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Fuller v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

March 7, 2016

SABRINA FULLER, o/b/o N.N.F., Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.


JOE J. VOLPE, Magistrate Judge.


This recommended disposition has been submitted to United States District Judge James M. Moody, Jr. The parties may file specific objections to these findings and recommendations and must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection. The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party. The District Judge, even in the absence of objections, may reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole or in part.


Sabrina Fuller brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), on behalf of her minor child, N.F.F., for review of the final decision of the Social Security Administration's denial of her claim for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3).


On March 1, 2012, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for supplemental security income on behalf of her daughter, a child under eighteen, with an alleged disability onset date of February 2, 2009. (Tr. 59-60) The claim was denied initially on June 1, 2012, and upon reconsideration on January 18, 2013. (Tr. 60-62) Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing on February 20, 2013. An ALJ held a hearing on October 7, 2013, at which Plaintiff and her daughter appeared and testified. (Tr. 27-45) At the time of the hearing, N.F.F. was fifteen years old and had completed the eighth grade. (Tr. 37)

On November 25, 2013, the ALJ rendered a decision finding Plaintiff's daughter was not disabled. (Tr. 8-22) The ALJ found N.F.F. was adolescent age when Plaintiff filed her application, and when the ALJ rendered his decision. (Tr. 14) See 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(g)(2). The ALJ found N.F.F. had never engaged in substantial gainful activity. (Tr. 14) The ALJ determined Plaintiff's daughter had the following severe impairments: ADHD and borderline intellectual functioning. (Tr. 14) The ALJ determined N.F.F.'s impairments or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. (Tr. 16) Finally, the ALJ found N.F.F. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that functionally equaled a listed impairment. (Tr. 16-21) The ALJ stated, "The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that result in either marked' limitations in two domains of functioning or extreme' limitation in one domain of functioning." (Tr. 22) Thus, the ALJ found N.F.F. had not been disabled since March 1, 2012, the date of Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 22) When the Appeals Council concluded on March 2, 2015, that no basis existed for review of the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final administrative decision subject to judicial review. (Tr. 1-3); See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


The role of the Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is to determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the decision of the Commissioner, and not to re-weigh the evidence or try the issues de novo. See Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). If substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's findings and they are conclusive, the Court should affirm them. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id. at 401. The Court may not reverse a prior determination based only on a finding that substantial evidence would support an opposite decision. See Prosch, 201 F.3d at 1012; Johnson v. Chater, 87 F.3d 1015, 1017 (8th Cir. 1996). Consequently, the Court's review of this case is limited and deferential to the Commissioner. See Ostronski v. Chater, 94 F.3d 413, 416 (8th Cir. 1996).

In determining whether an impairment or combination of impairments functionally equals the listings, the ALJ must have assessed the claimant's functioning in terms of six domains: (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and manipulating items; (5) caring for themself; and (6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1).

To functionally equal a listed impairment, the plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments must result in "marked" limitations in two domains of functioning or an "extreme" limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d). Plaintiff has the burden of proving her disability. See 42 U.S.C. § 1385c(a)(3)(A); Ingram v. Chater, 107 F.3d 598, 601 (8th Cir. 1997). A claimant must meet all of the specified medical criteria of the particular listing. Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530 (1990). The standard for medical equivalency is similarly demanding. In order to equal a listing, plaintiff must present medical findings equal in severity to all the criteria of the listed impairment. Marciniak v. Shalala, 49 F.3d 1350, 1351 (8th Cir. 1995) (citing Sullivan, 493 U.S. at 530 (an impairment does not meet or equal a listing if it has only some of the medical criteria, no matter how severe)).

After careful consideration of the record and pleadings in this case, I find the decision of the Commissioner is ...

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