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Watson v. Astrue

August 5, 2008

PATRICK WATSON O/B/O K.L.W. PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Patrick Watson ("Watson"), brings this action on behalf of his minor daughter, K.L.W, ("KLW") seeking reversal of the defendant's final decision denying his application for benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") was not supported by substantial evidence contained in the record, or the applicable law.

By motion dated May 5, 2008, the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") moved for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that the ALJ's decision is supported by the substantial evidence contained in the record. On May 12, 2008, plaintiff cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings seeking to reverse or remand the Commissioner's determination that KLW is not disabled and therefore, not entitled to benefits.

For the reasons set forth below, I find that there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner's finding that KLW is not disabled. Accordingly, I grant defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, deny plaintiff's cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings, and dismiss plaintiff's complaint with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

On January 7, 2004, plaintiff filed an application for Social Security Income benefits on behalf of his school-aged daughter, KLW. (Tr. 45-48). The defendant issued a Notice of Disapproved Claim on March 10, 2004. (Tr. 39-42). On May 14, 2004, plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an ALJ. (Tr. 43-44). Administrative Law Judge Melvin D. Beniz, presiding in Dover, Delaware, conducted a video hearing on June 15, 2006 with the plaintiff, his daughter and their attorney appearing in Rochester, New York. By Decision dated July 28, 2006, the ALJ determined that KLW was not disabled under the Social Security Regulations. (Tr. 10-23). Plaintiff's request for a review by the Appeals Council was denied on June 28, 2007. (Tr. 5-8). Plaintiff then filed this action on August 23, 2007.

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review

42 U.S.C. § 405(g) grants jurisdiction to district courts to hear claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits.

Additionally, the section directs that when considering such a claim, the court must accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that such findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Substantial evidence is defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consolidated Edison Co. v NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938). Section 405(g) thus limits the court's scope of review to determining whether or not the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence. See, Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983) (finding a reviewing court does not try a benefits case de novo).

The court must "scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the reasonableness of the decision reached." Lynn v. Schweiker, 565 F.Supp 265, 267 (S.D. Tex. 1983) (citation omitted). Defendant moves for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that there is substantial evidence in the record to support the determination that KLW is not disabled. Plaintiff cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that the ALJ erred in determining that KLW's impairments do not result in marked limitations in three domains of functioning. Specifically, plaintiff claims that in not finding marked limitations, the ALJ failed to consider the impact that KLW's impairments have on her ability to function in an age appropriate manner, and her inability to function without the support and structure that she presently receives at home and at school.

II. The ALJ's Findings

The Social Security Administration has established a three- step sequential evaluation process to determine whether or not a minor is disabled. 20 C.F.R. 416.924(a). First, the ALJ must determine if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity. If the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the ALJ must then determine whether or not the claimant has a medically determinable "severe" impairment or a combination of impairments that is "severe". If the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments that is severe, the ALJ must then ...


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