United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
PERCY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Jelisa Rogers o/b/o J.D.S. has applied for judicial review
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3)
of the Commissioner of Social Security's decision denying
her application for supplemental security income (SSI) as a
disabled minor child under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act. Docket 1. Plaintiff filed an application for benefits as
a disabled minor child on May 20, 2013, alleging disability
beginning on March 3, 2013. Docket 7 at 114-119.
agency administratively denied Plaintiff's claim
initially on July 2, 2013 and on reconsideration on September
12, 2013. Id. at 48-54; 56-63. Plaintiff then
requested an administrative hearing, which Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Jerry M. Lang held on December 10, 2014, at which
Jelisa Rogers,  J.D.S.'s mother, testified on his
behalf. Id. at 75-76; 85-89; 115. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on January 26, 2015. Id. at
14-29. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review on April 5, 2016. Id. at 1-4. Plaintiff
timely filed this appeal from the April 5, 2016, decision,
the undersigned held a hearing on March 6, 2017, and it is
now ripe for review.
both parties have consented to a magistrate judge conducting
all the proceedings in this case as provided in 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c), the undersigned has the authority to issue
this opinion and the accompanying final judgment. Docket 10.
minor child, J.D.S. was born on September 23, 2011, and was
three-years old at the time of the ALJ hearing. Docket 7 at 36,
114. J.D.S.'s application for supplemental security
income was filed by Jelisa Rogers, his mother, on his behalf.
Id. at 114-19. Plaintiff alleges disability due to
“chronic asthma and eczema and allergies.”
Id. at 142. The ALJ determined that J.D.S. suffered
from a severe impairment of asthma, but that this impairment
did not meet or equal a listed impairment in 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.924, 416.925 and 416.926)
or functionally equal the severity of the listings in 20 CFR
416.924(d) and 416.926(a). Id. at 20. After
considering the record evidence and applicable rulings and
regulations, the ALJ found that J.D.S.'s “medically
determinable impairment could reasonably be expected to
produce the alleged symptoms; however, the statements
concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of
these symptoms are not entirely credible.” Id.
at 22. The ALJ specifically found that “the objective
evidence […] clearly shows that the claimant's
condition improved when he was given the appropriate
medications in the emergency department” and concluded
that “the frequency of his emergency department visits
would imply that he is not being given his medications as
prescribed” despite being “prescribed appropriate
medications for home use.” Id. at 23. After
evaluating all of the evidence in the record, including
Plaintiff's testimony, the ALJ held that J.D.S. is not
disabled under the Social Security Act. Id. at 29.
asserts that the ALJ erred in concluding that J.D.S.'s
asthma does not equal Listing 103.03 or, alternatively, is not
medically equivalent or functionally equivalent to Listing
103.03, and that the ALJ failed to develop the record. Docket
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation
Act statutorily amended the relevant substantive standard for
evaluating children's disability claims. Under the 1996
Act, a child seeking SSI benefits based on disability will be
found disabled if he has a medically determinable impairment
“which results in marked and severe functional
limitations, ” and which meets the statutory duration
requirement. See 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)
(2004). In determining disability of a child, the
Commissioner, through the ALJ, works through a three-step
sequential evaluation process. At all stages of the proceedings
the burden rests upon the plaintiff to prove disability.
First, the ALJ determines whether the child is
working. Second, the ALJ decides whether the child
has a medically determinable “severe” impairment
or combination of impairments. Finally, at step three, for a
finding of disabled, the ALJ must conclude the child's
impairment or combination of impairments meets, medically
equals, or functionally equals the severity of an impairment
listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1, §§
1.00-114.02. In making this determination, the ALJ must
consider the combined effect of all medically determinable
impairments, even those that are not severe. If
plaintiff's impairment is severe but does not meet or
equal in severity a listed impairment, the ALJ must then
determine whether the impairment is “functionally equal
in severity to a listed impairment.” Under the final
regulations published by the Social Security Administration,
effective January 2, 2001, the Commissioner measures
functional equivalency according to six domains of function:
Acquiring and using information;
Attending and completing tasks;
Interacting and relating with others;
Moving about and manipulating objects;
Caring for himself; and
Health and physical well-being.
20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1)(i-vi)(2007). To be
functionally equivalent to a listing, the medically
determinable impairment or combination of impairments must
result in either a “‘marked' limitation in
two domains of functioning or an ‘extreme'
limitation in one domain.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a
(2007). A marked limitation interferes seriously with the
child's ability to “independently initiate,
sustain, or complete activities, ” while an extreme
limitation “interferes very seriously with [the
child's] ability to independently initiate, sustain, or
complete activities.” Id. at §§
416.926a(e)(2)(i) and 416.926a(e)(3)(i). When deciding
whether a child has a marked or extreme limitation, the ALJ
must consider the child's functional limitations in all
areas, including their interactive and cumulative effects,
and then make a determination as to whether the child is
disabled under the Act. It is the ALJ's responsibility to
determine functional equivalence along these domains.
Id. § 416.926a(n).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the Commissioner's final decision to deny
benefits is limited to determining whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence and whether the
Commissioner applied the correct legal standard. Crowley
v. Apfel,197 F.3d 194, 196 (5th Cir. 1999), citing
Austin v. Shalala, 994 F.2d 1170 (5th Cir. 1993);
Villa v. Sullivan,895 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir.
1990). The Court has the responsibility to scrutinize the
entire record to determine whether the ALJ's decision was
supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper
legal standards were applied in reviewing the claim.
Ransom v. Heckler, 715 F.2d 989, 992 (5th Cir.
1983). A court has limited power of ...