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Mitchell v. Berryhill

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

March 27, 2017

LORI MITCHELL, as Guardian for Juvenile Claimant
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, [1] ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY

          MEMORANDUM

          KEVIN H. SHARP, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (Docket No. 17). For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED.

         INTRODUCTION

         This is a civil action for judicial review of the Social Security Administration's denial of benefits to the Juvenile Claimant (“Claimant”), represented in this action by his grandmother, Lori Mitchell. On February 24, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income on behalf of Claimant alleging that the onset date for Claimant's disability was January 1, 2007. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied the application, and Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing. An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on November 5, 2012, at which Claimant and his grandmother testified. In a report dated December 14, 2012, the ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled under the Social Security Act. Administrative Record (“AR”), found at Docket No. 15 p. 26.[2]

         ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING

         At the hearing, Claimant testified that he was in fifth grade and that he was doing “good” in school. AR, p. 35. He stated that he liked his teachers “kind of” and that he was making good grades. Id. Claimant testified that he was “kind of” able to read and that he read stories by himself. Id. He testified that he lived with his grandmother and with his mom and dad. AR, p. 36.

         Ms. Mitchell, Claimant's grandmother, testified that she has raised or is raising all nine children of Claimant's mother. AR, p. 38. She stated that Claimant had tried to set their house on fire twice; would cut other kids' papers and their clothes; had to be monitored going to the bathroom; was “wetting” on people; and told her that sometimes a “voice” comes to him. AR, p.37. She stated that Claimant was on about four or five different medicines and in special education at school. Id.

         Ms. Mitchell testified that Claimant is always talking about killing himself or hurting one of his siblings when he gets mad. AR, p. 39. Ms. Mitchell stated that Claimant does not really care for playing with kids; he likes to be by himself. Id. Claimant rides the Special Education bus to and from school because of his misbehavior on the regular bus. Id. She testified that she has to walk Claimant to and from the bus stop because, if she does not, he will run around and get lost. AR, p. 40.

         Ms. Mitchell also testified that she had received calls from Claimant's school about his misbehavior and that Claimant has struggled with his work and receives extra help at school through an Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”). AR, pp. 40-41. She stated that when he has his medicine, Claimant is calm; but if he does not get his medicine, the teachers see a difference in the way he acts at school. AR, p. 41. She testified that they were going to change Claimant's medications again soon because they were not working. AR, pp. 41-42.

         THE THREE-STEP INQUIRY

         Defendant uses a three-step process to determine if a child applicant is disabled and entitled to benefits: (1) if the child is engaged in substantial gainful activity, the child is not disabled; (2) if the child does not have a severe medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments, the child is not disabled; and (3) if the child's impairment(s) do not meet, medically equal, or functionally equal the listings, the child is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924.

         At the third step, an impairment functionally equals a listing if it results in “marked” limitations in two domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). The regulations identify six domains of functioning to be considered: (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).

         A claimant has a “marked” limitation if the claimant's impairments seriously interfere with the claimant's ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(e)(2)(i). A “marked” limitation is more severe than “moderate” and less severe than “extreme.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(e)(2)(i). An impairment causes an “extreme” limitation when it interferes very seriously with the claimant's ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(e)(3)(i). In determining the effect of an impairment on the six domains, the Commissioner considers information from medical sources, parents and teachers, and consultative examiners. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(3).

         ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         The ALJ in this case made the following findings:

1. The claimant was born on August 7, 2002. Therefore, he was a school-aged child on February 24, 1011, the date his application was protectively filed, and is currently a school-aged child.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 24, 2011.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairment: attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments.
5. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that functionally equals the severity of the listings.
6. The claimant has not been disabled, as defined in the Social Security Act, since February 24, 2011, the date the ...

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