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TEVENAL v. COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois


May 12, 2004.

MIGDALIA TEVENAL, mother, on behalf of Michael Gribsby, minor child, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM HART, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AMD ORDER

In 2001, Migdalia Tevenal applied for Supplemental Security Income payments on behalf of her minor son, Michael Grigsby, who was born in August 1987. There is no dispute that Grigsby suffers from congenital adrenal hyperplasia ("CAH"), which is fatal if not properly treated with medications. Grigsby also has some hearing loss in one ear and uses a hearing aid. At the time of the hearing, he was 14 years old, of normal height and weight, and his condition, having been discovered when he was 12 days old, was controlled by medication.

According to the National Institute of Health's MedlinePlus encyclopedia:

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia refers to a group of inherited disorders relating to the adrenal glands, characterized by a deficiency in the hormones cortisol and aldosterone and an overproduction of androgen.
The different types of adrenogenital syndrome are inherited as autosomal recessive diseases and can affect both boys and girls. The defect is lack of an enzyme needed by the adrenal gland to make the major steroid hormones of the adrenal cortex: cortisol and aldosterone. Due to the block in synthesis of these hormones, there is abnormal `feedback' and steroids are `diverted' to becoming androgens, a form of male sex hormones. This causes early appearance of male characteristics.
* * *
In a newborn boy no obvious abnormality is present, but long before puberty normally occurs, the child becomes increasingly muscular, the penis enlarges, pubic hair appears, and the voice deepens. Affected males may appear to enter puberty as early as 2-3 years of age. At puberty, the testes are small.
Some forms of congenital adrenal hyperplasia are more severe and cause adrenal crisis in the newborn due to salt wasting. In this salt-losing form of congenital adrenal hyperplasia, newborns develop symptoms shortly after birth. These include vomiting, dehydration, electrolyte changes, and cardiac arrhythmias. Untreated, this condition can lead to death within 1-6 weeks after birth.
About 1 in 10,000 to 18,000 children are born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
* * *
The goal of treatment is to return hormone levels to normal. This is achieved by daily administration of forms of cortisol: dexamethasone, fludrocortisone, or hydrocortisone. Additional doses of medicine are required during times of stress such as severe illness or surgery.
* * *
The outcome is usually associated with good health, but short stature may result even with treatment. Males have normal fertility. . . . Medication to treat this disorder must be continued for life.
http://www.him.hih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000411.htm.

  A hearing was held before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). The ALJ found that Grigsby had CAH and the hearing loss and that both constituted a severe impairment. However, the ALJ found that Grigsby was not entitled to benefits because the impairments did not meet or equal any listed impairment. Consistent with applicable regulations, the ALJ considered the six functional equivalence domains and did not find a sufficient limitation that would qualify Grigsby for benefits. The Appeals Council denied review.*fn1

  Tevenal, who is proceeding without the assistance of an attorney, does not make any argument challenging the findings of the ALJ. Because Tevenal is proceeding pro se and acting for the benefit of a minor, the court has also independently examined the record and has determined that the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence. No possibly questionable legal issue or factual finding has been found that would justify appointing counsel to present further argument on plaintiff's behalf.

  Tevenal concedes that Grigsby "does attend school everyday and does well in some classes and needs tutor[ing] in other classes, just like a lot of students his age. He also does a lot of things for himself, does chores around the house, [and] has attitude like most teenagers." Tevenal argues, though, that Grigsby must take medications everyday for the rest of his life in order to live and grow normally and also must wear a hearing aid. She contends that this necessarily means that he is disabled. However, under the applicable statutes and regulations, a child who, with medications or treatment, has the functional capacity to perform an adequate level of pertinent tasks and activities is not entitled to disability benefits. See 20 C.F.R. ยง 416.924a(b)(9), 416.929(c)(3)(iv); Booker-Shelton ex rel. Booker-Morgan v. Barnhart, 266 F. Supp.2d 818, 819-20 (N.D. Ill. 2003); Kittles ex rel. Lawton v. Barnhart, 245 F. Supp.2d 479, 488 (E.D.N.Y. 2003); Smith ex rel. Enge v. Massanari, 139 F. Supp.2d 1128, 1133 (C.D. Cal. 2001). Here, the ALJ adequately considered Grigsby's ability to perform tasks and activities while on the medications that he takes.

  IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment [18-1] is granted. The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment in favor of defendant and against plaintiff affirming the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. If plaintiff wishes to appeal this order, she must file a Notice of Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit with the Clerk of the Court, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, 219 So. Dearborn Street, 20th Floor, Chicago, Illinois 60604, within sixty (60) days of the entry of the judgment in this case.


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