United States District Court, N.D. New York
Z.J.F., a minor, by DEBRA M. CONKLING, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY Defendant.
OLINSKY LAW GROUP HOWARD D. OLINSKY, ESQ. Counsel for
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. VERNON NORWOOD, ESQ. OFFICE OF
REG'L GEN. COUNSEL-REGION II Counsel for Defendant
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
William B. Mitchell Carter U.S. Magistrate Judge
matter was referred to me, for all proceedings and entry of a
final judgment, pursuant to the Social Security Pilot
Program, N.D.N.Y. General Order No. 18, and in accordance
with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P.
73, N.D.N.Y. Local Rule 73.1 and the consent of the parties.
(Dkt. Nos. 4, 14.).
before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by
Debra M. Conkling (“Plaintiff”) on behalf of a
minor, Z.J.F. (“Claimant”) against the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or
“the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on
the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 12.) For the reasons set forth
below, it is ordered that Plaintiff's motion be denied
and Defendant's motion be granted.
was born in 2003, at the time of filing Claimant was a
school-age child and at the time of the hearing he was an
adolescent. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(g)(2). Claimant's
alleged disability consists of attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”) and bi-polar
disorder. (T. 239.)
21, 2013, Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act on Claimant's behalf. (T. 206.) Plaintiff's
application was initially denied, after which she timely
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“the ALJ”). On January 16, 2014, and again on
March 26, 2015, Plaintiff and Claimant appeared before the
ALJ, John P. Ramos. (T. 47-52, 53-73.) On June 1, 2015, ALJ
Ramos issued a written decision finding Claimant not disabled
under the Social Security Act. (T. 37-58.) On September 26,
2016, the Appeals Council (“AC”) denied
Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-6.)
Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this
The ALJ's Decision
in his decision, the ALJ made the following six findings of
fact and conclusions of law. First, the ALJ found that
Claimant was a “school-age child” at the time of
filing and an “adolescent” at the time of the
hearing pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(g)(2). (T. 23.)
Second, the ALJ found that Claimant had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the application date.
(Id.) Third, the ALJ found that Claimant suffered
from the severe impairments of ADHD, fine motor coordination
deficits, disruptive behavior disorder, and bipolar disorder.
(Id.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Claimant did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix I (“the Listings”).
(Id.) Fifth, the ALJ found that Claimant did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that
functionally equaled an impairment set forth in the Listings.
(T. 23-34.) Sixth, and finally, the ALJ concluded Claimant
had not been disabled, as defined by the Social Security Act,
since May 21, 2013, the date his application was filed. (T.
THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS
in support of her motion for judgment on the pleadings,
Plaintiff makes three arguments. First, Plaintiff argues the
ALJ erred by failing to follow the treating physician rule.
(Dkt. No. 11 at 16-18 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second,
Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred by ignoring evidence that
Claimant still had symptoms despite his medication and
portraying the failure to complete homework as a choice in
order to find less than marked limitation in attending and
completing tasks. (Id. at 19-22.) Third, and lastly,
Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred by ignoring evidence of
Claimant's behavioral problems and claiming he will
continue to improve on mediation to find that he had less
than marked limitations in interacting and relating with
others. (Id. at 22-24.)
in support of her cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings,
Defendant makes two arguments. Defendant argues the ALJ
properly evaluated the opinion of Claimant's treating
source, Surendra Johri, M.D. (Dkt. No. 12 at 14-16
[Def.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, and lastly, Defendant
argues the ALJ reasonably concluded that Claimant's
impairments did not functionally equal a listed impairment.
(Id. at 16-19.)
RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARD
reviewing a denial of disability benefits may not determine
de novo whether an individual is disabled. See 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Wagner v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856,
860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the Commissioner's
determination will only be reversed if the correct legal
standards were not applied, or it was not supported by
substantial evidence. See Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d
983, 986 (2d Cir. 1987) (“Where there is a reasonable
basis for doubt whether the ALJ applied correct legal
principles, application of the substantial evidence standard
to uphold a finding of no disability creates an unacceptable
risk that a claimant will be deprived of the right to have
her disability determination made according to the correct
legal principles.”); see Grey v. Heckler, 721
F.2d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 1983); Marcus v. Califano, 615
F.2d 23, 27 (2d Cir. 1979).
evidence” is evidence that amounts to “more than
a mere scintilla, ” and it has been defined as
“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, 1427 (1971). Where evidence is deemed susceptible to
more than one rational interpretation, the ...