaintiff's claim for childhood Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under Title XVI of the Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 402 et seq. This matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.2E(B).

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         K.P. was three years and five months old on November 20, 2014 when his mother applied for SSI on his behalf, alleging a disability onset date of June 22, 2011, due to asthma, speech and attention problems. (Tr. 30, 122, 187, 203, 204, 208). However, “[c]laimants applying to the SSI program may not receive payments for a period predating the month in which they apply for benefits.” Rosetti v. Shalala, 12 F.3d 1216, 1224 n.20 (3d Cir. 1993) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.335); accord Brown v. Apfel, 192 F.3d 492, 495 n.1 (5th Cir. 1999); Wilson v. Colvin, No. 4:15-CV-711, 2017 WL 121056, at *1 n.2 (S.D. Tex. Jan. 11, 2017) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.335; Brown, 192 F.3d at 495 n.1). “Thus, the month following an application . . . fixes the earliest date from which benefits can be paid.” Hector v. Barnhart, 337 F.Supp.2d 905, 910 (S.D. Tex. 2004) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.335; Brown, 192 F.3d at 495 n.1). Marshall must show that K.P. was disabled as of November 20, 2014, when she filed for benefits on his behalf, through May 18, 2017, the date of the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision.

         After her application was denied on September 11, 2015, plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing, which was conducted before an ALJ on January 25, 2017. (Tr. 114-126, 151, 155). The ALJ issued a decision on May 18, 2017, finding that K.P. was not disabled. (Tr. 29-43). After the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on May 31, 2018 (Tr. 1-3), the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of this court's review.

         Plaintiff filed a pro se memorandum of facts and law, Record Doc. No. 16, which she supplemented after being granted leave of court to do so. Record Doc. Nos. 20, 21, 22. The Commissioner filed a reply memorandum of facts and law. Record Doc. No. 19.

         II. STATEMENT OF ISSUES ON APPEAL

         Construing her pleading broadly, plaintiff contends that the ALJ made the following errors:

A. Substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's finding that K.P.'s impairments do not meet or medically equal the listings.
B. Substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's finding that K.P.'s impairments do not functionally equal the severity of the listings.

         III. ALJ'S FINDINGS RELEVANT TO ISSUES ON APPEAL The ALJ made the following relevant findings:

A. K.P. was a preschool child on his application date and a preschool child on the date of the ALJ's decision.
B. He has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 20, 2014, the application date.
C. He has the following severe impairments: attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; speech delay; and asthma.
D. K.P. does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in the Listings.
E. K.P. does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that functionally equals the severity of the Listings.
F. He has not been disabled from November 20, 2014, the date his application was filed, through the date of the ALJ's decision.

(Tr. 33-43).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Standards 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. Waters v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 716, 716 (5th Cir. 2002); Loza v. Apfel, 219 F.3d 378, 389 (5th Cir. 2000); Spellman v. Shalala, 1 F.3d 357, 360 (5th Cir. 1993). 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 (1971); Loza, 219 F.3d at 393; Spellman, 1 F.3d at 360. This court may not “reweigh the evidence in the record, try the issues de novo or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's, even if the evidence weighs against the Commissioner's decision.” Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 452 (5th Cir. 2000). The Commissioner, rather than the courts, must resolve conflicts in the evidence. Id.

         The ALJ is entitled to make any finding that is supported by substantial evidence, regardless whether other conclusions are also permissible. See Arkansas v. Oklahoma, 503 U.S. 91 (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 supports it. Harper v. Barnhart, 176 Fed.Appx. 562, 565 (5th Cir. 2006); 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. Newton, 209 F.3d at 452; Martinez v. Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 173 (5th Cir. 1995).

         To qualify for SSI, a claimant must be “disabled” as defined by the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1)(D). In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (“1996 Act”), which redefined the eligibility standard for children under the SSI disability determination process. This statute applies to all child disability applicants who filed claims on or after August 22, 1996, or whose cases were not finally adjudicated before that date. Id. § 211(d)(1)(A)(I).

         According to the 1996 Act, “[a]n individual under the age of 18 shall be considered disabled for the purposes of this title 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 ...


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