United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
CURTIS MCCAULEY and CARMEN MCCAULEY On behalf of D.M., A MINOR, PLAINTIFFS
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
and Carmen McCauley (“Plaintiffs”) brings this
action on behalf of D.M., 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
D.M.'s application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.
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. 7. Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
protectively filed an SSI application on behalf of D.M. on
September 23, 2013. (Tr. 27). With this application,
Plaintiffs allege D.M. is disabled due to a heart condition.
(Tr. 154). Plaintiffs allege D.M.'s onset date was
September 23, 2013. (Tr. 27). This application was denied
initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 68-86).
Plaintiffs requested an administrative hearing on March 6,
2014. (Tr. 102). This hearing request was granted, and
Plaintiffs' administrative hearing was held on October
28, 2014 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 43-66). Plaintiff
Carmen McCauley and D.M. were present and were represented by
Shannon Carroll at this hearing. Id. D.M. and
Plaintiff Carmen McCauley testified at this hearing.
January 29, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiffs' application for SSI on behalf of D.M.
(Tr. 24-38). In this decision, the ALJ determined D.M. was a
preschooler on the date his application was filed and was a
preschooler as of the date of his decision. (Tr. 30, Finding
1). The ALJ determined D.M. had not engaged in Substantial
Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since September 23,
2013, his application date. (Tr. 30, Finding 2). The ALJ
determined D.M. had the following severe impairments:
congenital aortic stenosis and post-traumatic stress disorder
(status-post heart surgery). (Tr. 30, Finding 3). The ALJ
also determined, however, that none of D.M.'s impairments
met, medically equaled, or were functionally equivalent to
the Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P,
Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 30-38,
assessing whether D.M.'s impairments were functionally
equivalent to the Listings, the ALJ assessed six domains of
functioning. (Tr. 30-38, Finding 5). Specifically, the ALJ
determined D.M. had the following limitations in the six
domains of functioning: (1) no 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) no
limitation in the ability to care for himself; and (6) less
than marked limitation in health and physical well-being.
Id. Based upon these findings, the ALJ determined
D.M. had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act,
at any time from the date Plaintiffs' application was
filed through the date of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 38,
on March 11, 2015, Plaintiffs requested the Appeals
Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision.
(Tr. 22-23). On March 15, 2016, the Appeals Council declined
to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-3). On April 15,
2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The
Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on April
20, 2016. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs.
ECF Nos. 11-12. 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 Plaintiffs filed their application in
2013, 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 functionally equivalent to a disability
listing, even if the minor child's impairment does not
meet the standard requirements for a disability listing.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d)(1).
single method is provided for evaluating whether an
impairment is “functionally equivalent” to a
disability listing, based upon six domains of functioning.
The six domains are the following: (1) acquiring and using
information, (2) attending and completing tasks, (3)
interacting and relating with others, (4) moving about and
manipulating objects, (5) caring for himself or herself, and
(6) health and physical well-being. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(b)(1). If the minor child claiming benefits
has “marked” limitations in two of these domains
or an “extreme” limitation in one of these
domains, then the child's impairment is functionally
equivalent to a disability listing. See Id. §
416.926a(a); Moore ex rel. Moore v. Barnhart, 413
F.3d 718, 721 (8th Cir. 2005).
“marked” limitation is a limitation that is
“more than moderate” and “less than
extreme.” See Id. § 416.926a(e);
Lehnartz v. Barnhart, No. 04-3818, 2005 WL 1767944,
at *3 (8th Cir. July 27, 2005) (unpublished). A marked
limitation is one that seriously interferes with a
child's ability to independently initiate, sustain, or
complete activities. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.926a(e). An “extreme” limitation is
more than “marked” and exists when a child's
impairment(s) interferes very seriously with his or her
ability to independently initiate, sustain or complete
activities. See Id. “Extreme” limitation
is the rating the Commissioner gives to the most serious
limitations. See id.