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Corinne Roberts, O/B/O C.R., A Minor v. Michael J. Astrue

September 12, 2011

CORINNE ROBERTS, O/B/O C.R., A MINOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, United States District Judge:

: MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Corinne*fn1 Roberts filed an application on behalf of her thirteen-year-old son, C.R., for supplemental security income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act (the "Act") on August 17, 2005. By a decision dated June 26, 2008, Administrative Law Judge Hazel C. Strauss ("ALJ"), concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. On June 4, 2009, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Plaintiff filed the instant action seeking judicial review of the denial of benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). The Commissioner now moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(c),

seeking affirmation of the denial of benefits because the ALJ properly determined C.R. was not entitled to SSI benefits. Plaintiff cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings, seeking reversal of the Commissioner's decision, or alternatively, remand. For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted and Plaintiff's cross-motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

I. Non-medical and Testimonial Evidence

A. Questionnaires and Written Reports

On August 17, 2005, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on behalf of her son, C.R., who was born on April 17, 1992. (See Administrative Record ("R.") 127.) C.R. had been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, type 1*fn2 in November 1999. (R. 138.) As part of her application, Plaintiff completed a function report (Form SSA-3379-BK) and indicated that C.R. was limited in his ability to play sports because, as a result of his diabetes, his blood sugar level dropped with an increase in physical activity. (R. 127, 130.) As a result of the drop in C.R.'s blood sugar level, C.R. would have to stop playing and eat something right away to increase his blood sugar. (R. 130-32.) Plaintiff indicated that she administered the necessary medication and that C.R. did not want other students to know about his diabetes. (R. 133.) However, Plaintiff indicated that C.R.'s diabetes did not negatively affect or limit his attention span, his ability to care for his personal needs and safety, or his ability to understand and apply what he had learned in school.

(R. 132-34.) Plaintiff also indicated that C.R. had friends his own age and generally got along with his brother, his classmates and his school teachers. (R. 131.)

B. Testimonial Evidence

Plaintiff and C.R. both testified at a hearing held before the ALJ on November 13, 2007, at which Plaintiff's counsel was also present. (R. 31.) Plaintiff and C.R. testified that they considered C.R.'s diabetes debilitative because his blood sugar level would drop and he would become tired and dizzy when he participated in physical activity. (R. 35, 63.) C.R. admitted to participating in soccer during gym class because he did not have to exert as much energy as when he exclusively played in the goalie position. (R. 64, 69-70.)

Plaintiff and C.R. further testified that almost every day when C.R. would come home from school, he would need to rest for one to two hours because he felt tired. (R. 41.) Plaintiff would then provide him with a snack or orange juice, which would bring his blood sugar levels back up. (R. 41, 66-67.) C.R. monitored his blood sugar level four times a day and was injected with insulin three times a day. (R. 43.) Although Plaintiff and C.R. testified that C.R. would not take any insulin while at school, he did check his blood sugar level in the school nurse's office, where his glucometer was stored, and Plaintiff was able to record these readings in a log that she maintained. (R. 44, 48-50, 61-62; see also R. 235-50.) However, Plaintiff admitted that she had been notified by the school that C.R. had not been compliant with his monitoring regimen. (R. 38.)

Plaintiff stated that C.R. had low blood sugar levels at least twice a week and that these readings were accompanied by complaints of fatigue, blurry eyes and sweating. (R. 55-56.) C.R. testified that he felt symptoms such as hunger and pain in his eyes whenever his blood sugar level dropped too low, which generally occurred three to four times a month. (R. 68-69.) Plaintiff and C.R. testified that C.R.'s blood sugar level generally dropped to the thirties and forties on these occasions, (R. 55, 68), and had dropped as low as twenty-two on one occasion, (R. 47). Plaintiff further testified that she believed that C.R.'s condition had recently "gotten worse" because his blood sugar levels had been persistently low. (R. 57.) Plaintiff was also concerned that C.R.'s sugar levels could be low without manifesting any symptoms. (R. 43.)

C.R. also testified that, during the weekends, unlike during the week, he did not have to take these naps, and usually spent his time playing video games, or going to the movies and shopping mall with his father and brother. (R. 70-72.) On these occasions, C.R. would take public transportation. (R. 71-72.) C.R. also stated that he completed some household chores, including washing dishes, taking out garbage and cleaning his room. (R. 72.)

Academically, C.R. performed well in some areas, but not as well in other areas, such as earth science, which he failed one term due to missed homework assignments. (R. 38-39.) Plaintiff testified that C.R. missed some homework assignments because he was either absent or not feeling well, but both Plaintiff and C.R. reported that he had no behavioral problems in school and was able to care for his personal needs. (R. 39-40, 63.) While Plaintiff admitted that the doctors did not restrict his physical activities and only limited C.R.'s diet, she reported that C.R.'s doctors nonetheless were concerned that C.R. was experiencing hypoglycemia without warning symptoms. (R. 37, 43, 46.) Plaintiff and C.R. also stated that C.R. was uncomfortable with his diabetes and did not want any of his classmates or peers to know about his condition. (R. 35-37, 63).

II. Medical Evidence

Several doctors submitted reports in the administrative action, including Dr. Habibollah Nazarian, C.R's primary care physician, Dr. Graeme Frank, a pediatric endocrinologist, and Dr. Dimpna San Jose-Santos, a New York state agency pediatrician. The record indicates that Dr. Nazarian had been treating C.R. since at least August 1999. (R. 138, 152.) Dr. Nazarian referred C.R. to Dr. Frank some time prior to January 2005. (R. 204.) On November 4, 2005, Dr. San Jose-Santos completed a ...


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