Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Thomas v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

July 24, 2017

MYA THOMAS O/B/O HER MINOR CHILD, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDERGRANTINGPLAINTIFF'S MOTIONFORSUMMARY JUDGMENTANDDENYING DEFENDANT'SMOTIONFOR SUMMARYJUDGMENT ECF NOS. 15, 17, 21

          MARY K. DIMKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 15, 17, 21.[1] The parties consented to proceed before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 4. The Court, having reviewed the administrative record and the parties' briefing, is fully informed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion (ECF No. 21) and denies Defendant's motion (ECF No. 17).

         JURISDICTION

         The Court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A district court's review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is governed by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The scope of review under § 405(g) is limited; the Commissioner's decision will be disturbed “only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error.” Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1158 (9th Cir. 2012). “Substantial evidence” means “relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. at 1159 (quotation and citation omitted). Stated differently, substantial evidence equates to “more than a mere scintilla[, ] but less than a preponderance.” Id. (quotation and citation omitted). In determining whether the standard has been satisfied, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole rather than searching for supporting evidence in isolation. Id.

         In reviewing a denial of benefits, a district court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001). If the evidence in the record “is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, [the court] must uphold the ALJ's findings if they are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.” Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2012). Further, a district court “may not reverse an ALJ's decision on account of an error that is harmless.” Id. An error is harmless “where it is inconsequential to the [ALJ's] ultimate nondisability determination.” Id. at 1115 (quotation and citation omitted). The party appealing the ALJ's decision generally bears the burden of establishing that it was harmed. Shinseki v. Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409-10 (2009).

         THREE-STEP PROCESS FOR CHILDHOOD DISABILITY

         To qualify for Title XVI supplement security income benefits, a child under the age of eighteen must have “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.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). The regulations provide a three-step process to determine whether a claimant satisfies the above criteria. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). First, the ALJ must determine whether the child is engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b). Second, the ALJ considers whether the child has a “medically determinable impairment that is severe, ” which is defined as an impairment that causes “more than minimal functional limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c). Finally, if the ALJ finds a severe impairment, she must then consider whether the impairment “medically equals” or “functionally equals” a disability listed in the “Listing of Impairments.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c)-(d).

         If the ALJ finds that the child's impairment or combination of impairments does not meet or medically equal a listing, she must determine whether the impairment or combination of impairments functionally equals a listing. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). The ALJ's functional equivalence assessment requires her to evaluate the child's functioning in six “domains.” These six domains, which are designed “to capture all of what a child can or cannot do, ” are as follows:

         (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 self; and

         (6) Health and physical well-being.

         20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1)(i)-(vi). A child's impairment will be deemed to functionally equal a listed impairment if the child's condition results in a “marked” limitations in two domains, or an “extreme” limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). An impairment is a “marked limitation” if it “interferes seriously with [a person's] ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2)(i). By contrast, an “extreme limitation” is defined as a limitation that “interferes very seriously with [a person's] ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(3)(i).

         ALJ'S FINDINGS

         Plaintiff applied for Title XVI supplemental security income benefits on September 12, 2012, on behalf of her minor child, alleging a disability onset date of August 3, 2007. Tr. 263-71. The Plaintiff's application was denied initially, Tr. 120-29, and on reconsideration, Tr. 130-40.[2] A prior hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on July 16, 2013, however, it was not recorded due to technical errors and therefore is inadmissible as evidence. Tr. 12. Due to the technical error, a second hearing was held on October 8, 2013. Tr. 12; Tr. 41-94. On November 4, 2013, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim. Tr. 141-63.

         The Appeals Council remanded the order, and directed the ALJ to “further evaluate the claimant's impairments under the six domains of functioning, and provide rationale with references to supporting evidence for each of the domains … and give further consideration of the claimant's mother's testimony.” Tr. 12 (internal citations omitted). Plaintiff's mother appeared at another hearing before an ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.