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CAMPOS v. BARNHART

May 27, 2003

MARIA CAMPOS O/B/O MARIO CRUZ, PLAINTIFF, AGAINST JO ANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shira Scheindlin, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Maria Campos ("Plaintiff" or "Campos") brings this action on behalf of her minor child Mario Cruz pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g). Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner") denying her son's claim for supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits based on disability under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 1381-85. Plaintiff has moved for judgment on the pleadings and, in the alternative, seeks reversal of the Commissioner's decision and a remand for further administrative proceedings. The Commissioner opposes Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings but supports the motion for an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding the case for further administrative proceedings. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is reversed and the case is remanded solely for the calculation of benefits.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural Background

Campos filed an application for SSI benefits on behalf of her minor son, Mario Cruz ("Mario"), on March 8, 1995. Transcript ("Tr.") at 30.*fn1 The application for benefits was denied on July 6, 1995. See id. at 36-38. Plaintiff requested reconsideration on September 20, 1995, which was denied on December 14, 1995. See Id. at 41-44. On September 18, 1997, at Campos' request, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Robin J. Artz (the "ALJ") See Id. at 393-450.

At the hearing, Plaintiff's attorney requested an adjournment in order to provide a more complete medical record. See Id. at 396. The ALJ denied Plaintiff's request, but indicated that the record would remain open after the hearing for the submission of additional evidence. See Id. at 396, 407. Plaintiff also requested that testimony from a counselor and Mario's most recent teacher, as well as his school records regarding two suspensions, be subpoenaed. See Id. at 402-04. The ALJ denied Plaintiff's request, but later accepted a written closing statement with additional test results and medical evaluations. See id. at 355-92, 449-50.

On September 23, 1998, the ALJ concluded that Mario was not disabled and therefore not entitled to benefits. See id. at 27. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on September 7, 2001, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's decision. See id. at 4-6.

B. Factual Background

1. Evidence of Mario's Impairments

On May 30, 1995, Dr. Jose N. Arcaya evaluated Mario, who was then seven years old, and determined that he demonstrated weak vocabulary skills and was limited in his ability to handle geometrical patterns and symbols. See id. at 136. Dr. Arcaya's report stated that Mario "seemed unknowing of many basic aspects of his ordinary existence, including his birth date, telephone number and place of birth." Id. He concluded that Mario was "a markedly maladjusted boy, whose problematical behaviors probably manifest themselves whenever he is in a structured and regimented environment." Id. at 137. At the time of Dr. Arcaya's evaluation, Mario obtained a score of 73 on a full scale Intelligence Quotient ("I.Q.") test. See id. at 136.

A report from the George L. Cooke School ("Cooke School"), dated October 13, 1995, indicated that Mario was unable to function at a second grade level in reading or basic mathematical skills. See id. at 75-76. In November of 1995, Mario's tutor indicated that he functioned at a kindergarten level. See id. at 251. At this time, Mario scored 79 on a full scale I.Q. test ("borderline range") and in the sixteenth percentile on the Beery Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration ("low average range"). See id. at 236. On January 2, 1996, after classifying Mario as learning disabled, the Board of Education moved Mario from a regular class at the Cooke School to an Individualized Education Program. See id. at 150.

On October 4, 1996, Dr. Sally Nason, a school psychologist, evaluated Mario. See id. at 271-75. Dr. Nason noted that Mario was "somewhat tense and reticent to the testing situation" but later became "more confident." Id. at 271. She described him as cooperative and that he "shifted easily from one task to the next." Id. Dr. Nason noted that he obtained a deficient scaled score on an English vocabulary test, but that he had a "significantly higher breadth of vocabulary in Spanish." Id. She also noted that Mario's attention span was average. See id. at 274.

On October 18, 1996, Mario was evaluated by Maximo Hernandez, a bilingual educational evaluator. See id. at 277-79. He reported that Mario "respect[ed] his teachers and authority figures in school" and that he "gets along well with peers." Id. at 277. Hernandez's report described Mario's language skills as meeting his grade level and his speech skills as adequate for social communication. See id. at 278-79.

Mario was seen by Dr. Vallescorto, a school psychologist, in July 1997. Dr. Vallescorto reported that Mario was friendly, although "timid and shy." Id. at 200. He "cooperated with the evaluation, attempted to follow all testing [procedures] and put forth his best effort to succeed." Id. Mario often "understood instructions without [the] need for repetition or rephras[ing]." Id.

Later that year, on the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement ("KTEA"), Mario performed at a 1.2 grade equivalency in mathematics. See id. at 279. In August of 1997, Mario performed at a 1.0 grade equivalency in English on the Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery, see id. at 211, and at a 1.0 equivalency in mathematics on the KTEA. See id. at 206.

On September 10, 1997, Mario was evaluated by Arlene Donar, a bilingual speech-language pathologist. See id. at 188-92. Mario was "cooperative and compliant" and his ability "to focus on stimulus materials was adequate for testing." Id. at 189. Ms. Donar reported that Mario demonstrated moderate delays in both English and Spanish language skills and significant difficulties ...


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