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Hall v. Astrue

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 28, 2013

ZERELEASE HALL, o/b/o M.M., Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY Defendant.

DECISION and ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Zerelease Hall ("Plaintiff" or "Hall"), represented by counsel, brings this action on behalf of her minor daughter ("M.M.") pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Michael Friedman, 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 Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 12(c)") and 42 U.S.C. 405(g) seeking to reverse the Commissioner's decision 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. For the reasons set forth below, I hereby deny the Commissioner's cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings and remand this claim to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

M.M. was born on April 11, 1996. Administrative Transcript ("Tr.") at 20. She was 11 years old on November 13, 2007, when her mother, Zerelease Hall, filed an application for SSI disability benefits on her behalf, alleging disability due to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"), a learning disorder allegedly linked to lead exposure, and chronic migraine headaches. Tr. at 104-107.

The claim was initially denied on April 9, 2008. Tr. at 65-68. At Hall's request, an administrative hearing was scheduled for October 20, 2009. Tr. at 69. Plaintiff and M.M. appeared before the ALJ but elected to postpone the hearing to obtain counsel. Tr. at 34-41. On January 7, 2010, Plaintiff and M.M., represented by attorney Jaya Shurtliff, testified at the administrative hearing in Rochester, New York. Tr. at 42-63.

On February 25, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision, finding that M.M. was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. at 14-32. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on December 8, 2011, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. at 5-8. This action followed on February 3, 2012.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

At the time of the hearing, M.M. was a 13 year old individual in 8th grade at the Joseph C. Wilson Foundation Academy in the Rochester City School District. Tr. at 45-46. Hall claims M.M became disabled on September 9, 2007 when her attention deficit disorder ("ADHD") and elevated lead levels were causing marked to extreme limitations in her ability to function. Tr. at 109. M.M. reportedly has difficulty due to medically diagnosed ADHD, a learning disorder, and chronic migraine headaches. Tr. at 136, 149-150, 162, 170.

M.M. was born on April 11, 1996. Tr. at 104. Between February 2005 and July 2006, she was monitored for high lead levels at Rochester General Hospital. Tr. at 145-147. On July 27, 2006, Dr. Banghart found blood lead levels at 4 (out of 0-9 ug/dL) and opined there was "no significant lead exposure." Tr. at 146. M.M. is not taking medications for elevated lead levels. Tr. at 149.

Upon reaching the 4th grade, M.M.'s mother requested that the Rochester City School District Subcommittee on Special Education evaluate M.M. Tr. at 176. Hall was concerned that M.M. needed additional academic services because she was falling below New York State standards in all areas of testing. Id.

Subsequently, M.M. was referred to School Psychologist Jessica Hayden for evaluations that were conducted on April 11 and 12, 2006. Tr. at 176. Ms. Hayden administered the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities ("WJ-III") in order to evaluate cognitive performance. Tr. at 177-181. The scores indicated that M.M.'s cognitive ability was in the low range. Tr. at 177.

M.M. was then referred to a speech pathologist, Elizabeth Barbaglia, who evaluated her on April 24, 2006. Barbaglia concluded that M.M. had "adequate language skills for her age and gender..." but "... ...


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