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Smith v. Colvin

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

July 20, 2015

TAKESHIA SMITH, o.b.o. J.M.C., a minor child, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


R. DAVID PROCTOR, District Judge.

Plaintiff Takeshia Smith brings this action on behalf of her daughter, J.M.C., pursuant to Title XVI of Section 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act ("Act"), seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying her claim for Children's Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). See also 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c). Based upon the court's review of the record and the briefs submitted by the parties, the court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is due to be affirmed.

I. Proceedings Below

Plaintiff filed her application for SSI on behalf of J.M.C. on June 27, 2011. (Tr. 113). The Social Security Administration initially denied Plaintiff's application on July 15, 2011. (Tr. 53). Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on August 17, 2011. (Tr. 61). Plaintiff's request was granted, and a hearing was held on January 19, 2013. (Tr. 37-52). In his decision, dated March 1, 2013, ALJ John M. Dowling determined that J.M.C. had not been disabled within the meaning of § 1614(a)(3)(C) of the Act since June 27, 2011, the date the application was filed. (Tr. 22-33). After the Appeals Council declined to grant review of the ALJ's decision on February 6, 2013 (Tr. 1.), Plaintiff had exhausted all administrative remedies making this case ripe for review by this court.

II. Facts

J.M.C. was approximately twenty months old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 44). Plaintiff alleges that J.M.C. has been disabled since her birth on June 3, 2011 due to four different types of Sickle Cell Anemia ("sickle cell"). (Tr. 44, 92). Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges J.M.C potentially suffers from another disability known as hip dysplasia. (Tr. 25, 124). During her alleged period of disability, J.M.C. received treatment primarily from Children's Hospital. (Tr. 45, 180-277). According to medical records obtained from the Jefferson County Department of Health, J.M.C. tested positive for sickle cell on June 13, 2011, during her 10-days-old check-up. (Tr. 156). In that same visit, Dr. Lee A. Beisher also noted the potential for hip dysplasia. (Id. ). During J.M.C.'s next visit on June 23, 2011, Dr. Beisher listed both conditions as being "well-controlled, " noting that J.M.C. was otherwise a relatively healthy newborn. (Tr. 154). Furthermore, Dr. Joseph Khoury indicated in a report dated September 28, 2011, that J.M.C.'s hips had "normalized" and that "there is no need for continued clinical or radiographic followup for [her hip dysplasia]." (Tr. 187).

Plaintiff took J.M.C. to the emergency room for alleged sickle cell related problems eight times over a twenty-month span (from J.M.C.'s birth to the time of the hearing). (Tr. 44). The first such visit occurred on December 23, 2011 when Plaintiff was concerned about J.M.C. running a high fever and wheezing. (Tr. 195). J.M.C.'s sickle cell diagnosis was confirmed the next day, and she was also diagnosed with community acquired pneumonia. (Tr. 200). J.M.C.'s hematocrit level was determined to be 31.3% and her reticulocyte count was 3.5% during the visit. (Tr. 194). J.M.C. was released the next day in stable condition. (Tr. 200).

Less than one week later, Plaintiff brought J.M.C. back to the emergency room, again concerned about her high fever. (Tr. 208). Her hematocrit level was measured to be 29.7% this time, and her reticulocyte count was 5.5%. (Tr. 207, 215). Once her fever broke, she was discharged again in stable condition, and the report further stated there was no more evidence of pneumonia. (Tr. 215, 221).

J.M.C. did not return to the emergency room until March 15, 2012, again with a high fever. (Tr. 231). Her hematocrit level was noted to be 28.7%, and her reticulocyte count was 3.4%. (Tr. 229). She was also diagnosed with adenovirus. (Tr. 230). After a four-day stay, J.M.C. was released in stable condition. (Tr. 247).

Plaintiff and J.M.C. returned to the emergency room at Children's Hospital again on April 29, 2012, this time with complaints of fever and persistent congestion. (Tr. 248). Her hematocrit level was measured at 27.2%, and her reticulocyte count was 2.8%. (Tr. 248-49). After determining that her "lungs are clear" and that there was no "pleural effusion or pulmonary vascular congestion, " J.M.C. was released. (Tr. 262).

J.M.C. was taken to the emergency room again on May 27, 2012 due to a high fever. (Tr. 263). Her hematocrit was noted to be 29.9%, and her reticulocyte count was 2.0%. (Tr. 267). J.M.C. was released that same day once her fever broke (Tr. 268.), but she returned to the emergency room again the next day with a continuing fever. (Tr. 270). After receiving an injection of antibiotics, J.M.C. was released. (Tr. 270-73).

On November 7, 2012, J.M.C. returned to the emergency room because Plaintiff feared her daughter had pneumonia again. (Tr. 293). The doctor concluded that J.M.C.'s lungs were clear and that there were no signs of pneumonia. (Id. ).

In her last visit, on November 22, 2012, x-rays revealed J.M.C.'s lungs showed some signs of mild viral or reactive airway disease. (Tr. 296). Her hematocrit levels were measured at 26.8%, and her reticulocyte count was 4.4%. (Tr. 306-07). She was treated and released in stable condition. (Tr. 308). A childhood disability evaluation form completed by Dr. Robert H. Heilpern concluded that J.M.C.'s impairment or combination of ...

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