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Hoosman v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division

February 15, 2017

STEPHANIE HOOSMAN, on behalf of C.W., her Minor Child, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          C. J. Williams Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         The claimant, Stephanie Hoosman, on behalf of her minor child, C.W., (claimant), seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her application for supplemental security income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423. Claimant contends that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) erred in determining she was not disabled.

         For the reasons that follow, I recommend the District Court affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Claimant was born in August 2002, and was 8 years old on March 1, 2011, the date of the alleged onset of his disability. (AR 16, 125). At the time of the ALJ's hearing on May 27, 2014, claimant was 11 years old and in the sixth grade. (AR 438).

         On March 17, 2011, Stephanie Hoosman applied for disability on behalf of claimant, her son. (AR 16, 125, 436). On January 27, 2012, the Commissioner denied claimant's application initially, and on December 12, 2012, denied the application upon reconsideration. (AR 16). On May 27, 2014, an ALJ held a hearing at which claimant and his mother testified. AR 434-52. On August 8, 2014, the ALJ found claimant was not disabled. On February 11, 2016, the Appeals Council denied claimant's request for review. (AR 1-5). The ALJ's decision, thus, became the final decision of the Commissioner. Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).

         On April 13, 2016, claimant filed a complaint in this Court. (Doc. 3). The parties have briefed the issues, and on December 12, 2016, the Honorable Leonard T. Strand, U.S. District Court Judge, referred this case to me for a Report and Recommendation. For the reasons that follow, I respectfully recommend the Court affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         II. DISABILITY DETERMINATIONS FOR MINORS

         To determine whether a minor claimant has a disability within the meaning of the Act, the Commissioner follows a three-step sequential evaluation process outlined in the regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.924. First, the Commissioner will determine if the minor has engaged in substantial gainful activity; if so, then the claimant is not disabled. If the minor claimant meets this threshold requirement and is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the ALJ must next consider whether the minor claimant's impairment or combination of impairments is “severe.” If so, the ALJ determines whether the minor claimant's impairments meet, medically equal, or functionally equal, a listed impairment set out in Appendix 1 of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P. A minor claimant shall be considered disabled for the purposes of SSI benefits 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.[1] See 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). See Garrett v. Barnett, 366 F.3d 643, 646-647 (8th Cir. 2004) (setting for the analytical framework).

         Thus, at stage three for a minor claimant to be “disabled” within the meaning of the Act, the minor claimant's impairments must meet or medically equal, or functionally equal, a listed impairment. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d); SSR 09-2p, 2009 WL 396032 (Feb. 18, 2009). The requirements to functionally equal are described in 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a) as “marked” limitations in two of the six domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation in one domain. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.925(b)(ii), 416.926a(a); SSR 09-2p, 2009 WL 396032 (Feb. 18, 2009). The Commissioner analyzes functional limitations in six 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. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1)(i)-(vi). See also Moore ex rel. Moore v. Barnhart, 413 F.3d 718, 722 n.4 (8th Cir. 2005).

         A “marked limitation” means the child's impairment “interferes seriously” with the ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. See C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2). A “marked limitation” also means:

(1) A limitation that is “more than moderate” but “less than extreme”;
(2) The equivalent of functioning that would be expected or standardized testing with scores that are at least two, but less than three, standard deviations below the mean;
(3) A valid score that is two standard deviations or more below the mean, but less than three standard deviations, on a comprehensive standardized test designed to measure ability or functioning in that domain, and his day-to-day functioning in domain-related activities is consistent with that score; or
(4) For the domain of health and physical well-being, frequent episodes of illnesses because of the impairment(s) or frequent exacerbations of the impairment(s) that result in significant, documented symptoms or signs that occur: (a) on an average of 3 times a year, or once every 4 months, each lasting 2 weeks or more; (b) more often than 3 times in a year or once every 4 months, but not lasting for 2 weeks; or (c) less often than an average of 3 times a year or once every 4 months but lasting no longer than 2 weeks, if the overall effect (based on the length of the episode(s) or its frequency) is equivalent in severity.

20 C.F.R. 416.926a(e)(2).

         An “extreme limitation” means the child's impairment “interferes very seriously” with the ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(3). An extreme limitation also means:

(1) A limitation that is “more than marked”;
(2) The equivalent of functioning that would be expected on standardized testing with equivalent scores that are at least three standard deviations below the mean;
(3) A valid score that is three standard deviations or more below the mean on a comprehensive standardized test designed to measure ability or functioning in that domain, and his day-to-day functioning in domain-related activities is consistent with that score; or
(4) For the domain of health and physical well-being, episodes of illness or exacerbations that result in significant, documented symptoms or signs substantially in excess of the requirements for showing a “marked” limitation.

20 C.F.R. §416.926a(e)(3).

         III.THE SUBSTANTIAL ...


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