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Allen v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

March 31, 2017

JODY ALLEN on behalf of J.K.A., a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KIMBERLY E. WEST, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jody Allen (“Plaintiff”), on behalf of the minor child, J.K.A. (“Claimant”) requests judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying Claimant's application for disability benefits under the Social Security Act. Plaintiff appeals the decision of the Administrative Law Judge and asserts that the Commissioner erred because the ALJ incorrectly determined that Claimant was not disabled. For the reasons discussed below, it is the finding of this Court that the Commissioner's decision should be and is REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings.

         Social Security Law and Standard of Review

         Disability for persons under the age of 18 is defined by the Social Security Act as the “a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked and severe functional limitations, and that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.906. Social Security regulations implement a three-step sequential process to evaluate a claim for Child's Supplemental Security Income Benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. See, 20 C.F.R. § 416.924.[1]

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court's review is limited to two inquiries: first, whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence; and, second, whether the correct legal standards were applied. Hawkins v. Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997)(citation omitted). The term “substantial evidence” has been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court to require “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 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The court may not re-weigh the evidence nor substitute its discretion for that of the agency. Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, the court must review the record as a whole, and the “substantiality of the evidence must take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight.” Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 488 (1951); see also, Casias, 933 F.2d at 800-01.

         Claimant's Background

         Claimant was born on December 27, 2000 and was 13 years old on the date the ALJ issued his decision. Claimant is alleged to have become disabled on October 31, 2007 due to epilepsy/seizure disorder and mood disorder.

         Procedural History

         On February 27, 2012, Claimant, through Plaintiff, protectively applied for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq.). Claimant's application for benefits was denied in its entirety initially and on reconsideration. On February 27, 2014, Plaintiff appeared at an administrative hearing in Tulsa, Oklahoma before Administrative Law Judge Bernard Porter (“ALJ”) by video with Claimant appearing in Poteau, Oklahoma and the ALJ presiding from McAlester, Oklahoma. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 28, 2014. On November 24, 2015, the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's findings. Thus, the decision of the ALJ represents the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of further appeal. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         Decision of the Administrative Law Judge

         The ALJ made his decision at step three of the sequential evaluation. He determined that Claimant's condition did not meet a listing and he had not been under a disability during the relevant period.

         Review

         Plaintiff asserts the ALJ committed error in failing to find Claimant's condition met or equaled a listing.

         Consideration of ...


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