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Jackson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

September 28, 2017

CASSIE JACKSON, o/b/o J.L.B., a minor child, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          TERENCE KERN United States District Judge

         Before the Court is the magistrate's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 21) recommending affirmance of Defendant's final decision denying Plaintiff's application for supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-83c, on behalf of her daughter, J.L.B., a minor child. The Appeals Council denied review of the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ's”) decision, and Plaintiff appealed to this Court. Following issuance of the magistrate's Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff filed a timely objection (Doc. 24).

         I. Standard of Review

         Without consent of the parties, the Court may refer any pretrial matter dispositive of a claim to a magistrate judge for a report and recommendation. The parties may object to the magistrate judge's recommendation within fourteen days of service of the recommendation. The Court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court may accept, reject, or modify the magistrate's report and recommendation in whole or in part. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).

         II. Applicable Law

         An individual under the age of eighteen will be considered disabled if he or she has a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(c)(I). The Commissioner's regulations prescribe a three-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a child's impairment(s) result in marked and severe functional limitations:

Step one: If a child is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he or she is not disabled. 20C.F.R. § 416.924(b) (2016).
Step two: If a child's impairment(s) are not severe, i.e., causes no more than minimal functional limitations, he or she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c).
Step three: If a child's impairment(s) do not meet, medically equal, or functionally equal the listings (20 C.F.R. pt. 404, Subpt. P, app. 1), he or she is not disabled.

20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d). To determine whether a child's impairment(s) functionally equal the listings, the Commissioner assesses the functional limitations caused by the child's impairment(s). See 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). The Commissioner considers how a child functions in six domains: (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). If a child's impairments result in “marked” limitations (i.e., limitations that seriously interfere with the child's ability to perform activities) in two domains, or an “extreme” limitation (i.e., a limitation that very seriously interferes with the child's ability to perform activities) in one domain, the impairment(s) functionally equal the listings and the child will be found disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(d).

         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. Hamlin v. Barnhart, 365 F.3d 1208, 1214 (10th Cir. 2004) (quotation omitted).

         III. Analysis

         The ALJ made his decision at step three of the evaluation process, having determined that J.L.B. was not engaging in substantial gainful activity and that she has severe impairments. (See Tr. 19.) The ALJ determined that J.L.B. has no limitation or a “less than marked” limitation in each of the six functional equivalence domains and therefore was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act. Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in his determination on five of the six domains, failed to develop the record, and failed to make credibility findings or adequately explain his credibility determinations.

Under the Social Security Act, [t]he Commissioner of Social Security is directed to make findings of fact, and decisions as to the rights of any individual applying for a payment under this subchapter. Any such decision by the Commissioner of Social Security which involves a determination of disability and which is in whole or in part unfavorable to such individual shall contain a statement of the case, in understandable language, setting forth a discussion of ...

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