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Pridgen v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 17, 2017

ERICA DAWN PRIDGEN O/B/O M.M.M., a minor child, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          FRANK H. MCCARTHY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Erica Dawn Pridgen, on behalf of M.M.M. a minor child, [2] seeks judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying Social Security disability benefits.[3] In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) & (3), the parties have consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge.

         Standard of Review

         The role of the court in reviewing the decision of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is limited to a determination of whether the record as a whole contains substantial evidence to support the decision and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Briggs ex rel. Briggs v. Massanari, 248 F.3d 1235, 1237 (10th Cir. 2001); Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017 (10th Cir. 1996); Castellano v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 26 F.3d 1027, 1028 (10th Cir. 1994). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is 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, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The court may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). Even if the court would have reached a different conclusion, if supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision stands. Hamilton v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 961 F.2d 1495 (10th Cir. 1992).

         Sequential Evaluation for Child's Disability Benefits

         The procedures for evaluating disability for children are set out at 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). The first step is to determine whether the child is performing substantial gainful activity. If not, the next consideration is whether the child has a “severe” mental or physical impairment. A “severe” impairment is one that causes more than minimal functional limitations. If a “severe” impairment is identified, the claim is reviewed to determine whether the child has an impairment that: 1) meets, medically equals, or functionally equals the listings of impairments for children;[4] and 2) meets the duration requirement.

         If the child does not have impairments of a severity to meet a listing, the severity of the limitations imposed by impairments are analyzed to determine whether they functionally equal a listing. Six broad areas of functioning, called domains, are considered to assess what a child can and cannot do. Impairments functionally equal a listing when the impairments result in “marked” limitations in two domains or an “extreme” limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a. The six domains are: 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 yourself; and 6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1). A limitation is “marked” when it interferes seriously with the ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2)(I). An “extreme” limitation interferes very seriously with the ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(3)(I).

         Background

         Plaintiff was 9 years old on the amended date of alleged onset of disability and 10 on the date of the ALJ's denial decision. She claims to have been disabled since August 20, 2012 as a result of attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and anxiety.

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listings. The ALJ proceeded to make findings as to the six domains of functional equivalence, as follows: Plaintiff has less than marked limitation in acquiring and using information; Plaintiff has a marked limitation in attending and completing tasks; Plaintiff has less than marked limitation in interacting and relating with others; Plaintiff has no limitation in moving about and manipulating objects; Plaintiff has no limitation in the ability to care for herself; and less than marked limitation in health and physical well-being. Based on these findings, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not been disabled as defined in the Social Security Act since August 28, 2012, the date the application was filed.

         Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff asserts that the finding that she had “less than marked” limitations in interacting and relating to others was legally insufficient and not supported by substantial evidence; the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the opinions of her teacher, Ms. Pry, in regard to social functioning; and the ...


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