United States District Court, W.D. New York
For Darlene Boyington, on behalf of, J.O.J.H., Plaintiff: Justin M. Goldstein, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PPLC, Amherst, NY.
For Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Kathryn L. Smith, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Rochester, NY.
DECISION AND ORDER
DAVID G. LARIMER, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff, on behalf of her minor granddaughter, J.O.J.H., for whom she serves as guardian, appeals from a denial of disability insurance benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security (" the Commissioner" ). The action is one brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the final determination of the Commissioner.
On October 22, 2009, the plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on behalf of J.O.J.H. under Title II of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff alleged that J.O.J.H. had been disabled since June 16, 2006. (Tr. 40). Her application was initially denied, and a hearing was held on March 31, 2011 before Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) Michael W. Devlin. (Tr. 59-88). The ALJ issued a decision on July 8, 2011, concluding that J.O.J.H. was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (Tr. 40-53). That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on October 3, 2012. (Tr. 1). Plaintiff now appeals.
For the reasons that follow, I find that the Commissioner's conclusions are not supported by substantial evidence, and that the record establishes that the claimant is disabled. The Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(c) (Dkt. #7) is denied, plaintiff's cross motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. #9) is granted, and the matter is remanded for the calculation and payment of benefits.
Claimant was born June 7, 2006, and was four years old as of the hearing date. (Tr. 62).
Because the claimant is a child, a particularized, three-step sequential analysis is
used to determine whether she is disabled. First, the ALJ must determine whether the child is engaged in substantial gainful activity. See 20 CFR § 416.924. If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step two, and determines whether the claimant has an impairment, or combination of impairments, that is " severe" within the meaning of the Act. If not, the analysis concludes with a finding of " not disabled." If the claimant does have a severe impairment, the ALJ continues to step three.
At step three, the ALJ examines whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals the criteria of a listed impairment. If the impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a listing and meets the durational requirement (20 CFR § 416.926) -- that is, if the child's impairments are functionally equivalent in severity to those contained in a listed impairment -- the claimant is disabled. See 20 CFR § 416.926(a). If not, she is not disabled. In making this assessment, the ALJ must measure the child's limitations in six areas: (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and manipulating objects; (5) caring for herself; and (6) health and physical well-being. See 20 CFR § 416.926a(b)(1). Medically determinable impairments will be found to equal a listed impairment where they result in " marked" limitations in two or more domains of functioning, or an " extreme" limitation in one or more. 20 CFR § § 416.926a(a), (d) (emphasis added).
The Commissioner's decision that J.O.J.H. is not disabled must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence, and if the ALJ applied the correct legal standards. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Machadio v. Apfel, 276 F.3d 103, 108 (2d Cir.2002). Substantial evidence is defined as " more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938)). " The Court carefully considers the whole record, examining evidence from both sides 'because an analysis of the substantiality of the evidence must also include that which detracts from its weight.'" Tejada v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 770, 774 (2d Cir. 1998) quoting Quinones v. Chater, 117 F.3d 29, 33 (2d Cir.1997). Still, " it is not the function of a reviewing court to decide de novo whether a claimant was disabled." Melville v. Apfel, 198 F.3d 45, 52 (2d Cir.1999). " Where the ...