United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Mehalchick, Magistrate Judge.
M. MUNLEY JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court for disposition is Magistrate Judge Karoline
Mehalchick's report and recommendation (hereinafter
“R&R”) which proposes denying Plaintiff Lisa
Knoll's (hereinafter “plaintiff” or
“claimant”) appeal of Defendant Social Security
Administration's (hereinafter “SSA”) decision
denying plaintiff's claims brought on behalf of her minor
son for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act. (Doc. 22). The matter is fully briefed
and ripe for disposition.
Knoll has a minor child, E.G.K., who suffers from social
anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(“ADHD”), and a learning disability. Plaintiff
began her quest for supplemental security income for E.G.K.
on August 18, 2013, when she filed a Title XVI application
for benefits. Plaintiff Knoll claimed that her son's
disability began on May 1, 2006.
March 25, 2014, the SSA denied plaintiff's claims. Upon
learning that her claim was denied, plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (hereinafter
hearing on June 25, 2015, Judge Randy Riley found that
E.G.K., who was thirteen (13) years old at the time and going
into the seventh grade, was not disabled under the Social
Security Act. Plaintiff appealed this decision to the SSA
Appeals Council, and her appeal was denied on January 25,
initiated the instant action on February 21, 2017, asking the
court to reverse the decision of the ALJ and award benefits,
or remand for a new hearing. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff seeks this
reversal on the grounds that the ALJ's decision to deny
her claim was not supported by substantial evidence and is
based on the incorrect application of legal principles.
Judge Mehalchick reviewed the record in this case and
recommends that plaintiff's request for relief be denied
and final judgment be issued in favor of the defendant. (Doc.
22). Plaintiff filed objections to the R&R on March 14,
2018. (Doc. 25). The defendant responded on March 28, 2018,
bringing this case to its present posture. (Doc. 27).
court has federal question jurisdiction over this SSA appeal.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) (“The final
determination of the Commissioner of Social Security after a
hearing under paragraph (1) shall be subject to judicial
review as provided in section 405(g) of this title to the
same extent as the Commissioner's final determinations
under section 405 of this title.”); see also
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“Any individual, after any
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made
after a hearing to which he was a party, irrespective of the
amount in controversy, may obtain a review of such decision
by a civil action commenced within sixty days after the
mailing to him of notice of such decision or within such
further time as the Commissioner of Social Security may
allow. Such action shall be brought in the district court of
the United States for the judicial district in which the
plaintiff resides, or has his principal place of
disposing of objections to a magistrate judge's R&R,
the district court must make a de novo determination
of those portions of the report against which objections are
made. 28 U.S.C. S 636(b)(1)(c); see also Sullivan v.
Cuyler, 723 F.2d 1077, 1085 (3d Cir. 1983). The court
may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.
Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 877 (3d Cir.
1987). The district court judge may also receive further
evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with
reviewing a Social Security appeal, the court must determine
whether “substantial evidence” supports the
ALJ's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Hagans v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 694 F.3d 287, 292
(3d Cir. 2012); Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427
(3d Cir. 1999). “[S]ubstantial evidence has been
defined as ‘more than a mere scintilla.' ”
Hagans, 694 F.3d at 292 (quoting Plummer,
186 F.3d at 427). It means “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Consolo v. Fed. Mar. Comm'n,
383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966).
court should not reverse the Commissioner's findings
merely because evidence may exist to support the opposite
conclusion. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir.
2005) (stating that courts may not weigh the evidence or
substitute their own conclusions for those of the
fact-finder); Fargnoli v. Massanari, 247 F.3d 34, 38
(3d Cir. 2001) (indicating that when the ALJ's findings
of fact are supported by substantial evidence, courts are
bound by those findings, even if they would have decided the
factual inquiry differently). In an adequately developed
factual record, substantial evidence may be “something
less than the weight of the evidence, and the possibility of
drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does
not prevent an administrative agency's finding from being
supported by substantial evidence.” Consolo,
383 U.S. at 620.
evidence exists only “in relationship to all the other
evidence in the record, ” Cotter v. Harris,
642 F.2d 700, 706 (3d Cir. 1981), and “must take into
account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its
weight.” Universal Camera Corp. v. N.L.R.B.,
340 U.S. 474, 488 (1971). “When a conflict in the
evidence exists, the ALJ may choose whom to credit but
‘cannot reject evidence for no reason or for the wrong
reason.' ” Plummer, 186 F.3d at 429
(quoting Mason v. Shalala, 994 F.2d 1058, 1066 (3d
Cir. 1993)). The Commissioner must indicate which evidence
was accepted, which evidence was rejected, and the reasons
for rejecting certain evidence. Johnson v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 529 F.3d 198, 204 (3d Cir. 2008). Thus, a
reviewing court must scrutinize the record as a whole.
Smith v. Califano, 637 F.2d 968, 970 (3d Cir. 1981).
receive disability benefits, a claimant under the age of
eighteen must demonstrate that 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). Notwithstanding the above,
no child 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 C.F.R.
evaluates whether a child is eligible for SSI payments by
reason of disability with a three-step sequential analysis.
This analysis requires the ALJ to consider, in sequence,
whether the child (1) is engaging in substantial gainful
activity; (2) has a medically determinable, severe
impairment; and (3) whether the child's impairment or
combination of impairments meets, medically equals, or