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Miller v. Saul

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 20, 2019

KIMBERLY MILLER o/b/o M.S.M., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL[1], COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GEORGE J. LIMBERT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Kimberly Miller (“Plaintiff”), acting on behalf of her son, M.S.M., a minor child (“Claimant”), seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Defendant”) denying Claimant's Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) claim. ECF Dkt. #1. In her merits brief, filed on August 14, 2018, Plaintiff asserts that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) lacked substantial evidence to support his decision that Claimant was not disabled because his reasons for rejecting the opinions of a medical expert (“ME”) are not supported by the record. ECF Dkt. #16. On October 29, 2018, Defendant filed a brief on the merits. ECF Dkt. #19. Plaintiff filed a reply brief on November 9, 2018. ECF Dkt. #20.

         For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the ALJ's decision and DISMISSES Plaintiff's complaint in its entirety with prejudice.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On March 23, 2015, Plaintiff, acting on behalf of Claimant, filed an application for child's SSI, alleging disability beginning November 17, 2008 due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”). ECF Dkt. #12 (“Tr.”)[2] at 92, 102, 163. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. at 84-90, 93-101. Plaintiff subsequently filed a request for a hearing by an ALJ. Id. at 113.

         On December 23, 2016, an ALJ conducted an administrative hearing, where Plaintiff and Claimant appeared and were represented by counsel. Tr. at 37. At the hearing, the ALJ received testimony from Claimant and Plaintiff, as well as from medical expert (“ME”) Abby J. Greenberg. Id. at 37-38. On April 19, 2017, the ALJ issued decision denying Plaintiff's claim. Id. at 8-30. On February 6, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at 1.

         On April 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking review of the ALJ's decision. ECF Dkt. #1. On July 24, 2018, the parties consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned. ECF Dkt. #14. On August 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed a brief on the merits. ECF Dkt. #16. On October 29, 2018, Defendant filed a brief on the merits. ECF Dkt. #19. On November 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed a reply brief. ECF Dkt. #20.

         II. STEPS TO DETERMINE WHETHER CHILD IS ENTITLED TO SSI

         In order to qualify for childhood SSI benefits, Claimant must show that he has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and that is expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 20 C.F.R. § 416.906. An ALJ must proceed through the required sequential steps for evaluating entitlement to childhood SSI. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). The three-step procedure requires the ALJ to determine whether a child:

(1) is performing substantial gainful activity;
(2) has a “severe” impairment or combination of impairments; and
(3) whether the impairment or combination of impairments are of listing-level severity in that the impairment(s) either meets, medically equals or are the functional equivalent in severity to an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“Listing”).

20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a)-(d). In order to meet a Listing, the child's impairment(s) must be substantiated by medical findings shown or described in the Listing for that particular impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.925(d)(emphasis added). In order to medically equal a Listing, a child's impairment(s) must be substantiated by medical findings at least equal in severity and duration to those shown or described in the Listing for that particular impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(a) (emphasis added). In order to functionally equal a Listing, the child's impairment(s) must be of Listing-level severity; i.e., it must result in “marked” limitations in two domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a)(emphasis added). The Commissioner assesses all relevant factors, including:

(1) how well the child initiates and sustains activities, how much extra help he needs, and the effects of structured or supportive settings;
(2) how the child functions in school; and
(3) how the child is affected by his medications or other treatment.

20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a)(1)- (3). Further, in considering whether a child's impairment functionally equals the Listings, the Commissioner begins by evaluating how a child functions on a daily basis and in all settings as compared to other children of the same age who do not have impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b). The Commissioner considers how a child's ...


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