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Bianchi v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 29, 2015

JACKIE BIANCHI, for her minor child J.B., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1]ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JEFFREY T. GILBERT MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Claimant Jackie Bianchi is seeking to recover supplemental security income pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3), on behalf of her minor son J.B. This is an appeal of the denial of Claimant's application for supplement security income. Claimant seeks reversal or remand of the decision of Defendant Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying the application for supplemental security income. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Rule 73.1 for all proceedings, including entry of final judgment.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment [ECF 16, 26]. For the reasons stated herein, Claimant's Motion [ECF 16] is granted, and the Commissioner's Motion [ECF 26] is denied. This case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Claimant filed an application for supplemental security income on July 28, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of Aprill 19, 2010. (R. 12). J.B. suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and bipolar disorder. (R. 15). Claimant's application for benefits was denied on October 6, 2010 and again after reconsideration on January 12, 2011. (R. 12). Claimant requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on January 25, 2001. (R. 12). Claimant, J.B. and one other witness appeared and testified at a hearing before ALJ Curt Marcelle on August 9, 2011. (R. 12). Claimant was represented by an attorney at the hearing. (R. 12).

On August 18, 2011, the ALJ denied Claimant's application for supplemental security income and found that J.B. was not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(c) of the Social Security Act. (R. 25). A child is disabled under the Social Security Act if the child is not engaged in substantial gainful activity and has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked or severe functional limitations that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 20 C.F.R. § 416.906.

A child's impairments, or combination of impairments, must meet, medically equal, or be functionally equal to a listing. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d). In determining whether an impairment or combination of impairments functionally equals the listing, an ALJ must assess the child's functioning in terms of six domains: (1) acquiring and using information, (2) attending and completing tasks, (3) interacting and relating with others, (4) moving and manipulating objects, (5) caring for yourself, and (6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b). To functionally equal a listing, the child's impairment, or combination of impairments, must cause a "marked" limitation in two domains of functioning or an "extreme" limitation in one domain of functioning. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(d).

In this case, the ALT determined that J.B. was a school-age child on July 28, 2010, the date the application was filed, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity. (R. 15). The ALT also found that J.B. had the severe impairments of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and bipolar disorder. (R. 15). The ALI, however, found that none of J.B.'s impairments, alone or in combination, met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.924, 416.925, and 416.926). The ALJ also determined that J.B. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that functionally equaled die severity of any listing. (R. 16-24). As a result, the ALT concluded that J.B. was not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(C) as defined in the Social Security Act since July 28, 2010, the date Claimant filed the application. (R. 25).

Claimant appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council on September 26, 2011. (R. 140). The Appeals Council denied Claimant's request for review on December 21, 2012, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 3).

II. ANALYSIS

Claimant argues that this matter should be reversed or remanded because: (1) the ALJ failed to analyze properly J.B.'s functional limitations within the six domains, and (2) the ALJ failed to evaluate properly the credibility of Claimant, J.B. and another witness Jason Vanderwall, who is Claimant's boyfriend. After reviewing the parties' briefs and the administrative record, the Court concludes that (1) the ALJ's analysis of J.B.'s functional limitations within the six domains is not supported by substantial evidence and the ALJ did not adequately account for J.B.'s limitations in his functional equivalence analysis and that (2) the ALJ's credibility analysis is flawed. Therefore, remand is appropriate.

A. THE ALJ'S FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALNECE ANALYSIS IS FLAWED

Claimant argues that the ALJ failed to analyze properly the severity of J.B.'s limitations in the domains of Caring for Yourself and Interacting with Others. [ECF 17], at 10-13. In response to Claimant's arguments, the Commissioner responds that the ALJ reasonably relied on the opinions of two State agency medical consultants when analyzing J.B.'s limitations within the six domains and in making his functional equivalence determination. [ECF 27], 4-5. The Commissioner's response, however, does not address the arguments advanced by Claimant that the ALJ's functional equivalence analysis is flawed because he failed to consider relevant evidence which contradicted his findings. See [ECF 17], at 10-13.

A child has a marked limitation in a domain when the child's impairment "interferes seriously" with his ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. 20 C.F.R. §416.926a(e)(2). The Seventh Circuit has held that an ALJ has a duty to fully develop the record before drawing any conclusions. Murphy v. Astrue, 496 F.3d 630 (7th Cir. 2007). "The ALJ must consider 'all relevant evidence' and may not analyze only that information supporting the ALJ's final conclusion." Godbey v. Apfel, 238 803, 808 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 871 (7th Cir. 2000)). An ALJ also may not simply list evidence that is ...


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