United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
ABDUL K. KALLON, District Judge.
Plaintiff Lisa Mozingo ("Mozingo") brings this action on behalf of her minor son, C.O.M. ("Claimant"), pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final adverse decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA"). This court finds that the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision - which has become the decision of the Commissioner - is supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, for the reasons elaborated herein, the court will affirm the decision denying benefits.
I. Procedural History
Mozingo protectively filed an application on behalf of Claimant for the child's Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), alleging a disability onset date of October 22, 2002, due to Asthma and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"). (R. 16, 182). After the SSA denied his claim, Claimant requested a hearing before an ALJ. (R. 134). The ALJ subsequently denied Claimant's claim, (R. 127), which became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council refused to grant review. (R. 1-3). Mozingo then filed this action for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). Doc. 1.
II. Standard of Review
The only issues before this court are whether the record contains substantial evidence to sustain the ALJ's decision, see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Walden v. Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982), and whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards. See Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988); Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) mandates that the Commissioner's "factual findings are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence.'" Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). The district court may not reconsider the facts, reevaluate the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner; instead, it must review the final decision as a whole and determine if the decision is "reasonable and supported by substantial evidence." See id. (citing Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)). Substantial evidence falls somewhere between a scintilla and a preponderance of evidence; "[i]t is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Martin, 849 F.2d at 1529 (quoting Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239) (other citations omitted). If supported by substantial evidence, the court must affirm the Commissioner's factual findings even if the preponderance of the evidence is against the Commissioner's findings. See Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529. While the court acknowledges that judicial review of the ALJ's findings is limited in scope, it notes that the review "does not yield automatic affirmance." Lamb, 847 F.2d at 701.
III. Statutory and Regulatory Framework
A claimant under the age of eighteen is considered disabled if he has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which is expected to result in death, or which has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(I). The Commissioner has developed a specific sequential evaluation process for determining whether a child claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924. The three-step process requires a child to show: (1) that he is not working; (2) that he has a "severe" impairment or combination of impairments; and (3) that his impairment or combination of impairments meet, medically equal, or functionally equal the severity of an impairment listed in Appendix 1 of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P ("the listings"). See id. To "functionally equal" a listed impairment, the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments must result in "marked" limitations in two of the six domains of functioning or an "extreme" limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a).
IV. The ALJ's Decision
Applying the three-step process for determining whether a child is disabled, the ALJ concluded that Claimant is not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (R.11). Although the ALJ found that Claimant has not engaged in any substantial gainful activity since his alleged disability onset date, and suffers from severe impairments of Asthma and ADHD, (R. 14), the ALJ concluded that Claimant's impairments ultimately did not meet, medically equal, or functionally equal any of the listed impairments, (R. 13-21). More specifically, the ALJ found that Claimant's impairments did not meet or medically equal Listing 103.03B and that Claimant does not experience marked limitations in any of the six domains of functioning. Id.
Mozingo contends that the ALJ erred by finding that Claimant did not meet Listing 103.03B, and that Claimant's impairments did not functionally equal a listed impairment. See doc. 13 at 10-16. The court disagrees with both contentions and addresses each one in turn.
A. Listing 103.03B
To "meet" a listing, a claimant "must have a diagnosis included in the listings and must provide medical reports documenting that the conditions meet the specific criteria of the listings." Wilson v. Banhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1224 (11th Cir. 2002). More specific to the case at hand, to ...