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Antoinette Allie, On Behalf of A.D.E.B v. Commissioner of Social Security

October 20, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge William H. Baughman, Jr.



Before me*fn1 is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by Antoinette Allie on behalf of A.D.E.B., a minor, seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).*fn2 The Commissioner, in response, seeks affirmation of that decision.*fn3 Both parties have briefed their respective positions,*fn4 and Allie has waived oral argument.*fn5 For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision will be affirmed,


A. Background

After a 2007 application was initially denied, Allie requested a hearing, which was held in 2009.*fn6 At the hearing, the claimant, A.D.E.B., a school-aged child,*fn7 and Allie, the claimant's aunt and guardian, appeared, together with counsel.*fn8 Following the three-step process applicable to determining disability in persons under the age of 18,*fn9 the ALJ concluded at the first step that the claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity at any time relevant to the decision.*fn10 Further, at step two, the ALJ found that A.D.E.B. had the following severe impairments: borderline intellectual functioning, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), adjustment disorder, kidney problems, and urinary tract disorder.*fn11

However, at the third step the ALJ concluded, after "giv[ing] particular consideration to the claimant's mental disorders," that A.D.E.B. does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments.*fn12

In particular, as to the listing for ADHD, the ALJ determined that the condition had not caused "marked impairment" in at least two of the six relevant functional domains, as would be required to medically equal the listing.*fn13 Thus, the ALJ concluded that A.D.E.B. was not disabled, denying the application for SSI.*fn14

B. Issue on review

As succinctly stated in Allie's brief, the only issue on review raised by the claimant is whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's finding that no "marked" impairment exists in the domains of: (a) acquiring and using information and (b) interacting and relating with others.*fn15 Essentially, Allie argues that because John Brescia, a consulting psychologist, gave A.D.E.B. a Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score of 50, such a level of impaired functioning should, of itself, establish that A.D.E.B. has "marked" impairment in the above-stated two domains.*fn16

The Commissioner, in response, asserts that the ALJ reasonably found that the evidence supported a finding that A.D.E.B. had less-than marked limitations in the two challenged domains.*fn17

As regards the domain of acquiring and using information, the Commissioner notes that the psychological evaluation of A.D.E.B. by Dr. Brescia, heavily relied on here by Allie, revealed, in addition to the GAF score, additional findings by Dr. Brescia that A.D.E.B. had higher academic functioning than expected for her IQ, as well as a finding that A.D.E.B.'s ADHD symptoms were stable with medication.*fn18 In addition, the Commissioner also observes that a consultative examiner agreed with Dr. Brescia that A.D.E.B. had no cognitive function limitations when she was taking her medication.*fn19 Moreover, the record before the ALJ contained reports from four reviewing agency physicians who all concluded that A.D.E.B. had less-than-marked limitations as regards the acquiring and use of information.*fn20

Regarding the domain for interacting and relating with others, the Commissioner again states that the evidence before the ALJ showed that whatever difficulties A.D.E.B. had in dealing with others, that limitation was lessened when she was on her medication.*fn21

Moreover, Dr. Brescia's records, cited by the ALJ, observed that during the consultative exam A.D.E.B. remained able to express herself.*fn22 Ultimately, the ALJ noted that, even if a marked limitation were found in this area, no additional marked ...

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