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Alicea v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 7, 2014

MARGARITA ALICEA, o/b/o J.I.P., Plaintiff,


EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, District Judge.


Margarita Alicia brought this action on behalf of J.I.P., a minor, ("Plaintiff") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3) seeking judicial review of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's ("Defendant") final decision denying Plaintiff's application for Child's Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Upon consideration of the Administrative record, submitted pleadings, Chief Magistrate Judge Carol Sandra Moore Wells's Report and Recommendation, objections thereto, and responses to objections, the Court adopts Judge Wells's Report and Recommendation. Plaintiff's request for review will be denied, and judgment will be entered in favor of Defendant.


A. Procedural History

An application for SSI was filed on behalf of Plaintiff on September 30, 2009. See Social Security Administration, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Decision, R. at 22. The application alleged Plaintiff was disabled since his birth on August 31, 2009. See Form SSA-3820, R. at 178-79. On October 27, 2009, the Claim was denied, and Plaintiff subsequently filed a request for a hearing. R. at 22. On February 2, 2011, an administrative hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Drew A. Swank. The ALJ ruled against Plaintiff on February 8, 2013. See Decision, R. at 22-35. Plaintiff's mother testified at that hearing. Id . On August 31, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, marking Defendant's final determination. Notice of Appeals Council Action, R. at 3-5.

On December 4, 2012, Plaintiff's mother, on behalf of Plaintiff, filed the Complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Comp., ECF No. 3. Plaintiff's mother later filed a brief in support of the Request for Review and Defendant filed a response. ECF Nos. 10, 11. The Court referred the case to Chief Magistrate Judge Carol Sandra Moore Wells for a report and recommendation. Order, May 14, 2013, ECF No. 12. On August 22, 2013, the Magistrate Judge filed the Report and Recommendation recommending that Plaintiff's request for review be denied and judgment be entered in favor of Defendant. Report and Recommendation 7, Aug. 22, 2013. Plaintiff subsequently filed two timely objections to which Defendant has responded. ECF Nos. 17 and 18.

B. Factual Background

Plaintiff was born on August 31, 2009. R. at 45. Plaintiff was delivered prematurely at 32-weeks.[1] R. at 44. Plaintiff has spina bifida, R. at 44, a congenital developmental disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube.[2] Plaintiff's feet curve inward. R. at 44. His head is disproportionately large, and he may need a brain shunt due to his head size. R. at 44, 47. Plaintiff has difficulty breathing, and he takes two different medications each day to control his asthma. R. at 44. Plaintiff was able to crawl, and Plaintiff may need braces to help him walk when he is older. R. at 45.

Furthermore, Plaintiff has various bowel and bladder issues. Plaintiff has constipation and requires assistance moving his bowels. Id., R. at 45-46. Plaintiff also has problems with urinating. Id., R. at 45. Plaintiff may eventually need an external apparatus, such as a bag, due to these two issues. Id., R. at 46.


The Court undertakes a de novo review of the portions of the Report and Recommendation to which Plaintiff has objected. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (2006); Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Dominick D'Andrea, Inc. , 150 F.3d 245, 250 (3d Cir. 1998). The Court "may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

In reviewing the Commissioner's final determination that a person is not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to Social Security benefits, the Court may not independently weigh the evidence or substitute its own conclusions for those reached by the ALJ. See Burns v. Barnhart , 312 F.3d 113, 118 (3d Cir. 2002). Instead, the Court must review the factual findings presented in order to determine whether they are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006); Rutherford v. Barnhart , 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005).

Substantial evidence constitutes that which a "reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Rutherford , 399 F.3d at 552 (internal quotation marks omitted). "It is more than a mere scintilla but may be somewhat less than a preponderance of the evidence.'" Id . (quoting Ginsburg v. Richardson , 436 F.2d 1146, 1148 (3d Cir. 1971)). If the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the Court may not set it aside even if the Court would have decided the factual inquiry differently. See Hartranft v. Apfel , 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999); see also Rutherford , 399 F.3d at 552 ("In the process of reviewing the record for substantial ...

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