United States District Court, D. South Carolina
C.N.H.W., a minor, by and through her Parent and Natural Guardian, Sacora L. Wise, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BRISTOW MARCHANT, Magistrate Judge.
The Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner wherein she was denied disability benefits. This case was referred to the undersigned for a report and recommendation pursuant to Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a) (D.S.C.).
Plaintiff applied for child's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on October 27, 2010 (protective filing date), alleging disability as of March 1, 2009, due to difficulty paying attention, developmental delays, and a learning disability. (R.pp. 92, 154-159, 202). Plaintiff's claims were denied both initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on July 24, 2012. (R.pp. 11-53). The ALJ thereafter denied Plaintiff's claims in a decision issued October 10, 2012. (R.pp. 92-106). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review of the decision, thereby making the determination of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (R.pp. 4-8).
Plaintiff then filed this action in United States District Court. In her Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ erred in rendering a decision that was not supported by substantial evidence and which contained errors of law. Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 3. However, Plaintiff failed to file a Brief supporting her Complaint pursuant to Local Rule 83.VII.04, D.S.C.; therefore, there is no further explanation from the Plaintiff as to what, if any, specific claims of error are being asserted. As such, Plaintiff may be considered as having abandoned her claim. For her part, the Commissioner contends that the decision to deny benefits is supported by substantial evidence, and that Plaintiff was properly found not to be disabled.
Scope of review
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court's scope of review is limited to (1) whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the ultimate conclusions reached by the Commissioner are legally correct under controlling law. Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); Richardson v. Califano, 574 F.2d 802, 803 (4th Cir. 1978); Myers v. Califano, 611 F.2d 980, 982-983 (4th Cir. 1980). If the record contains substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision, it is the court's duty to affirm the decision. Substantial evidence has been defined as:
evidence which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance. If there is evidence to justify refusal to direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is "substantial evidence." [emphasis added].
Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456 (citing Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640 (4th Cir. 1966)).
The Court lacks the authority to substitute its own judgment for that of the Commissioner. Laws, 368 F.2d at 642. "[T]he language of [405(g)] precludes a de novo judicial proceeding and requires that the court uphold the [Commissioner's] decision even should the court disagree with such decision as long as it is supported by substantial evidence." Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972).
A review of the record shows that Plaintiff was nine (9) years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R.pp. 95, 154). An individual under the age of eighteen is considered disabled under the Social Security Act if that child "has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.906. To determine whether a child is disabled, the regulations require the ALJ to consider, in sequence:
(1) whether the child is engaged in substantial gainful activity;
(2) whether the child has a "severe" impairment; and
(3) whether the child has an impairment that meets, medically equals, or functionally equals the requirements of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 ("the ...