United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Renee Elisea (“Plaintiff”) brings this action on
behalf of L.G., a minor, pursuant to § 205(g) of Title
II of the Social Security Act (“The Act”), 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010), seeking judicial review of a
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denying L.G.'s
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act. The Parties
have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge to
conduct any and all proceedings in this case, including
conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a final judgment,
and conducting all post-judgment proceedings. ECF No.
Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum
opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this
protectively filed a SSI application on behalf of L.G. on
November 9, 2011. (Tr. 12, 114-117). With this application,
Plaintiff alleges L.G. is disabled due to myasthenia gravis,
behavioral problems, and speech problems. (Tr. 123).
Plaintiff alleges L.G.'s onset date was April 1, 2010.
(Tr. 12). This application was denied initially and again
upon reconsideration. (Tr. 66-67).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on L.G.'s
application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr.
81-83, 33-65). An administrative hearing was held on May 7,
2013 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 33-65). Plaintiff was
present and was represented by Shannon Muse Carroll at this
hearing. Id. Plaintiff and L.G. testified at this
March 7, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's application for SSI on behalf of L.G.
(Tr. 9-28). In this decision, the ALJ found L.G. was a
preschooler on the date the application was filed and was
currently a school-age child. (Tr. 15, Finding 1). The ALJ
determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity (“SGA”) since November 9, 2011, the
application date. (Tr. 15, Finding 2). The ALJ determined
L.G. had the following severe impairments: congenital
myasthenia gravis; oppositional defiant disorder; and a
history of speech issues. (Tr. 15, Finding 3). The ALJ also
determined, however, that none of L.G.'s impairments met,
medically equaled, or were functionally equivalent to the
Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulations
No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 15, Finding 4).
assessing whether L.G.'s impairments were functionally
equivalent to the Listings, the ALJ assessed six domains of
functioning. (Tr. 15-28, Finding 5). Specifically, the ALJ
determined L.G. had the following limitations in the six
domains of functioning: (1) less than marked limitation in
acquiring and using information; (2) no limitation in
attending and completing tasks; (3) less than marked
limitation in interacting and relating with others; (4) less
than marked limitation in moving about and manipulating
objects; (5) less than marked limitation in his ability to
care for himself; and (6) a marked limitation in health and
physical well-being. Id. Based upon these findings,
the ALJ determined L.G. had not been under a disability, as
defined by the Act, at any time from the date Plaintiff's
application was filed through the date of the ALJ's
decision or through March 7, 2014. (Tr. 28, Finding 6).
on March 12, 2014, Plaintiff requested the Appeals
Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision.
(Tr. 7). On October 7, 2015, the Appeals Council declined to
review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-3). On November 16,
2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No.
Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on
November 17, 2015. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal
briefs. ECF Nos. 13-14. This case is now ready for decision.
reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine
whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006); Ramirez v. Barnhart,
292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough
that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel,
240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). As long as there is
substantial evidence in the record that supports the
Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it
simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that
would have supported a contrary outcome or because the Court
would have decided the case differently. See Haley v.
Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If, after
reviewing the record, it is possible to draw two inconsistent
positions from the evidence and one of those positions
represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ
must be affirmed. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065,
1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
case, Plaintiff is seeking disability benefits on behalf of a
minor child. On August 22, 1996, Congress enacted the
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation
Act of 1996, Public Law No. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105 (1996)
(codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)), which provided
a more stringent standard for determining eligibility for
Title XVI childhood disability benefits than the old law and
prior regulations required. See Rucker v. Apfel, 141
F.3d 1256, 1259 (8th Cir. 1998); 142 Cong. Rec. H8913; H.R.
Conf. Rep. No. 725, 104th Cong. 2d Sess. 328 (1996),
reprinted in 1996 U.S. Code, Cong. and Ad. News 2649, 2716;
Federal Register, Vol. 62, No. 28, p. 6409.
other things, the new law amended Section 1614(a)(3) of the
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3), and changed the statutory
definition of disability for individuals under age eighteen
(18) under the SSI program. Under the new standard, a child
is entitled to disability benefits only 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
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months. See Pub. L. No. 104-193 §
211(a)(4)(c); 20 C.F.R. § 416.906. The new standard
applies to all applicants who filed claims on or after August
22, 1996, or whose claims had not been finally adjudicated by
August 22, 1996. Since Plaintiff filed her application in
2011, the new law applies.
the new law, the ALJ's disability determination is based
upon a three-step analysis. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.924. First, the ALJ must determine whether the minor
child has engaged in substantial gainful activity. If not,
the ALJ will proceed to the second step where the ALJ must
consider whether the child has a severe impairment. If a
severe impairment is found, the ALJ will proceed to the third
step. At this step, the ALJ, must consider whether the
impairment meets, or is medically or functionally equivalent,
to a disability listing in the Listing of Impairments
(“Listings”), See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404,
subpt. P, app. 1. A minor child may be disabled if his or her
impairment is ...