The opinion of the court was delivered by: LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Marilu Barreto, suing on behalf of her minor son,
Angel Rivas ("Angel"), moves for a judgment pursuant to
Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure reversing the
determination of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security that
Angel does not qualify for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI")
under the Social Security Act, and ordering the granting of
benefit payments, or, alternatively, remanding the matter for a
new hearing and decision. Defendant cross-moves for a judgment on
the pleadings affirming her decision.
The Court has considered thoroughly all submissions in
connection with this motion. For the following reasons,
Defendant's determination that Angel is not eligible for SSI is
reversed and Plaintiff's claim is remanded to the Commissioner
for a new hearing and decision.
I. The Legal Standard For Determining Disability Of A Child
The SSI program is a federal program providing benefits to
needy, aged, blind or disabled individuals who meet the statutory requirements.
42 U.S.C.A. § 1381 (West 2003). To qualify for disability benefits,
a child under the age of eighteen must have "a medically
determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in
marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months." 42 U.S.C.A. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i) (West 2003).
To determine whether a child is disabled, the ALJ engages in a
three-step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). First, the ALJ must
consider whether the child is engaged in "substantial gainful
activity." 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b). If the child is so engaged, he
or she will not be awarded SSI benefits. Id. Second, the ALJ
must consider whether the child has a severe impairment.
20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c). A severe impairment is an impairment that is
more than a slight abnormality. Id. Third, if the impairment is
severe, the ALJ must consider whether the impairment meets or is
medically or functionally equal to a disability listed in the
designated "Listing of Impairments." 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c);
see 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 (the "Listing").
In making the third determination whether a child's
impairment meets or equals a listed impairment the ALJ must
consider whether the impairment, alone or in combination with
another impairment, "medically equals, or functionally equals the
listings." Encarnacion v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 78, 84 (2d Cir.
2003). Functional equivalency means that the impairment is of
"listing-level severity; i.e., it must result in `marked'
limitations in two domains of functioning or an `extreme
limitation' in one domain. . . ." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). A
marked limitation is one that interferes seriously with the
child's "ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities." Id. § 416.926a(e)(2)(i). The ALJ considers how a
child functions in his activities "in terms of six domains": "(i)
Acquiring and using information; (ii) Attending and completing
tasks; (iii) Interacting and relating with others; (iv) Moving
about and manipulating objects; (v) Caring for yourself; and,
(vi) Health and physical well-being." Id. 416.926a(b)(1). The
regulations provide that a child must be found to be disabled if
he or she has an impairment or impairments of "listing-level
severity," that is, an "extreme" limitation in one of these
domains, or "marked" limitations in two or more domains.
20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a).
The Claimant, Angel J. Rivas, is a child who, at the time of
his application for benefits, was nine years old, enrolled in
elementary school, and attending regular classes. (Record of
Social Security Proceedings ("R.") at 12.) Angel was initially
diagnosed with asthma when he was eight months old. (R. at 114.)
In February, 2001, Angel was also diagnosed with diabetes. (R. at
181). Angel also suffers from Type I von Willebrand Disease (R.
at 114), a hemorrhagic condition causing frequent nosebleeds.
On February 27, 2001, Marilu Barreto filed an application for
Supplemental Security Income payments based on disability on
behalf of Angel, alleging disability due to asthma. (R. at
62-64.) The claim was denied initially and on reconsideration,
and a request for hearing was timely filed. (R. at 37). A hearing
was held on September 20, 2001. (R. at 20-30.) The claimant and
his mother appeared and testified. The administrative law judge
(the "ALJ") issued a decision denying the claim, concluding that
claimant was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. (R. at 8-18.) The ALJ based his findings upon his analysis of Plaintiff's
testimony at the hearing regarding Angel's impairments and
functional abilities, the medical records submitted by Plaintiff,
the questionnaire submitted by Angel's teacher, and reports of
the state agency medical consultants. (R. at 8-18).
The ALJ found that Angel has never engaged in substantial
gainful activity. (R. at 12). The ALJ also found that Angel
suffered from "mild, intermittent asthma that is controlled with
medication," first diagnosed when he was eight months old. (R. at
12, 15). The ALJ further found that Angel was diagnosed with
diabetes on February 21, 2001, but that this impairment did not
reach the degree of disability defined by section 109.08 of the
Listings. (R. at 13). He found that both impairments were
"severe" within the meaning of Social Security Regulations. (R.
The ALJ listed the numerous occasions on which Angel sought
treatment at the Montefiore Medical Center between 1999 and 2001,
along with the medical notes indicating Angel's condition. The
ALJ also found claimant did not have any marked or extreme
limitations in the six domains required to meet functional
equivalence of the Listings. (R. at 15-17). The ALJ also
evaluated Plaintiff Marilu Barreto's testimony and did not find
it "entirely credible in light of the medical evidence cited
above." The ALJ did not explain why Plaintiff's testimony
contradicted the medical evidence, and furthermore failed to
explore several statements made by plaintiff regarding Angel's
The ALJ devoted less than one page of his written decision to a
summary of the evidence, and only one paragraph to his findings.
On the basis of this evidence, the ALJ concluded that Angel's
asthma was a severe impairment but that it did not meet,
medically equal nor functionally equal the impairments listed in Appendix 1.
Accordingly, he found that Angel was not disabled as defined by
the Social Security Act. (R. at 17). On April 12, 2002, the
Social Security Administration's Appeals Council ...