United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
DQWDELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is the Report & Recommendation
("R&R") (Doc. 14) of United States Magistrate
Judge Paul J. Cleary on review of a decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("Commissioner") denying L.R.A., a minor,
disability benefits. Judge Cleary recommends that the Court
affirm the Commissioner's decision finding plaintiff not
disabled. Plaintiff filed a timely Objection to the R&R
in which she requests that the Court reject the R&R and
remand for further administrative proceedings. (Doc. 15).
Reviewing the Objection de novo, the Court has considered the
Administrative Record (Doc. 9) ("Record"), the
parties' briefs, the R&R, Plaintiffs Objection, and
Defendant's Response (Doc. 16), and concludes that the
Commissioner's determination should be affirmed and the
R&R should be accepted.
Cleary accurately summarized the background of Plaintiff s
disability claim and the decision of the Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ") (Doc. 14 at 4-9), and the Court
adopts that summary. Plaintiff objects to the R&R,
arguing that the ALJ erred in failing to find a marked
limitation in the domains of "acquiring and using
information" and "attending and completing
tasks." (Doc. 15 at 1-2).
Standard of Review
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3), "[t]he district judge must
determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's
disposition that has been properly objected to. The district
judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended
disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter
to the magistrate judge with instructions." The
Court's task of reviewing the Commissioner's decision
involves determining "whether the factual findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether
the correct legal standards were applied." Doyal v.
Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758, 760 (10th Cir. 2003).
Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Id. (quoting Fowler v.
Bowen, 876 F.2d 1451, 1453 (10th Cir. 1989)). "It
is 'more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance.'" Newbold v. Colvin, 718
F.3d 1257, 1262 (10th Cir. 2013) (quoting Lax v.
Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007)). The Court
will "neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute [its]
judgment for that of the agency." Martinez v.
Barnhart, 444 F.3d 1201, 1204 (10th Cir. 2006) (quoting
Casias v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991)).
Acquiring and Using Information
finding that L.R.A. has a less than marked limitation in the
domain of acquiring and using information, the ALJ gave great
weight to reports by the Disability Determination Services
("DDS") expert, L.R.A.'s preschool teacher, and
the psychologist who performed a psychological evaluation of
L.R.A. (R. 20). Specifically, the DDS expert concluded that
L.R.A. has a less than marked limitation in this domain (R.
70); the child's preschool teacher did not rate any
activity in this domain as a serious or very serious problem
(R. 316); and the psychological evaluation stated that L.R.A.
has only "mild difficulty with fluid reasoning" (R.
362) and that her "overall intellectual abilities fell
within the Average range" (R. 358). Also, as noted by
the ALJ, language testing showed that L.R. A. has a normal
listening index score, normal speaking index score, and
normal composite spoken language index score. (Rec. 303).
insists that the ALJ should have found a marked limitation in
this domain based on subsets of the IQ evaluation conducted
by the psychologist. (Doc. 15 at 1). Under 20 C.F.R. §
416.926a(e)(2)(iii), testing indicates a "marked
limitation" when the test score is "two standard
deviations or more below the mean, but less than three
standard deviations." Defendant notes in her brief that
for the purposes of psychological testing, the mean score is
100 and each standard deviation is 15. (Doc. 16 at 2).
See also McManus v. Neal, 779 F.3d 634, 650 (7th
Cir. 2015) ("For most IQ tests the mean is 100 [and] the
standard deviation is 15 . . . ."). Thus, two standard
deviations below the mean would be a score of 70. Though L.R.
A. clearly obtained a higher score on some parts of the IQ
test than others, none of her subtest scores fell below 70,
and her full-scale score was 90. (Rec. 358). Furthermore, as
discussed above, the psychologist's conclusions that
L.R.A. had only a "mild difficulty with fluid
reasoning" and that her "overall intellectual
abilities fell within the Average range" support the
ALJ's determination that L.R. A. does not have a marked
limitation in the domain of acquiring and using information.
also suggests the ALJ erred in finding no marked limitation
because L.RA.'s preschool teacher rated her ability to
learn new material, recall and apply previously learned
material, and apply problem-solving skills as "obvious
problems." (Doc. 15 at 1). The Court notes, however,
that an "obvious problem" rating is in the middle
of the given range-a 3 out of 5, with 1 being "no
problem" and 5 being "a very serious problem."
(R. 316). This suggests that such a rating is evidence of a
moderate limitation, as opposed to a marked limitation. Even
if it is viewed as evidence of a marked limitation, the
psychologist's evaluation and the DDS report still serve
as substantial evidence to support the ALJ's
determination of no marked limitation.
also points to Ms. Aletha Shrum's assessment as evidence
of L.R.A.'s difficulties within this domain. (Doc. 15 at
2). Ms. Shrum, an occupational therapist, rated L.R.A. as
having a marked limitation in acquiring and using
information. (R. 498). The ALJ gave this assessment little
weight, in part because it "contrasts] sharply with the
other evidence of record, which renders it less
persuasive." (R. 18). As stated above, this Court's
role is not to reweigh the evidence. See Martinez v.
Barnhart, 444 F.3d at 1204. Because the Court agrees
with Judge Cleary's assessment that the ALJ's
decision regarding this domain is supported by substantial
evidence, the Court must affirm.
Attending and Completing Tasks
Court also agrees with Judge Cleary's assessment that
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision
regarding the domain of attending and completing tasks. In
finding that L.R.A. has less than a marked limitation in
attending and completing tasks, the ALJ relied on the DDS
report, the preschool teacher's report, the psychological
evaluation, and statements by L.R.A.'s mother.
(Id). The DDS report rated L.R.A. as having a less
than marked limitation in this domain (R. 71); the teacher
did not rate any of the activities under this domain as a
serious or very serious problem (R. 317); and the
psychological evaluation stated that "no hyperactivity