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Kilcrease v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Winchester

March 9, 2018

ARTHEA KILCREASE, on behalf of M.L.D.B., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          SUSAN K. LEE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Arthea Kilcrease (“Plaintiff”) brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denying her minor son supplemental security income (“SSI”). Each party has moved for judgment [Docs. 22 & 24] and filed supporting briefs [Docs. 23 & 25]. This matter is now ripe. For the reasons stated below, (1) Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [Doc. 22] will be DENIED; (2) the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment [Doc. 24] will be GRANTED; and the decision of the Commissioner will be AFFIRMED.

         I. ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

         Plaintiff, acting on behalf of her minor son (“Claimant”), filed an application for SSI on December 6, 2012 [Doc. 14 (“Tr.”) at Page ID # 184-200], alleging Claimant's disability began March 22, 2012 (Tr. 12, 126). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration at the agency level. After a hearing was held August 3, 2015, the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) found on December 18, 2015, that Claimant was not under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act (Tr. 12-26). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner (Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff timely filed the instant action [Doc. 1].

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Medical Records

         Claimant was born in 2006, making him a child under age 18 (Tr. 126). In a Child Disability Report, Plaintiff alleged Claimant was disabled due to a developmental disorder, possibly autism (Tr. 149). Plaintiff [Doc. 23 at Page ID # 477-86] and the ALJ (Tr. 15-19) set forth a detailed, factual summary of Claimant's medical record, school record, and the hearing testimony. Defendant generally adopts the facts as set forth by the ALJ [Doc. 25 at Page ID # 503], but includes extensive citation to the record throughout her argument [id. at Page ID # 505-15].

         B. Hearing Testimony

         A video teleconference hearing occurred on August 3, 2015, at which Claimant and Plaintiff testified (Tr. 30-64). The Court has carefully reviewed the transcript of the testimony.

         III. ELIGIBILITY AND THE ALJ'S FINDINGS

         A. Eligibility

         A child will be considered disabled if he has a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C). To determine whether a child's impairments result in marked and severe limitations, Social Security Administration (“SSA”) regulations prescribe a three-part evaluation:

(1) A child will be found “not disabled” if he engages in substantial gainful activity.
(2) A child will be found “not disabled” if she does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments.
(3) A child will be found “disabled” if she has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets, medically equals, or functionally equals an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a)-(d).

         To determine whether a child's impairments functionally equal a listing, the SSA assesses the functional limitations caused by the child's impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). To do so, the SSA considers how a child functions in six domains:

(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). If a child's impairments result in “marked” limitations in two domains, or an “extreme” limitation in one domain, the impairment functionally equals the listings, and the child is considered disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(d). The SSA will find a “marked” limitation in a domain when a child's impairments “interferes seriously” with the child's ability to “independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2). It is the equivalent of the functioning the SSA expects “to find on standardized testing with scores that are at least two, but less than three, standard deviations below the mean.” Id. Extreme limitations interfere “very seriously” with the child's ability to “independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(3). It is the equivalent of the functioning the SSA expects “to find on standardized testing with scores that are at least three standard deviations below the mean.” Id.

         B. The ALJ's Findings

         The ALJ found Claimant was a preschooler on the date his application was filed and was a school-age child at the time the ALJ issued his decision; that Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 6, 2012, the date the application was filed[1]; and that Claimant suffered from the following severe impairments: borderline intellectual functioning/developmental delay (“BIF”), and an anxiety-related disorder/post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) (Tr. 15). Next, the ALJ found that Claimant's impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr. 15). The ALJ further found that Claimant's impairments did not functionally equal the listings because Claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that resulted in two marked limitations or one extreme limitation in the applicable domains of functioning (Tr. 16-26). More specifically, the ALJ found that Claimant has marked limitation in the domain of interacting and relating with others, but “less than marked” limitation in the remaining five domains. Therefore, the ALJ found Claimant was not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(C) of the Social Security Act (Tr. 26).

         IV. ...


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