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Huff v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

January 15, 2015

VERLONDA HUFF, on behalf of JOSHUA L. HUFF
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

JOHN S. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

This is a civil action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c), to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Social Security Administration ("SSA" or "the Administration") denying plaintiff's application for supplemental security income, as provided under the Social Security Act. The case is currently pending on plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (Docket Entry No. 14), to which defendant has responded (Docket Entry No. 18). Plaintiff has further filed a reply brief. (Docket Entry No. 19) Upon consideration of these papers and the transcript of the administrative record (Docket Entry No. 10), [1] and for the reasons given below, the undersigned recommends that plaintiff's motion for judgment be GRANTED and that the decision of the SSA be REVERSED and the cause REMANDED for further administrative proceedings consistent with this Report.

I. Administrative History and Statement of the Facts

The following recitation is taken from plaintiff's brief, Docket Entry No. 15 at 1-6:

A. Course of Proceedings

Huff was born in 1990. (R. at 61.) With a filing month of November 1996, i.e., when Huff was six years old, Huff's mother Verlonda Huff, [2] applied on his behalf for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382, 1382c, based on childhood disability. (R. at 22, 61.) In April 2007, the Social Security Administration determined at the initial level of administrative adjudication that Huff was disabled because his condition satisfied Listing 112.02. (R. at 22.) When a child on whose behalf SSI is received attains eighteen years of age, the Agency "redetermine[s]" whether the child continues to be disabled under the definition of "disability" for adults. 20 C.F.R. § 416.987 (2012).

In October 2008, Huff was found not disabled when his disability claim was redetermined under the adult "disability" standard. (R. at 28.) In February 2010, Huff was found not disabled under that standard on reconsideration. (R. at 31.) Huff then requested a de novo ALJ hearing. (R. at 40.) On May 24, 2011, Huff appeared with counsel and testified at an administrative hearing before ALJ Ronald E. Miller. (R. at 309-11.) In addition, Gary Sturgill, Ph.D., testified as a vocational expert. (R. at 58-59, 309-11, 316-20.)

On June 9, 2011, the ALJ followed the well-known five-step sequential evaluation to decide that Huff was not disabled on and after October 2, 2008. (R. at 16-21.)... At step two, the ALJ determined that Huff had mild mental retardation as a "severe" impairment. (R. at 16.) 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c) (2012) (step two). At step three, the ALJ concluded that Huff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled the requirements of a Listed impairment. (R. at 17.) 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d) (2012) (step three). After step three but before step four, the ALJ made a residual functional capacity assessment, i.e., a determination of the most that Huff could do despite the total limiting effects of all his impairments. (R. at 18.) 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4) (2012) ("Before we go from step three to step four, we assess your residual functional capacity"); 20 C.F.R. § 416.945 (2012) (defining "residual functional capacity"). According to the ALJ, Huff retained the residual functional capacity to perform a "full range of work at all exertional levels performable by someone with an IQ in the 60s; that is, simple 1 to 2 step jobs." (R. at 18.) At step four, the ALJ determined that Huff did not have past relevant work. (R. at 19.) 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(f) (2012) (step four). The ALJ thus reached step five. (R. at 20.) 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(g) (2012) (step five). At step five, the ALJ relied on Grid Rule 204.00 as a "framework" with vocational expert testimony to decide that Huff was not disabled. (R. at 20-21.) 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 2, § 204.00 (2012). According to the ALJ, Huff could perform three occupations in the specified incidences:

Occupation Tennessee Nation housekeeper 4, 900 260, 000 builder cleaner 2, 600 142, 000 groundskeeper 1, 000 45, 000 (R. at 20.)

On June 5, 2012, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council denied Huff's request for review. (R. at 4.) 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a) (2012). Huff then initiated this civil action. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) (incorporating for SSI claims 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)).

B. Brief Statement of the Relevant Facts

1. Age

Huff was born in 1990. (R. at 61.)

2. Work Experience

Huff has not worked. (R. at 313.)

3. Education and Intelligence

In about April 1998, a school psychologist found, among other things, that Huff had adaptive deficits consistent with mental retardation. (R. at 133-35.) Huff's academic achievement was in the lowest percentile. (R. at 131.)

In December 2002, Agency examining psychologist Dr. Lane administered the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III) and found a Verbal IQ of 56, a Performance IQ of 59, and a Full Scale IQ of 53. (R. at 159.) He also administered the Wide Range Achievement Test 3 Revised, which showed that Huff read and performed math in the lowest percentile. (R. at 160.) Dr. Lane diagnosed moderate mental retardation. (R. at 161.)

In July 2008, Agency examining psychologist Dr. Foley administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third Edition (WAIS-III) and found "reliable" test results, including a Verbal IQ of 68, a Performance IQ of 65, a Full Scale IQ of 64, a Working Memory of 64, and a Processing ...


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