The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Zerelease Hall ("Plaintiff"), on behalf of her minor daughter ("M.M."), brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act, seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Brian Kane, was not supported by substantial evidence in the record and was based on erroneous legal standards.
Plaintiff moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) ("Rule 12(c)") seeking to reverse the judgment of the Commissioner and remand for calculation of benefits, or alternatively, for further administrative proceedings. The Commissioner opposes the motion and cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings. This Court finds that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record and was in accordance with the applicable legal standards. Therefore, for the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion is granted, and the Plaintiff's motion is denied. Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
An application for supplemental security income was filed by Plaintiff on behalf of M.M. on October 19, 2007 alleging disability due to behavioral and emotional problems with an onset date of September 9, 2007. The claim was initially denied on February 26, 2008. Plaintiff timely filed a written request for a hearing, which was then scheduled for October 15, 2009. Plaintiff and Curtis Melton (M.M.'s father) appeared before the ALJ but elected to postpone the hearing to obtain counsel. On January 8, 2010, Plaintiff, M.M., and their representative appeared in Rochester, New York for the administrative hearing.
In a decision dated March 10, 2010, the ALJ found that M.M. was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Transcript of the Administrative Proceeding at 36 (hereinafter "T."). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on December 14, 2010, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 16). Plaintiff subsequently filed this action on June 27, 2011.
I. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) grants the district courts jurisdiction over claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits. When considering these cases, this section directs the Court to accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that such findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Metropolitan Stevedore Co. v. Rambo, 521 U.S. 121, 149, 117 S. Ct. 1953, 138 L. Ed. 2d 327 (1997) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S. Ct. 206, 83 L. Ed. 126 (1938)). The Court's scope of review is limited to whether the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence in the record, and whether the Commissioner employed the proper legal standards in evaluating the claim. Green-Younger v. Barnhard, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003). 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).
Under Rule 12(c), judgment on the pleadings may be granted "where the material facts are undisputed and where judgment on the merits is possible merely by considering the contents of the pleadings." Sellers v. M.C. Floor Crafters, Inc., 842 F.2d 639, 642 (2d Cir. 1988). If, after reviewing the record, the Court is convinced that Plaintiff has not set forth a plausible claim for relief, judgment on the pleadings is appropriate. See generally Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007).
II. The Commissioner's decision to deny benefits was supported by substantial evidence in the record.
The ALJ applied the Social Security Administration's three-step analysis for determining whether an individual under the age of 18 is entitled to disability benefits. Under the regulations, a child is disabled if:
(1) the child has not performed substantial gainful activity;
(2) the child has a severe impairment or combinations of impairments that are severe;
(3) the impairments or combination of impairments meet, medically equal, or functionally equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404 Appendix 1.
In making his determination, the ALJ found that M.M. was a school-age child, had not performed substantial gainful activity, had the following severe impairments, "oppositional defiant disorder" and "probable borderline intellectual functioning," and did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments.
(T. 30). In the final step, the ALJ found that M.M. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that functionally equaled the listings. (T. 30-36). The ALJ thus concluded that M.M. was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (T. 36). This Court finds that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record and based on the appropriate legal standards.
M.M. was born on April 16, 1997. (T. 111). Between July 1998 and March 2002, she was monitored for high lead levels by blood tests performed every few months. (T. 309-10, 314-21). There is no indication in M.M.'s medical records that lead exposure directly caused any of M.M.'s manifest symptoms.
Upon reaching grade school, M.M. had difficulty meeting the Rochester City School District's ("School District") standards in reading and math. (T. 159). Her teachers developed an academic ...