United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
E. OTT, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Ruby Sutterfield brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying her application on behalf of her minor great-grandson
for Childhood Supplemental Social Security
(“SSI”). (Doc. 1). The case has been assigned to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to this
court's general order of reference. The parties have
consented to the jurisdiction of this court for disposition
of the matter. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73(a). (Doc. 9). Upon review of the record and
the relevant law, the undersigned finds that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.
August 9, 2010, Sutterfield filed an application for SSI on
behalf of her minor great-grandson (“D.I.S.”).
(R. 363, 565-68). The claim was denied initially, and on June
24, 2012, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”)
found that D.I.S. was not disabled. (R. 441-62). The Appeals
Council denied the request for review on December 20, 2012.
(R. 463-65). On June 6, 2013, Sutterfield filed an action in
federal court seeking review of the denial, and, on August
13, 2015, the court reversed and remanded the decision to the
Commissioner for further findings. (R. 469-87). On November
3, 2015, the Appeals Council vacated the final decision of
the Commissioner and remanded the case to the ALJ for further
proceedings consistent with the district court order. (R.
that application was pending review by the federal court,
Sutterfield filed another application for SSI on behalf of
D.I.S. (R. 490). A favorable determination was issued on
November 19, 2013, finding D.I.S. disabled as of June 4,
2013, the date the second application was filed.
(Id.). The record was reviewed on July 29, 2015, and
it was determined that his disability continued.
(Id.). The Appeals Council affirmed the favorable
determination but noted that the current claim for SSI
required further administrative proceedings for the time
period before June 4, 2013. (Id.). The Appeals
Council directed the ALJ to afford the opportunity for a
hearing, take any further action to complete the
administrative record, and issue a new decision for the
period before June 4, 2013. (Id.).
the hearing on March 24, 2016, (R. 410-40), the ALJ
determined that D.I.S. was not disabled for the period from
August 9, 2010 until June 4, 2013. (R. 360-80). Sutterfield
requested a review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council, which declined review on October 30, 2018. (R.
353-59). As a result, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security and is
properly before the court.
was born on October 19, 2009. As discussed above, D.I.S. was
found disabled as of June 4, 2013, but Plaintiff alleges he
was disabled before that date. (R. 367). The relevant period
at issue for the court is from August 9, 2010, the date
Plaintiff filed his first SSI application, until June 4,
2013, the date he was determined disabled. As such, he was a
newborn/infant when the application was filed and was a
preschooler at the time the relevant period for the decision
ended. (R. 367). In the application, Plaintiff alleges D.I.S.
was disabled due to asthma, vocal cord paralysis and poor
muscle development in his legs. (R. 128-40, 144-50, 565,
the administrative hearing, the ALJ first determined D.I.S.
has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
application date. (R. 367). The ALJ further found that D.I.S.
has the following severe impairments during the period at
issue: a history of bilateral congenital vocal cord paralysis
with a history of signs and symptoms of chronic stridor,
wheezing, and hoarseness; and a history of hypotonia and
gross motor delays. (Id.). She also found that
D.I.S. did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or equaled the severity of a listed
impairment. (R. 369). The ALJ then considered the six
functional equivalence domains and found that D.I.S. did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that
functionally equals the severity of the listings. (R.
369-80). Based on this finding, the ALJ found D.I.S. was not
disabled during the time period from August 9, 2010, through
June 4, 2013. (R. 380).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of the court is to
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1422 (1971); Mitchell v.
Comm'r Soc. Sec., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th Cir.
2015); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th
Cir. 2002). The court must “scrutinize the record as a
whole to determine if the decision reached is reasonable and
supported by substantial evidence.” Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. It is “more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.
court must uphold factual findings that are supported by
substantial evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ's legal
conclusions de novo because no presumption of
validity attaches to the ALJ's determination of the
proper legal standards to be applied. Davis v.
Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). If the
court finds an error in the ALJ's application of the law,
or if the ALJ fails to provide the court with sufficient
reasoning for determining that the proper legal analysis has
been conducted, it must reverse the ALJ's decision.
See Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46
(11th Cir. 1991). The court must affirm the ALJ's
decision if substantial evidence supports it, even if other
evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings. See Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.1990)).
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
individual under the age of 18 is considered disabled if he
shows 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
that 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). A physical or mental impairment is
“an impairment that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrated by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3). The
claimant bears the burden of proving that he is disabled and
is responsible for producing evidence sufficient to support
his claim. See Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272,
1276 (11th Cir. 2003).
those under the age of 18, a determination of disability
under the Social Security Act requires a three-step analysis.
20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). The Commissioner must determine
(1) Is the child engaged in substantial gainful activity?
(2) Are the child's impairments severe?
(3) Do the child's impairments satisfy or medically equal
on of the specific impairments set for in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P App. 1?
See Henry v. Barnhart, 156 Fed.Appx. 171, 173 (11th
Cir. 2005) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a); Wilson v.
Apfel, 179 F.3d 1276, ...