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Paul v. Astrue

May 13, 2008

CODIE A. PAUL, PLAINTIFF
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (McClure, J.)

(Magistrate Judge Smyser)

MEMORANDUM

BACKGROUND:

On May 25, 2007, plaintiff Codie A. Paul, commenced this civil action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g). Paul is a child who seeks review of the Commissioner's decision to deny his application for Supplemental Security Income and asserts that the Commissioner's decision was not supported by substantial evidence.

The matter was initially referred to United States Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser.

On February 27, 2008, the magistrate judge filed a twelve page report and recommendation. (Rec. Doc. No. 16.) The magistrate judge found that the ALJ's decision to deny benefits was based on substantial evidence and recommended that the appeal be denied. (Id. at 12.)

On March 17, 2008, plaintiff filed objections to the report and recommendation. (Rec. Doc. No. 18.) On March 26, 2008, defendant filed a response to those objections. (Rec. Doc. No. 19.) For the following reasons, we will grant the appeal and remand the case to the ALJ for further consideration.

DISCUSSION:

I. Standard of Review

We have jurisdiction to hear this claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Our role is to determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner's decision and findings of fact. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir. 1999). "Substantial evidence means 'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Jones v. Barnhart, 364 F.3d 501, 503 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Jesurum v. Sec'y of the U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). "It is less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla." Id. The substantial evidence standard is a deferential standard of review. Id.

A district court reviews de novo those portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a party objects. L.R. 72.3. The court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id.

II. Analysis

Under the Social Security Act, a child under the age of 18 is considered disabled if he or she 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). A three-step evaluation process is utilized to determine whether a child is disabled and eligible for disability benefits: 1) whether the chid is engaged in substantial gainful activity; 2) whether the child has an impairment which is severe; and 3) whether the impairment "meets, medically equals, or functionally equals" the severity of any of the listed impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). If the child 1) is engaged in substantial gainful activity; 2) does not have a severe impairment; or 3) the severe impairment does not meet, medically equal, or functionally equal the severity of any of the listed impairments, he or she is not disabled. Id. On the other hand, if the child: 1) is not engaged in substantial gainful activity; 2) does have a severe impairment; and 3) the severe impairment meets, medically equals, or functionally equals the severe impairment of any of the listed impairments, he or she is disabled.

A child "meets" a listing if the specific findings detailed within the description of a listing exist with respect to that child's diagnosis. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d)(1). A child "medically equals" a listing if the medical findings with respect to the child's impairments are at least equal in severity and duration to the listed findings. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(a). Finally, a child "functionally equals" the severity of a listing if the impairment results in a "marked" limitation in two domains of functioning or an "extreme" limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). However, the child's functioning is not compared to the requirements of any specific listing. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(d). The six domains which must be analyzed are: 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 oneself; and 6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1). A "marked" limitation in a domain is found when an impairment "seriously" interferes with a plaintiff's ability to ...


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