United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
BRIANNA A. DOTSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Brown United States Magistrate Judge
Honorable Aleta A. Trauger, United States District Judge.
action was brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1383(c) for judicial review of the final decision of the
Social Security Administration (SSA) through its
Commissioner, denying plaintiff's applications for
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act (the Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381
et seq. For the reasons explained below, the
undersigned RECOMMENDS that plaintiff's motion for
judgment on the administrative record (Doc. 13) be DENIED,
and the Commissioner's decision AFFIRMED.
application for SSI was filed on November 15, 2010 on
plaintiff's behalf, a child under 18 years of age at the
time, alleging a disability onset date of October 6, 2010,
subsequently amended to May 20, 2009 (Doc. 9, p. 78).
Plaintiff alleged disability due to attention deficit,
hyperactivity disorder, depression, speech and emotional
difficulties. (Doc. 9, pp. 148, 153, 166, 251, 295, 363) The
claim was denied initially on May 3, 2011, and upon
reconsideration on August 25, 2011. Plaintiff requested a
hearing on August 31, 2011, which was held before ALJ
Michelle Thompson on August 13, 2012 in Nashville (the first
hearing). Plaintiff's mother appeared and testified at
the first hearing without benefit of counsel.
entered an unfavorable decision on August 17, 2012 (Doc. 9,
pp. 120-39) (the first decision), after which plaintiff filed
a request with the Appeals Council on November 16, 2012 to
review ALJ Thompson's decision (Doc. 9, pp. 90-92). The
Appeals Council vacated the hearing decision, and remanded
the case to ALJ Thompson with instructions to: 1) evaluate
and weigh the medical opinions of Dorothy Lambert, Ph.D., Ken
Owen, M.S., and to consider plaintiff's low Global
Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores and other related
evidence; 2) evaluate evidence of verbal aggression and
noncompliance; 3) consider the opinions of treating and
nontreating source opinions and explain the weight given to
those opinions; 4) update the evidentiary record with any
existing medical and education records. (Doc. 9, p. 140-42)
Thompson held a second hearing on August 22, 2014, also in
Nashville. Plaintiff was represented by attorney William
Benjamin at the hearing. Plaintiff's mother once again
appeared and testified. ALJ Thompson entered an unfavorable
decision on November 14, 2014. (Doc. 9, pp. 17-45)
Thereafter, counsel filed a request for the Appeals Council
to review ALJ Thompson's second unfavorable decision on
November 24, 2014 (Doc. 9, p. 15), and a supporting brief on
January 16, 2015. (Doc. 9, pp. 539-41) The Appeals Council
denied plaintiff's request for review on March 31, 2016.
(Doc. 9, pp. 1-6)
brought this action through counsel on May 26, 2016 (Doc. 1),
following which she filed a motion for judgment on the
administrative record on October 17, 2016 (Doc.
The Commissioner responded in opposition on November 16, 2016
Doc. 16), and plaintiff replied on November 28, 2016 (Doc.
19). This matter is now properly before the court.
medical and other evidence in the record, as well as the
transcript of both hearings, are incorporated herein by
reference. The evidence and hearing testimony will be
addressed in the analysis below to the extent that it is
relevant to the issues.
The ALJ's Notice of Decision
under the age of eighteen seeking SSI benefits will be
considered disabled if she has a “medically
determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in
marked and severe functional limitations.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). Childhood disability claims involve
a three-step process evaluating whether the child claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924. First, the ALJ must
determine whether the child claimant is working. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.924(b); Elam v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir. 2003). If not, at step
two, the ALJ must decide whether the child claimant has a
severe mental or physical impairment. 20 C.F.R. §
416.924(c); Elam, 348 F.3d at 125. Third, the ALJ
must consider whether the claimant's impairment(s) meets
or equals a listing under 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d); Elam, 348
F.3d at 125. The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff to
prove that she is disabled. Lowery v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 55 Fed.Appx. 333, 337-38 (6th Cir.
2003); Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d 348, 354
(6th Cir. 2001)(citing Casey v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1232-33
(6th Cir. 1993)).
Standard of Review
district court's review of the Commissioner's final
decision is limited to determining whether the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence in the record, and whether the decision was made
pursuant to proper legal standards. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Gayheart v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 710 F.3d 365,
374 (6th Cir. 2014). Substantial evidence is less
than a preponderance but more than a scintilla; it refers to
relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); see Gentry v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 741 F.3d 708, 722
(6th Cir. 2003). The Commissioner's decision
must stand if substantial evidence supports the conclusion
reached, even if the evidence supports a different
conclusion. Gayheart, 710 F.3d at 374.
Claims of Error1. Whether the ALJ Erred in
Not According ProperWeight to the Opinion
of PsychiatristDr. Lynna ...