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Stevens v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

November 21, 2008

CONNIE STEVENS O.B.O. T.M.H., PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Connie Stevens, on behalf of her son, T.M.H., alleges that T.M.H. is disabled due to attention disorder, behavior problems, and bipolar disorder, and challenges the denial of benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security. Having reviewed the administrative record, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

II. Procedural History

Plaintiff initially filed an application for supplemental security income ("SSI") on November 12, 2003, alleging disability due to attention disorder, behavior problems, and bipolar disorder. (Tr. at 37-39). This application was denied initially. (Tr. at 25). Plaintiff requested an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") hearing, which was held on December 15, 2004. (Tr. at 29-33). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 24, 2005. (Tr. at 13-23). This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on August 26, 2005. (Tr. at 4-8).

On October 5, 2005, Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of the Commissioner's final determination. The Commissioner then filed an answer and a certified administrative transcript, Stevens filed a brief, and the Commissioner responded.

III. Contentions

Plaintiff contends that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence. She claims that (1) the ALJ erred in deciding that T.M.H.'s impairments did not functionally equal a listed impairment; (2) the ALJ erred in finding that T.M.H.'s impairments did not meet the criteria of Listings 112.04, 112.08, and 112.11; and (3) the ALJ failed to follow the treating physician rule. The Commissioner counters that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.

IV. Facts

The evidence in this case is undisputed and the court adopts the parties' factual recitations. Pl.'s Br. at 2-15; Def.'s Br. at 2-10.

V. Discussion

A. Standard and Scope of Review

Under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), the proper standard of review for this Court is not to employ a de novo review, but rather to discern whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's findings and that the correct legal standards have been applied. See Rivera v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 964, 967 (2d Cir. 1991); Urtz v. Callahan, 965 F. Supp. 324, 325-26 (N.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing, inter alia, Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985 (2d Cir. 1987)). Succinctly defined, substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla," it is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consol. Edison Co. of New York v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938).

The ALJ must set forth the crucial factors supporting the decision with sufficient specificity. Ferraris v. Heckler, 728 F.2d 582, 587 (2d Cir. 1984). Where the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the court may not interject its interpretation of the administrative record. Williams ex rel. Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Where the weight of the evidence, however, does not meet the requirement for substantial evidence or a reasonable basis for doubt exists as to whether correct legal principles were applied, the ALJ's decision may not be affirmed. Johnson, 817 F.2d at 986.

B. Standard for Childhood Disability

An individual under the age of eighteen is disabled, and thus eligible for SSI benefits, if he or she has 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. ยง 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). That definitional provision goes on to exclude from coverage any "individual under the age of [eighteen] who engages in substantial gainful ...


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