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Yarbrough v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

September 25, 2019

CECILIA YARBROUGH, o/b/o J.B.S., a minor, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.



         The claimant Cecilia Yarbrough requests judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying benefits for her grandson J.B.S. under the Social Security Act. The claimant appeals the decision of the Commissioner and asserts that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in determining J.B.S. was not disabled. For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner’s decision is hereby AFFIRMED.

         Social Security Law and Standard of Review

         Disability for persons under the age of eighteen according to the Social Security Act is defined as 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 twelve months. See 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.[1]

         Section 405(g) limits the scope of judicial review of the Commissioner’s decision to two inquiries: whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence and whether correct legal standards were applied. See Hawkins v. Chater, 113 F.3d 1162, 1164 (10th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is “‘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); see also Clifton v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009 (10th Cir. 1996). The Court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its discretion for the Commissioner’s. See Casias v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991). But the Court must review the record as a whole, and “[t]he substantiality of 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.

         Background and Procedural History

         J.B.S. was ten years old at the time of the administrative hearing (Tr. 36, 151). The claimant alleges J.B.S. was disabled as of February 1, 2012, due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), explosive mood disorder, and depression (Tr. 45, 172). On June 30, 2015, the claimant filed an application for supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI (42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq.) (Tr. 151-79). Her application was denied. ALJ Deirdre O. Dexter conducted an administrative hearing and determined that J.B.S. was not disabled in a written opinion dated March 31, 2017 (Tr. 12-30). The Appeals Council denied review, so the ALJ’s findings represent the Commissioner’s final decision for purposes of this appeal. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.

         Decision of the Administrative Law Judge

         The ALJ made her decision at step three of the sequential evaluation. She determined J.B.S. had the severe impairments of depressive disorder, ADHD, and impulse control disorder, but that such impairments did not meet and were neither medically nor functionally equivalent to any of the relevant listings (Tr. 15-29). The ALJ thus concluded that J.B.S. was not disabled (Tr. 29-30).


         The claimant contends that the ALJ erred by failing to: (i) specifically analyze whether J.B.S. met or medically equaled Listing 112.05 for intellectual disorders, and (ii) consider all of the evidence in determining whether J.B.S. met or medically equaled Listing 112.11 for neurodevelopment disorders and whether J.B.S.’s impairments were functionally equivalent to a listing. The Court finds these contentions unpersuasive.

         The relevant medical evidence reveals that Dr. Eric Broadway regularly treated the claimant for ADHD from May 2013 through December 2016 (Tr. 319-67, 374-88, 419-21). Initial treatment notes reflect persistent hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, and/or difficulty focusing despite treatment, but by December 2014 J.B.S.’s concentration was good and there were no complaints about his behavior (Tr. 333-67). Thereafter, J.B.S. was consistently “doing well” with good concentration/focus and a good mood through August 2016 (Tr. 319-32, 374-87). At a follow-up appointment in December 2016, J.B.S.’s grandmother indicated he needed medication for depression and J.B.S. agreed that he was feeling depressed (Tr. 419).

         In November 2014, Randy Randleman, Ph.D., performed a psychological consultative examination of J.B.S. (Tr. 305-16). He observed that J.B.S. approached the session in a quiet and reserved manner, was suspicious but cooperative, was often fidgety, worked slowly through the tasks, and wanted to give up on most items when they became difficult (Tr. 307, 311). Dr. Randleman administered the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Ability (“WJ-III”) and indicated J.B.S.’s standard score of 76 placed him in the low range of overall intellectual ability (Tr. 307, 309). Dr. Randleman found J.B.S.’s inductive reasoning, word knowledge and comprehension, visual-auditory learning and retrieval ability, and sight reading ability were mildly impaired; his automatic cognitive processing and spelling ability were mildly impaired to within normal limits; and his ability to recall details of complex stories and math calculation skills were normal (Tr. 308). He indicated that J.B.S.’s academic skills were within the average range when compared to others his age (Tr. 314). Dr. Randleman diagnosed the claimant with unspecified disruptive, impulse control, and conduct disorder; ADHD; and persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) (Tr. 315).

         J.B.S. was initially placed on an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) on February 26, 2013 (first grade) (Tr. 207-11). His IEP showed his standard score of 82 on the WJ-III test administered in October 2012 placed him in the low average range of intellectual ability but his academic skills in sight reading, math calculation, and spelling were within normal limits (Tr. 202). It was determined that J.B.S. needed modifications in the classroom because his ADHD adversely affected his educational performance (Tr. 211). J.B.S.’s subsequent IEP in May 2015 (second grade) showed he was reading at a beginning of first grade level; his strengths were visual processing, fluid reasoning, letter-word identification, and calculation; and he was placed in a regular classroom with monitoring once per week for his reading, language arts, and math skills (Tr. 182-83). J.B.S.’s March 2016 IEP (third grade) showed he was reading at an end of second grade ...

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