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Hamilton v. Colvin

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division

December 12, 2014

SHANDALYNN HAMILTON o/b/o K.L.H., a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WALLACE CAPEL, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Shandalynn Hamilton, on behalf of her minor daughter K.L.H., applied for supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The application was denied at the initial administrative level. Plaintiff then requested and received a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Following the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision in which he found K.L.H. not disabled since the date the application was filed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. The ALJ's decision consequently became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner").[1] See Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). The case is now before the court for review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties have consented to the conduct of all proceedings and entry of a final judgment by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. Pl.'s Consent to Jurisdiction (Doc. 8); Def.'s Consent to Jurisdiction (Doc. 9). Based on the court's review of the record and the briefs of the parties, the court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 includes the standard for defining child disability under the Social Security Act. See PUB. L. NO. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105, 2188 (1996). The statute provides that an individual under 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)(i) (1999).

The sequential analysis for determining whether a child claimant is disabled is as follows:

1. If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled.
2. If the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a physical or mental impairment which, whether individually or in combination with one or more other impairments, is a severe impairment. If the claimant's impairment is not severe, she is not disabled.
3. If the impairment is severe, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment meets the durational requirement and meets, medically equals, or functionally equals in severity an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, and Appendix 1. If the impairment satisfies this requirement, the claimant is presumed disabled.

See 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a)-(d) (1997); see also Shinn ex rel. Shinn v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 391 F.3d 1276, 1278 (11th Cir. 2004).

In determining whether an impairment functionally equals a listed impairment, the ALJ must consider the child's ability to function in six different "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 yourself;" and (6) health and physical well-being. If the child has "marked" limitations in two of these domains, or an "extreme" limitation in any one domain, then his impairment functionally equals the listed impairments, and he will be found to be disabled. A "marked" limitation is one that seriously interferes with the child's ability to initiate, sustain, or complete activities. An extreme limitation is one that "very seriously" interferes with the child's ability to initiate, sustain, or complete activities.

Coleman ex rel. J.K.C. v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 454 F.Appx. 751, 752 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal citations omitted).

The Commissioner's regulations provide that if a child's impairment or impairments are not medically equal, or functionally equivalent in severity, to a listed impairment, the child is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d)(2) (1997). In reviewing the Commissioner's decision, the court asks only whether the ALJ's findings concerning the steps are supported by substantial evidence. "Under this limited standard of review, [the court] may not make fact-findings, re-weigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [ALJ]." Bryant v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 478 F.Appx. 644, 645 (11th Cir. 2012) (citing Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005)). "Where substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's fact findings exists, [the court] cannot overturn those findings even if other substantial evidence exists that is contrary to the ALJ's findings." Id. (citing Barron v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 227, 230 (11th Cir. 1991)); see also McMillian, o/b/o A.T.F. v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 521 F.Appx. ...


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