United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
ELENA BYRD ex rel. M.J.J. Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Byrd, mother of M.J.J., filed this action seeking reversal of
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
denying M.J.J.'s application for Supplemental Security
Income under § 1614(a)(3)(C) of the Social Security Act
(Act). 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C). The parties have
consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate
Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and filed
cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated
below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
THE SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
recover Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a claimant must
establish that he or she is disabled within the meaning of
the Act. York v. Massanari, 155 F.Supp.2d 973,
976-77 (N.D. Ill. 2001). “A child qualifies as disabled
and therefore may be eligible for SSI if he has a
‘medically determinable physical or mental impairment,
which results in marked and severe functional
limitations' and the impairment ‘has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.'” Hopgood ex rel. L.G. v.
Astrue, 578 F.3d 696, 699 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i)).
Social Security Administration (SSA) employs a three-step
analysis to decide whether a child meets this definition. 20
C.F.R. § 416.924(a). First, if the child is engaged in
substantial gainful activity, his or her claim is denied.
Id. Second, if the child does not have a medically
severe impairment or combination of impairments, then his or
her claim is denied. Id. Finally, the child's
impairments must meet, or be functionally equivalent, to any
of the Listings of Impairments (Listings) contained in 20 CFR
pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. Id. To find an impairment
functionally equivalent to one in the Listings, an ALJ must
analyze its severity in six age-appropriate categories: (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 yourself; and
(6) health and physical well-being. Id. §
416.926a(a). To functionally equal the Listings, the ALJ must
find an “extreme” limitation in one category or a
“marked” limitation in two categories. An
“extreme” limitation occurs when the impairment
interferes very seriously with the child's ability to
independently initiate, sustain or complete activities.
Id. § 416.926a(e)(3)(I). A “marked”
limitation is one which interferes seriously with the
child's ability to independently initiate, sustain, or
complete activities. Id. § 416.926a(e)(2)(I).
23, 2011, Elena Byrd filed an application for SSI on behalf
of her minor child, M.J.J., who was born on October 27, 2007,
alleging that he became disabled on May 3, 2011. (R. at 19,
288). The application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, after which Ms. Byrd filed a timely request
for a hearing. (Id. at 19, 143-48, 154-61). On
November 9, 2012, September 25, 2013, and May 9, 2014, M.J.J.
and Ms. Byrd, represented by counsel, testified at a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Id. at
19, 43-142). At the November 9, 2012, and May 9, 2014
hearings, the ALJ also heard testimony from Ellen J.
Rozenfeld, Psy.D, a medical expert (ME). (Id. at 19,
67-76, 136-40, 195-98). At the September 25, 2013, and May 9,
2014 hearings, the ALJ also heard testimony from Milford F.
Schwartz Jr., M.D., another ME. (Id. at 19, 76-91,
25, 2014, the ALJ denied M.J.J.'s request for benefits.
(R. at 19-37). Applying the three-step sequential evaluation
process, the ALJ found at step one that M.J.J. has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 23, 2011,
his application date. (Id. at 22). At step two, the
ALJ found that M.J.J.'s history of congenital discoid
right meniscus status post arthroscopic surgery, suspected
cyst with intermittent discomfort, and history of
developmental delays with persistent bor- derline speech
language deficits are severe impairments. (Id.). The
ALJ also found that M.J.J.'s anemia and rheumatoid
arthritis are nonsevere impairments. (Id.). At step
three, the ALJ determined that M.J.J. does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meet or
medically equal the severity of any of the Listings.
(Id. at 23-24). Specifically, the ALJ concluded that
M.J.J. does not meet or medically equal either Listing 101.03
or Listing 112.02. (Id.). The ALJ then determined
that M.J.J. does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that functionally equal the severity of
any of the Listings. (R. 23-63). In making this
determination, the ALJ heavily relied on the opinions of Drs.
Rozenfeld and Schwartz, who found that M.J.J. has, at most,
less than marked limitations in all six of the functional
equivalency domains. (Id. at 28-36).
Appeals Council denied M.J.J.'s request for review on
October 28, 2015. (R. 1-6). M.J.J. now seeks judicial review
of the ALJ's decision, which stands as the final decision
of the Commissioner. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d
558, 561-62 (7th Cir. 2009).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the Commissioner's final decision is authorized
by § 405(g) of the Act. In reviewing this decision, the
Court may not engage in its own analysis of whether the
plaintiff is severely impaired as defined by the Social
Security Regulations (“regulations”). Young
v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995, 1001 (7th Cir. 2004). Nor may
it “reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts in the record,
decide questions of credibility, or, in general, substitute
[its] own judgment for that of the Commissioner.”
Court's task is “limited to determining whether the
ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence.” Id. (citing § 405(g)).
Evidence is considered substantial “if a reasonable
person would accept it as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Indoranto v. Barnhart, 374 F.3d
470, 473 (7th Cir. 2004); see Moore v. Colvin, 743
F.3d 1118, 1120-21 (7th Cir. 2014) (“We will uphold the
ALJ's decision if it is supported by substantial
evidence, that is, such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.”) (citation omitted). “Substantial
evidence must be more than a scintilla but may be less than a
preponderance.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d
836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). “In addition to relying on
substantial evidence, the ALJ must also explain his analysis
of the evidence with enough detail and clarity to permit
meaningful appellate review.” Briscoe ex rel.
Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005).
this Court accords great deference to the ALJ's
determination, it “must do more than merely rubber
stamp the ALJ's decision.” Scott v.
Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002) (citation
omitted). “This deferential standard of review is
weighted in favor of upholding the ALJ's decision, but it
does not mean that we scour the record for supportive
evidence or rack our brains for reasons to uphold the
ALJ's decision. Rather, the ALJ must identify the
relevant evidence and build a ‘logical bridge'
between that evidence and the ultimate determination.”
Moon v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 718, 721 (7th Cir. 2014).
Where the Commissioner's decision “lacks
evidentiary support or is so poorly articulated as to prevent
meaningful review, the case must be remanded.”
Steele v. Barnhart, 290 F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir.
RELEVANT MEDICAL EVIDENCE
was born on October 22, 2007, and was six years old at the
time of his SSI application. His knee pain is first
documented in the record at Friend Family Health Center in
January 2011, when he was three years old. (R. at 357).
Treatment notes indicate that his knees had caused him
intermittent pain starting in June 2010. (Id. at
357, 470). M.J.J.'s history of delayed speech and
language was first documented at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital
in May 2011. (Id. at ...