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Lavalley v. Colvin

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 5, 2013

TAMMY LAVALLEY o/b/o A.W., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Victoria M. Esposito. Esq. Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Inc. - Canton Canton, New York, Attorney for Plaintiff.

Monika Proctor, Esq. Social Security Administration Office of Regional General Counsel Region II New York, NY, Attorney for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Tammy Lavalley brings the above-captioned action on behalf of the minor child, A.W., pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act, seeking a review of the Commissioner of Social Security's decision to A.W.'s application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). This matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Victor E. Bianchini for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.3(d). Magistrate Judge Bianchini recommended that this Court remand the matter solely for the calculation of benefits. (Dkt. No. 17). Presently before the Court is defendant's objection to the Report and Recommendation (Dkt. No. 18). Plaintiff has responded to the objection. (Dkt. No. 19).

DISCUSSION

The Social Security Act (the "Act") authorizes payment of disability insurance benefits to individuals with "disabilities." An individual under the age of eighteen is disabled, and thus eligible for SSI benefits, if he

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. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). That definitional provision goes on to exclude from coverage any "individual under the age of 18 who engages in substantial gainful activity...." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(ii). The agency has prescribed a three-step evaluative process to be employed in determining whether a child can meet the statutory definition of disability. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924; Kittles ex rel. Lawton v. Barnhart, 245 F.Supp.2d 479, 487-88 (E.D.N.Y. 2003); Ramos v. Barnhart, 2003 WL 21032012, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). The first step of the test, which bears some similarity to the familiar, five-step analysis employed in adult disability cases, requires a determination of whether the child has engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b); Kittles, 245 F.Supp.2d at 488. If so, then both statutorily and by regulation the child is ineligible for SSI benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(c)(ii); 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b).

If the child has not engaged in substantial gainful activity, then the second step requires examination of whether the child suffers from one or more medically determinable impairments that, either singly or in combination, are severe - that is, which causes more than a minimal functional limitation. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924; Kittles, 245 F.Supp.2d at 488; Ramos, 2003 WL 21032012, at *7. If the existence of a severe impairment is discerned, at the third step, the agency must next determine whether it meets or equals a presumptively disabling condition identified in the listing of impairments set forth by regulation, 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 (the "Listings"). Id. Equivalence to a Listing can be either medical or functional. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d); Kittles, 245 F.Supp.2d at 488; Ramos, 2003 WL 21032012, at *7. If an impairment is found to meet, or qualify as medically or functionally equivalent to, a listed disability, and the twelve month durational requirement is satisfied, the child will be deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d)(1); Ramos, 2003 WL 21032012, at *8.

Under the Social Security Regulations (the "Regulations"), analysis of functionality is performed by consideration of how a claimant functions in six areas which are denominated as "domains, " and described as "broad areas of functioning intended to capture all of what a child can or cannot do." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1); Ramos, 2003 WL 21032012, at *8. Those prescribed domains include:

(i) [a]cquiring and using information;
(ii) [a]ttending and completing tasks;
(iii) [i]nteracting and relating ...

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