United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KAROLINE MEHALCHICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action brought under Sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §405(g) and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying the claims of Plaintiff
Melissa Stoner (“Ms. Stoner”) brought on behalf
of Z.S., a minor child, (“child”) for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income under the
Social Security Act. This matter has been referred to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge to prepare a
report recommending disposition, pursuant to the provisions
of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Rule 72(b) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons expressed herein,
the Court recommends that the Commissioner's final
decision be AFFIRMED.
Background and Procedural History
claimant was born on August 2, 2006, making him a minor,
school-aged child at the time of the ALJ's decision.
(Admin. Tr. 13; Doc. 10-2 p. 14). At the time of his hearing,
the child was on home instruction and had been on home
instruction since the end of the previous school year.
(Admin. Tr. 54; Doc. 10-2 p. 55). This was the preference of
the child's mother, Ms. Stoner, after receiving a letter
from the school district indicating it would not be able to
continue to allow the child to be in the typical classroom
setting. (Id.). The ALJ examined Ms.
on her son's trouble at school versus his behavior at
Ms. Stoner: At school he doesn't response well,
appropriately to adult authority figure. He has a lot of
trouble with peer interaction. He's said to have
aggressive behaviors and there's been reports of him, you
know, throwing a chair or object or something, kicking
things, he has a lot of social difficulty and interaction
with others [sic].
ALJ: What about at home?
Ms. Stoner: At home, now if he's coming from school to
home[, ] there's difficulties of behavior. He needs a lot
of redirection but the extent of the behavior to where he
just is kicking things and doing things, he does and he has
done that depending on what the circumstance[s] may be. If it
might be something to his choice or something he doesn't
understand or if he's feeling angry or you know, it all
depends on what's really going on and what sets the mood
(Admin. Tr. 55: Doc. 10-2 p. 56). Ms. Stoner further
testified that the child was not undergoing any treatment or
on any medication. (Admin. Tr. 55-56; Doc. 10-2 pp. 56-57).
asked Ms. Stoner about the child's interaction and
relation with the teacher authority figure who comes into his
home to provide him instruction. (Admin. Tr. 56; Doc. 10-2 p.
57). Ms. Stone testified that the interaction and relation is
“[m]uch different than that of what it is inside of
school. . . he seems to do much better [behaviorally] . . .
child has a sister, with whom he has a healthy relationship
and behaves normally towards. (Admin. Tr. 57-58; Doc. 10-2
pp. 58-59). The child also has friends in the neighborhood,
and enjoys spending time and playing with them. (Admin. Tr.
58; Doc. 10-2 p. 59). According to his mother, the child
loves to play sports and video games and has always been very
active. (Admin. Tr. 57; Doc. 10-2 p. 58). She also testified
that the child has no problem taking care of his personal
needs such as hygiene or completing his chores around the
house (such as cleaning his room and being responsible for
his dog). (Admin. Tr. 58-59; Doc. 10-2 pp. 59-60).
March 22, 2013, an application for supplemental security
income was filed on behalf of the child. (Admin. Tr. 10; Doc.
10-2 p. 11). It alleged a disability onset date of October 1,
2011. (Id.). It claimed attention deficit
hyperactive disorder (“ADHD”) and oppositional
defiance disorder (“ODD”) as the child's
disabling conditions. (Admin. Tr. 119; Doc. 10-6 p. 18).
claim was initially denied on July 16, 2013. (Admin. Tr. 10;
Doc. 10-2 p. 11). On November 21, 2014, ALJ Jarrod Tranguch
held a hearing on the claim. (Id.). The child, his
mother, and their attorney appeared via video feed.
March 2, 2015, the ALJ issued an opinion finding the child
was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (Admin. Tr.
10-24; Doc. 10-2 pp. 11-25). The ALJ followed the three-step
analysis for disability claims regarding a minor under the
Social Security Act. (Id.).
One, the ALJ found the child was not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the application filing date. (Admin.
Tr. 13; Doc. 10-2 p. 14). At Step Two, the ALJ found the
child had two severe impairments: (1) ADHD; and, (2) ODD.
(Id.). At Step Thee, the ALJ determined that the
child did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically or functionally equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments. (Id.). In
determining the child did not functionally meet a listing,
the ALJ analyzed six domains (discussed below) and found him
to have less than marked limitations in four of them and no
limitation in two of them. (Admin. Tr. 13-24; Doc. 10-2 pp.
14-25). (Admin. Tr. 32-35; Doc. 11-2 pp. 33-36).
August 17, 2016, the agency Appeals Council denied Ms.
Stoner's request for review. (Admin. Tr. 1; Doc. 10-2
p.2). On, October 19, 2016, Ms. Stoner filed a civil action
with this Court seeking review. (Complaint, Doc. 1 pp. 1-2).
Standard of Review
claimant under the age of 18 (“minor”) shall be
considered disabled for under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act 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 for a continuous period
of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(C)(I); 20 C.F.R. §416.906. Notwithstanding
the above, no minor who engages in substantial gainful
activity, as defined by the Social Security regulations, may
be found disabled. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(ii); 20
employs a three-step evaluation process to determine whether
a minor is eligible for SSI payments by reason of disability.
If the ALJ finds that the minor is not disabled at any point
in the sequence, review will not proceed any further.
See20 C.F.R. § 416.924. As part of this
analysis the ALJ must sequentially determine: (1) whether the
minor is engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether
the minor has a medically determinable, severe impairment;
(3) whether the minor's impairment or combination of
impairments meets, medically equals, or functionally equals
an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. See20 C.F.R. § 416.924.
determining functional equivalence, the ALJ evaluates the
following six domains of functioning: (1) acquiring and using
information; (2) attending to and completing tasks; (3)
interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and
manipulating objects; (5) ability to care for oneself; and,
(6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. §
416.926a(b)(1)(i)-(vi). An impairment is functionally equal
to a listed impairment when it results in
“marked” limitations in two domains of
functioning or an “extreme” limitation in one
domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). A marked limitation is
more than moderate but less than extreme. 20 C.F.R. §
416.926a(e)(2)(ii). An impairment that only meets some of the
criteria of a ...