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Young ex rel. I.B. v. Berryhill

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

September 19, 2017

RANA D. YOUNG, ex rel ., I.B, a minor, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          M. David Weisman United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Rana Young, on behalf of her minor daughter, “I.B.” filed this action seeking reversal of the Commissioner's denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c). The parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 638(c). (Dkt. 7.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court reverses the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision and remands this case to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings.

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff Rana Young, on behalf of her minor daughter, “I.B., ” was awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits when I.B. was born, due to I.B's premature birth and low birth weight. Plaintiff's most recent favorable medical decision was August 27, 2013 where the ALJ found that I.B was still disabled but medical improvement had occurred as of February 1, 2012. (R. 23.)

         In May of 2015, Plaintiff was reevaluated and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that I.B.'s disability had ceased. (Id. at 17.) Specifically, the ALJ found that since February 1, 2012 the claimant had severe impairments of asthma and bronchopulmonary dysplasia but did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that functionally equaled one of the listed impairments. (Id. at 24.) The ALJ further explained that that Plaintiff's other impairments, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), delayed speech, and mood disorder, were not severe. (Id.)

         Plaintiff requested Appeals Council review. The Appeals Council declined Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision, which thus stands as the Commissioner's final decision. (R. 1) Plaintiff asks this Court to review the ALJ's decision arguing that the ALJ erred in weighing the treating sources' opinions, impermissibly relied upon the non-examining state agency doctor's opinion, and incorrectly assessed Plaintiff's childhood functional domains. (Pl.'s Br. at 6, 10, 11.)

         II. Standard of Review

         Judicial 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. 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.” Id. The Court's task is “limited to determining whether the ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial evidence.” Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. § 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.”) (citations 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) (citations omitted). “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) (citation omitted).

         Although this Court accords great deference to the ALJ's determination, it “must do more than merely rubber stamp the ALJ's decision.” Sco t 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. 2002).

         III. Determining a Disability under the Act

         A claimant must show a disability under the Act in order to obtain disability insurance benefits. York v. Massanari, 155 F.Supp.2d 973, 978 (N.D. Ill. 2001). To be found disabled, a child must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.906. When determining whether a child is considered disabled under the Act, the Commissioner must complete a three step inquiry: First the Commissioner must find that the child was not performing substantial gainful activity. 20 CFR § 416.924(b)); Wilson v. Colvin, 48 F.Supp.3d 1140, 1143 (N.D. Ill. 2014). Next, the Commissioner must determine that the child has a severe medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c). At step three, the Commissioner must determine whether the impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in the list of impairments set out in the Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d). Wilson, 48 F.Supp.3d at 1143. If the Commissioner finds in the affirmative at each step the child is disabled. Id. However, if the Commissioner's answer at step three is no, i.e., he finds, that the child's impairments do not meet or equal a listing, the Commissioner must decide whether the child's limitations “functionally equal” any listed impairment. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d). To make this determination, the Commissioner must analyze the child's limitations in six domains of functioning. These six domains are: “(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 oneself and (6) health and physical well-being.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1)). Under that functional equivalence test, a child is disabled if she suffers from two “marked” limitations or one “extreme” limitation. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a)).

         IV. Discussion

         As stated above, the ALJ found that I.B had the severe impairments of asthma and bronchopulmonary dysplasia but determined that these impairments did not functionally equal a listing. (R. 24.) Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred for several reasons. Among those reasons, Plaintiff contends the ALJ improperly weighed the opinion of Dr. Zedeck and Ms. Scott.

         Dr. Zedeck, a treating psychologist, first met with Plaintiff in March of 2014. (R. 985.) According to Dr. Zedeck's psychiatric assessment, he diagnosed Plaintiff with a mood disorder, not otherwise specified. (R. 990). He also found her affect was irritable with mood swings but found her to be alert and oriented to the person, place, and situation. (Id.) He also rated her insight and judgment ...

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