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Margaret L. Brummett, O/B/O L.R v. Michael Astrue

February 10, 2012

MARGARET L. BRUMMETT, O/B/O L.R., PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Margaret L. Brummett o/b/o L.R. ("LR"), challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering the arguments, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded.

II. Background

On October 23, 2006, Brummett protectively filed an application for SSI under the Social Security Act ("Act"), alleging disability since May 23, 2006. (Tr.*fn1 at 94-96.) After her application was denied, Brummett requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on February 19, 2009. (Id. at 21.) On April 24, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits, which became the Commissioner's final decision upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review. (Id. at 1-3, 5-7.)

Brummett commenced the present action by filing a complaint on April 1, 2010, seeking review of the Commissioner's determination. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 7-8.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 13.)

III. Contentions

Brummett contends that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence and was arrived at through the application of incorrect legal standards. (Dkt. No. 11 at 1.) Specifically, Brummett claims that: (1) the ALJ erred when he found that LR's only "severe impairments" were borderline intellectual functioning and language delay; (2) LR's impairments meet Listings 112.02, 112.05(C) and/or 112.05(D); (3) even if LR's impairments do not meet a Listing, they should be found to be functionally equivalent to the Listings; and (4) the ALJ applied an incorrect legal standard in evaluating Brummett's testimony. (Id.) The Commissioner counters that the appropriate legal standards were applied by the ALJ, and that his decision is supported by substantial evidence. (See generally Dkt. No. 13.)

IV. Facts

The evidence in this case is undisputed and the court adopts the parties' factual recitations. (See Dkt. No. 11 at 2-11; Dkt. No. 13 at 1-2.)

V. Standard of Review

The standard for reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard of review, the court refers the parties to its previous opinion in Christiana v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., No. 1:05-CV-932, 2008 WL 759076, at *1-2 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2008).

VI. Discussion

A. Child Disability Determination

The Social Security Administration has established a three-step evaluation process by which to determine whether individuals under the age of 18 are disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). The first inquiry is whether the child is engaging in substantial gainful activity. Id. If so, the child is determined not to be disabled, and the inquiry ends. Id. If the child is not engaging in substantial gainful activity, the ALJ must determine whether the child has "an impairment or combination of impairments that is severe." Id. An impairment is not severe if it is merely a "slight abnormality . . . that causes no more than minimal functional limitations." Id. at § 416.924(c). If the ALJ finds in the negative, a determination of non- disability is made, and the analysis goes no further. Id. Where a severe impairment or combination of impairments exists, however, the final inquiry is whether the child's impairment or combination of ...


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