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Evette Williams O/B/O A.B.K v. Michael J. Astrue

January 11, 2013

EVETTE WILLIAMS O/B/O A.B.K.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.

MEMORANDUM ON SOCIAL SECURITY APPEAL

Plaintiff Evette Williams, on behalf of her daughter, A.B.K., seeks judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner (the "Commissioner") of the Social Security Administration (the "SSA") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33, 1381-83(f). After careful consideration of all the relevant facts and circumstances, and for the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's request for review of the May 28, 2009 decision of the Administrative Law Judge is DENIED and her Complaint is DISMISSED with prejudice.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

A.B.K. is a 14-year old girl who suffers from Marfan's syndrome, a genetic disorder that can affect the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, neurological, and pulmonary systems. Patients with Marfan's syndrome can experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe. A.B.K.'s father also suffers from Marfan's syndrome. The disease does not appear to have affected A.B.K.'s vision, lungs, or nerves, but it has affected her spine, joints, and heart. (Tr. 20-21). Nonetheless, she was enrolled in school throughout the time at issue in this litigation. (Tr. 22, 24, 112, 142-43).

On December 14, 2006, Evette Williams, A.B.K.'s mother, filed an application on behalf of A.B.K. for Supplemental Security Income, pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The application was denied without an appeal on May 2, 2007. On August 30, 2007, Williams filed a second SSI application on behalf of A.B.K., which was denied on April 1, 2008. Williams filed a timely request for a hearing. The hearing was held in Philadelphia on February 19, 2009, and both A.B.K. and Williams testified. (Tr. 17). On May 28, 2009, the AJL entered a decision finding A.B.K. was not disabled because her impairment did not meet, medically equal, or functionally equal a listed impairment under the Social Security Act. (Tr. 17-26).*fn1

Williams filed a timely request for review by the Appeals Council, submitting additional evidence to demonstrate A.B.K.'s disability. This evidence consisted of records from A.B.K.'s physical and occupational therapy sessions between October 14, 2009 and May 4, 2010. The Appeals Council gave consideration to the new evidence, but on August 19, 2011, denied the request for review. (Tr. 1, 6).

On October 26, 2011, Williams filed a Complaint in this Court, requesting review of the Commissioner's decision. (ECF 3). On June 18, 2012, Williams filed a Brief and Statement of Issues in Support of Request for Review. (ECF 10). On June 26, 2012, the Commissioner filed a Response in opposition thereto (ECF 11), and July 10, 2012, Williams filed a Reply (ECF No. 12).

II. Legal Standards

A. Jurisdiction

The Social Security Act provides for judicial review by this Court of any "final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security" in a disability proceeding. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). A district court may enter a judgment "affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." Id. When an Appeals Council denies a petitioner's request for review, the ALJ's decision operates as the Commissioner's final decision for the purposes of judicial review. Matthews v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 589, 592 (3d Cir. 2001).

B. Standard of Review

On judicial review of the Commissioner's decision, the Commissioner's findings of fact, "if supported by substantial evidence," are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Smith v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 632, 633 (3d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). It is a standard requiring "less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla." Jones v. Barnhart, 364 F.3d 501, 503 (3d Cir. 2004).

In reviewing the record for substantial evidence, however, the Court must "not weigh the evidence or substitute [its own] ...


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