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Polk v. Colvin

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

May 4, 2016

Tashian Polk o/b/o K.J.P. Plaintiff
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration Defendant

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         Instructions

         The following recommended disposition was prepared for U.S. District Judge James M. Moody, Jr. A party to this dispute may file written objections to this recommendation. An objection must be specific and state the factual and/or legal basis for the objection. An objection to a factual finding must identify the finding and the evidence supporting the objection. Objections must be filed with the clerk of the court no later than 14 days from the date of this recommendation.[1] The objecting party must serve the opposing party with a copy of an objection. Failing to object within 14 days waives the right to appeal questions of fact.[2] If no objections are filed, Judge Moody may adopt the recommended disposition without independently reviewing all of the record evidence.

         Reasoning for Recommended Disposition

         Tashian Polk appeals the denial of her second application for child supplemental security income (SSI) for her son K.J.P.[3] Polk claims K.J.P. has been disabled since birth, but heart surgery triggered the application. Polk based disability on heart surgery, speech problems, a drooping left eye lid, bowel problems, and pancreatitis.[4] To receive SSI, Polk must prove K.J.P. was disabled as of, or after, applying for SSI;[5] that is, she must prove K.J.P. was disabled as of, or after, July 6, 2011, when K.J.P. was age 4 years, 7 months.

         The Commissioner’s decision.

         After considering the application, the Commissioner’s ALJ identified language disorder and cleft mitral valve defect-post repair as severe impairments.[6] The ALJ determined K.J.P. lacked an “extreme” limitation in one of six specified functional domains, or a “marked” limitation in at least two domains. Relevant to this review, the ALJ determined K.J.P. has a less than marked limitation in the domains of interacting and relating to others, and health and physical well-being.[7] The ALJ concluded that K.J.P. was not disabled and denied the application.[8]

         After the Commissioner’s Appeals Council denied a request for review, [9] the ALJ’s decision became a final decision for judicial review.[10] Polk filed this case to challenge the decision.[11] In reviewing the decision, the court must determine whether substantial evidence supports the decision and whether the ALJ made a legal error.[12]This recommendation explains why substantial evidence supports the decision and why the ALJ made no legal error.

         Polk’s argument.

         Polk contends K.J.P. has marked limitations in interacting and relating to others, and in health and physical well-being. She says the ALJ erred by determining otherwise. She complains about the ALJ’s reliance on K.J.P.’s academic record. For these reasons, she contends substantial evidence does not support the ALJ’s decision.[13]

         Applicable legal principles.

         At step three of the disability-determination process, the ALJ must determine whether a child’s impairment meets or medically equals the severity requirements for a listed impairment.[14] K.J.P.’s impairments are not severe enough to meet or medically equal a listed impairment, but he might functionally equal the listing. To functionally meet the listing, his impairments must cause an “extreme” limitation in one domain or a “marked” limitation in at least two domains.[15] A marked limitation exists if the child’s impairments seriously interfere with his ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.[16] The domains at issue are: (1) interacting and relating to others, and (2) health and well-being.

         The evidence supports a less than marked limitation in interacting and relating to others.

         The domain of interacting and relating to others considers how a child initiates and sustains emotional connections with others, develops and uses the language of his community, cooperates with others, complies with rules, responds to criticism, and respects and takes care of the possessions of others.[17] A pre-school child like K.J.P. should do the following:

(1) socialize with children as well as adults,
(2) begin to prefer playmates the same age and start to develop friendships with children of the same age,
(3) use words instead of actions to express himself,
(4) be better able to share, show affection, and offer to help,
(5) relate to caregivers with increasing independence,
(6) choose his friends,
(7) play cooperatively with other children, one-at-a-time or in a group, without continual adult supervision,
(8) initiate and participate in conversations, using increasingly complex vocabulary and grammar, and
(9) speaking clearly enough that both familiar and unfamiliar listeners can understand what’s said ...

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