United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Dietra Batise brings this action on behalf of her minor son,
T.M.B., pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff seeks
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration denying Plaintiff's
application, based on T.M.B.'s alleged disability, for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381-1383f. The parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge. Doc. No.
13. The Commissioner has answered and filed the
administrative record (Doc. No. 11, hereinafter
“R.”). The parties have briefed their positions
and the case is now ready for decision. For the reasons set
forth below, the Court reverses the Commissioner's
decision and remands for further proceedings.
was born on December 30, 2005. R. 155. Plaintiff protectively
filed an application for SSI on September 21, 2012, which was
ultimately alleged to be the disability onset date. R. 34,
136-41, 155-64. Following denial of the application initially
and on reconsideration, an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) held a hearing. R. 30-60, 61-85, 90-93.
The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on January 30, 2015.
R. 12-25. The SSA Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review, making the ALJ's unfavorable decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. R. 4-6; see
also 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481. Plaintiff then filed
this action for judicial review.
relevant here, “[a]n individual under the age of 18
shall be considered disabled . . . if that individual has a
medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which
results in marked and severe functional limitations, and
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). The Commissioner uses a three-step
sequential evaluation process to determine a minor
child's entitlement to disability benefits. See
20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). At step one, the ALJ found that
T.M.B. had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
the date the application was filed. R. 15. At step two, the
ALJ found that T.M.B. has the severe impairments of
dysfunction of Eustachian tube with left-ear hearing loss;
speech and language impairment; and borderline intellectual
three, the ALJ found that T.M.B. did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled
any of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the
“Listings”). R. 15-16. The ALJ then considered
T.M.B.'s ability to function in the six domains set forth
in the regulations. R. at 16-24; see 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.924(d), .926a. Specifically, the ALJ
assessed T.M.B.'s functioning as follows:
Acquiring and Using Information:
Attending and Completing Tasks:
Less than marked limitation
Interacting/Relating with Others:
Less than marked limitation
Moving About/Manipulating Objects:
Caring for Yourself:
Health and Physical Well-Being:
R. 19-24. Because a finding that a child's limitations
functionally equal the Listings requires a marked limitation
in two or more domains, or an extreme limitation in one
domain, the ALJ determined that T.M.B. did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that functionally
equaled any of the Listings. R. 24; see 20 C.F.R.
on his step-three finding, the ALJ concluded that T.M.B. had
not been under a disability, as defined in the Social
Security Act, since September 21, 2012. R. 24. Accordingly,
Plaintiff's application for SSI was denied. R. 25.
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether
correct legal standards were applied. Poppa v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 1167, 1169 (10th Cir. 2009).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758,
760 (10th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“A decision is not based on substantial evidence if it
is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record or if there is
a mere scintilla of evidence supporting it.” Branum
v. Barnhart, 385 F.3d 1268, 1270 (10th Cir. 2004)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The court
“meticulously examine[s] the record as a whole, ”
including any evidence “that may undercut or detract
from the ALJ's findings, ” “to determine if
the substantiality test has been met.” Wall,
561 F.3d at 1052 (internal quotation marks omitted). While a
reviewing court considers whether the Commissioner followed
the applicable rules of law in weighing particular types of
evidence in disability cases, the court does not reweigh the
evidence or substitute its own judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272
(10th Cir. 2008).
contends that the ALJ's step-three finding that T.M.B.
has less than marked limitation in the domain of Attending
and Completing Tasks is not supported by substantial
evidence. Pl.'s Br. (Doc. No. 15) at 14-18.
found that T.M.B. “has less than marked limitation in
attending and completing tasks, ” and explained his
analysis as follows:
As to the claimant's degree of limitation in this domain,
the undersigned concurs with and adopts the findings and
opinions of Dr. LaCroix, Dr. Hartley, Dr. Smith, and Dr.
Holloway, as set forth in the record, as per their rationale
therein set forth (Exhibits 2A; 4A). In November 2012, his
teacher opined he was average at following oral instructions;
however, in ...