United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Logan (“Plaintiff”) brings this action on behalf
of J.A.L., 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 J.A.L.'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. 6. 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 J.A.L. on
August 13, 2013. (Tr. 63). With this application, Plaintiff
alleges J.A.L. is disabled due to a learning disability,
speech delays, and seizures. (Tr. 199). Plaintiff alleges
J.A.L.'s onset date was February 28, 2008. (Tr. 63). This
application was denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 113-124).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on January 7,
2014. (Tr. 146). This hearing request was granted, and
Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on September
17, 2014 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 83-112). Plaintiff and
J.A.L. were present and represented by Lawrence Fitting.
Id. Plaintiff, a witness for Plaintiff, and J.A.L.
testified at this hearing. Id.
February 25, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's application for SSI on behalf of
J.A.L. (Tr. 60-78). In this decision, the ALJ determined
J.A.L. was a preschooler on the date the application was
filed and was currently a school-age child. (Tr. 66, Finding
1). The ALJ determined J.A.L. had not engaged in Substantial
Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since August 13, 2013,
her application date. (Tr. 66, Finding 2). The ALJ determined
J.A.L. had the following severe impairments: partial complex
seizure disorder and speech language delay. (Tr. 66, Finding
3). The ALJ also determined, however, that none of
J.A.L.'s impairments met, medically equaled, or were
functionally equivalent to the Listing of Impairments in
Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4
(“Listings”). (Tr. 66, Finding 4).
assessing whether J.A.L.'s impairments were functionally
equivalent to the Listings, the ALJ assessed six domains of
functioning. (Tr. 66-77, Finding 5). J.A.L. 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) no limitation in moving about and manipulating objects;
(5) no limitation in the ability to care for himself; and (6)
no limitation in health and physical well-being. Id.
Based upon these findings, the ALJ determined J.A.L. 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. (Tr. 78, Finding 6).
on March 31, 2015, Plaintiffs requested the Appeals
Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision.
(Tr. 58). On May 12, 2016, the Appeals Council declined to
review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-3). On June 27,
2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The
Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on June
29, 2016. ECF No. 6. 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
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 ...