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Crawford ex rel. C.D. v. Berryhill

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

January 17, 2018

KENYATA CRAWFORD, ex. rel. C.D., a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARY M. ROWLAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kenyata Crawford filed this action on behalf of her minor son, C.D., seeking reversal of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1381 et. seq. 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 case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On October 25, 2012, Kenyata Crawford filed an application for SSI on behalf of her minor child, C.D., who was born on February 12, 2006, alleging that he became disabled on October 1, 2012. (R. at 62). The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which Ms. Crawford filed a timely request for a hearing. (Id. at 61-79, 96-98). On February 20, 2015, C.D. and Ms. Crawford, unrepresented by counsel, testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Id. at 36-60).

         On May 27, 2015, the ALJ denied C.D.'s request for benefits. (R. at 12-35). Applying the three-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found at step one that C.D. has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 25, 2012, his application date. (Id. at 15). At step two, the ALJ found that C.D.'s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a severe impairment. (Id.). At step three, the ALJ determined that C.D. does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal the severity of any of the Listings. (Id.). Specifically, the ALJ concluded that C.D. does not meet or medically equal Listing 112.11. (Id.). (Id. at 16). The ALJ then determined that C.D. does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that functionally equal the severity of any of the Listings. (Id. at 16-30).

         The Appeals Council denied C.D.'s request for review on October 13, 2016. (R. at 1-6). C.D. 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).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is authorized under 42 U.S.C. 405(g). On review, 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. 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). “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). The ALJ must “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).

         Although 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). “[T]he 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).

         “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)). To decide whether a child meets this definition, the 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: “(i) acquiring and using information; (ii) attending and completing tasks; (iii) interacting and relating with others; (iv) moving about and manipulating objects; (v) caring for yourself; and (vi) health and physical well-being. Id. § 416.926a(b)(1). 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).

         III. DISCUSSION

         C.D. raises two main arguments in support of his request for reversal of the ALJ's determination that he is not disabled: (1) the ALJ improperly evaluated C.D.'s and Ms. Crawford's subjective symptom statements by failing to reach an explicit “credibility” finding; and (2) the ALJ did not set forth a supported rationale for finding a less than marked limitation in the domains of “Caring for Yourself” and “Attending and Completing Tasks.” (Dkt. 20 at 5-13).

         A. The ALJ's Subjective Symptom Evaluation

         The Regulations describe a two-step process for evaluating a claimant's own description of his or her impairments. First, the ALJ “must consider whether there is an underlying medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that could reasonably be expected to produce the individual's symptoms, such as pain.” SSR 16-3p, at *2; see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.929. “Second, once an underlying physical or mental impairment(s) that could reasonably be expected to produce the individual's symptoms is established, we evaluate the intensity and persistence of those ...


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