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Dobyne v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 24, 2013

LADONNA DOBYNE, o.b.o. D.D., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

GREG WHITE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Ladonna Dobyne ("Dobyne"), on behalf of her minor son, D.D., challenges the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying D.D.'s claim for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. This matter is before the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and the consent of the parties entered under the authority of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(2).

For the reasons set forth below, the final decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

I. Procedural History

On March 18, 2009, an application was filed on behalf of D.D., a child under the age of eighteen, with an alleged disability onset date of November 20, 2008. (Tr. 20.) The application was denied both initially and upon reconsideration. Id. Dobyne timely requested an administrative hearing. Id.

On June 7, 2011, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing during which D.D., represented by counsel, and Dobyne testified. (Tr. 20.) Arthur J. Newman, M.D., a board certified pediatrician, also testified as the medical expert ("ME"). On July 20, 2011, the ALJ found D.D. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or functionally equaled the listings. (Tr. 23.) The ALJ's decision became final when the Appeals Council denied further review.

II. Standard for Disability

To qualify for SSI benefits, an individual must demonstrate a disability as defined under the Act. "An 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).

To determine whether a child is disabled, the regulations prescribe a three-step sequential evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). At step one, a child must not be engaged in "substantial gainful activity." 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b). At step two, a child must suffer from a "severe impairment." 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c). At step three, disability will be found if a child has an impairment, or combination of impairments, that meets, medically equals or functionally equals an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1; 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d).

To determine whether a child's impairment functionally equals the listings, the Commissioner will assess the functional limitations caused by the impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). The Commissioner will consider 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 [ ]self; and (6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1)(i)-(vi). If a child's impairment results in "marked" limitations in two domains, or an "extreme" limitation in one domain, the impairments functionally equal the listings and the child will be found disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(d). To receive SSI benefits, a child recipient must also meet certain income and resource limitations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1100, 416.1201.

A "marked" limitation is one which seriously interferes with functioning. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2)(i). "Marked" limitation means "more than moderate" but "less than extreme." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2)(i). "It is the equivalent of the functioning we would expect to find on standardized testing with scores that are at least two, but less than three, standard deviations below the mean." Id.

An "extreme" limitation is one that "interferes very seriously with [a child's] ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(3)(i). An "extreme" limitation means "more than marked." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(3)(i). "It is the equivalent of the functioning we would expect to find on standardized testing with scores that are at least three standard deviations below the mean." Id.

If an impairment is found to meet, or qualify as the medical or functional equivalent of a listed disability and the twelve-month durational requirement is satisfied, the claimant ...


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