The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa, United States District Judge.
Ginger E. Hart ("Ginger") was born on February 24, 1984, making her 17
years old now.
Plaintiff claims her daughter is disabled and entitled to benefits
under section 1602 of the Social Security Act, Supplemental Security
Income for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (codified at 42 U.S. Code §
1381a). Plaintiff protectively filed an application for supplemental
security income on October 6, 1996. The application was denied initially
and on reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") and the hearing was held on April 6,
1998. On April 20, 1998, the ALJ found Ginger was not eligible for
supplemental security income.
That decision became the Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals
Council denied plaintiff's request for review on May 19, 2000. Plaintiff
commenced a civil action in this court on July 13, 2000. Oral argument on
plaintiff's and defendant's motions for judgment on the pleadings was held
before the Court on October 18, 2001. In considering the Commissioner's
and plaintiff's motions for judgment on the pleadings, the Court has
carefully considered the pleadings, the entire administrative record, and
the comments of counsel made during oral argument.
A. THE STANDARD OF REVIEW
The issue to be determined by this Court is whether the Commissioner's
conclusions "are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole or are based on an erroneous legal standard." Schaal v. Apfel,
134 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1998). It is well settled that
it is not the function of a reviewing court to
determine de novo whether the claimant is disabled.
Assuming the Secretary [Commissioner] has applied
proper legal principles, judicial review is limited
to an assessment of whether the findings of fact are
supported by substantial evidence; if they are
supported by such evidence, they are conclusive.
Parker v. Harris, 626 F.2d 225, 231 (2d Cir. 1980). Substantial evidence
is defined as "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Id. at 231-32. Where there are gaps in the administrative
record or where the Commissioner has applied an incorrect legal
standard, remand for further development of the record may be
appropriate. Id. at 235. However, where the record provides persuasive
proof of disability and a remand would serve no useful purpose, the Court
may reverse and remand for calculation and payment of benefits. Id.
B. THE STANDARD FOR DETERMINING DISABILITY FOR A CHILD
The Social Security Act's Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") program
is a federal program designed to meet the needs of needy aged, blind, or
disabled individuals who meet certain statutory income and resource
limitations. See 42 U.S. Code § 1381. In 1996 Congress passed the
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act which
established new standards ...