United States District Court, D. South Carolina.
Crystal Weaver Brown, on behalf of K.M.M. 1491, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
Kaymani D. West, United States Magistrate Judge.
social security matter is before the court pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Civil Rule 83.VII.02 (D.S.C.)
for final adjudication, with the consent of the parties, of
Plaintiff’s petition for judicial review. Plaintiff
Crystal Weaver Brown (“Plaintiff”) brings this
action on behalf of her minor child, KMM, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying her claim for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The two
issues before the court are whether the Commissioner’s
findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence and
whether she applied the proper legal standards. Having
carefully considered the parties’ submissions and the
applicable law, the court affirms the
Commissioner’s decision, as discussed herein.
2012, Plaintiff applied for SSI on KMM’s behalf
alleging a disability onset date of March 5,
2000. Tr. 144-47. In the form disability report,
KMM’s disabling conditions were listed as asthma and
allergies, acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease
(“GERD”), scoliosis of the spine, craniostenosis,
and spondylolisthesis. Tr. 177. The application was denied
initially on August 30, 2012, Tr. 68-69, and upon
reconsideration on December 12, 2012, Tr. 81-82, and
Plaintiff requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), Tr. 93-95. ALJ Thomas G. Henderson
conducted a hearing on September 5, 2013. Tr. 44-58. The ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision on September 20, 2013. Tr.
26-39. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request
for review on November 26, 2014, making the ALJ’s
decision the final decision for purposes of judicial review.
Tr. 1-8. Plaintiff brought this action seeking judicial
review of the Commissioner’s decision in a Complaint
filed on January 23, 2015. ECF No. 1.
born prematurely in March 2000 with a birth weight of 800
grams. Tr. 444. As a low-birth-weight baby he automatically
qualified for SSI for a one-year “non-permanent
disability.” Tr. 153. KMM had several surgeries
throughout his childhood. KMM underwent cranial
reconstructive surgery when he was one year old. Tr. 406-07,
519, 521. When he was three years old he had surgery to
remove a mass on his vocal cords. Tr. 400-04, 520. KMM
underwent surgery for heel cord lengthening when he was nine
years old. See Tr. 505, 509. On October 16, 2012,
when he was 12 years old, KMM had surgery to decompress his
spine. Tr. 518.
12 years old on the date his application for SSI was filed
and 13 years old on the date of the administrative hearing.
Tr. 47, 144. As of the date of the hearing, KMM was in the
eighth grade. Tr. 47.
and KMM, along with their non-attorney representative,
appeared in Charleston, South Carolina for an administrative
hearing on September 5, 2013. Tr. 44, 51-70.
KMM’s Testimony In response to questions from the ALJ,
KMM testified that he was 13 years old and in the eighth
grade. Tr. 47. He stated that he spent the past summer
relaxing around the house, playing video games, and watching
TV. Tr. 47-48. KMM also testified that he played basketball
with his friends. Tr. 48. KMM stated that in school he liked
math but did not like social studies. Id. KMM
testified that he had two brothers, one aged 17 and his
13-year-old twin brother. Tr. 49.
response to questions from his representative, KMM testified
that although he stated that he played basketball at home, he
did not play at school because he had “back
problems.” Tr. 49. KMM testified that when he tries to
play at school his back starts hurting and he
“can’t move as fast as the other kids.” Tr.
50. KMM stated his knees also hurt when he plays.
Id. KMM described the pain as feeling
“stiff.” Id. KMM testified that he was
unable to join the basketball team at school and also unable
to join the tennis team because he could not “run as
fast.” Tr. 51. KMM testified that he played tennis as a
hobby and had started playing the previous year. Id.
representative noted that KMM was a twin and his birth weight
was less than two pounds. Tr. 52. The representative also
noted that KMM was on SSI for the first year, however
benefits were automatically discontinued “after the
first year, assuming that he would get better. But his health
condition continued to get worse.” Id.
response to questions from the representative, Plaintiff
testified that KMM’s SSI stopped after one year because
“[t]hey said he was no longer disabled.” Tr. 53.
She stated there were no medical records that showed he had
interrupted to confirm that the current SSI application was a
“new application” and not a “termination -
succession.” Tr. 53. Plaintiff’s representative
confirmed it was a new application filed in June 2012. The
representative resumed questioning of Plaintiff, and
Plaintiff testified that she also filed an application in
2008 or 2009 that was denied because “they said he
wasn’t disabled.” Id.
testified that KMM has asthma and “has to go to the
emergency room at least maybe three times a year, especially
if the season change or if he’s outside playing in the
grass and you just can’t stop it.” Tr. 53.
Plaintiff testified that KMM has back problems and due to
scoliosis had surgery in October of the previous year to fuse
his spine. Tr. 54. Regarding KMM’s legs Plaintiff
testified that KMM “has a lot of cramps, like if he
tries to get out and run or play basketball he just-they give
out and start cramping.” Tr. 55. She stated that KMM
“stays in the house a lot.” Id.
Plaintiff testified that KMM’s grades were good and
confirmed that he had no problems with his teachers, no
problems listening, and no problems socially-his problems
were physical and not mental. Id.
response to the ALJ, Plaintiff testified that KMM’s
last asthma episode was in January when he went from the
doctor’s office to the emergency room where they were
able to stop the asthma attack. Tr. 56. Plaintiff testified
that KMM had never been hospitalized for asthma. Id.
testified that KMM had other prior surgeries including head
reconstruction, tissue removed from his larynx, and the
“tendons in the back of his legs had to be lengthened
because they were tight.” Tr. 56-57. Plaintiff
testified that KMM takes Motrin for his back pain. Tr. 57.
She also stated that KMM sometimes “wakes up with
cramps because maybe he laid the wrong way and it gets stiff
or something.” Id.
the ALJ closed the record the representative stated that
KMM’s limitations “interfere with his balance and
that kind of prevents him from doing things that other
children his age would be able to do.” Tr. 57-58. The
representative also noted that she was not sure how much more
KMM would be able to improve. Tr. 58.
September 20, 2013 decision, the ALJ made the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. The claimant was born on March 5, 2000. Therefore, he was
an adolescent on June 8, 2012, the date application was
filed, and is currently an adolescent (20 CFR
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 8, 2012, the application date (20 CFR
416.924(b) and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
status-post L4-5 fusion and asthma (20 CFR 416.924(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.924, 416.925 and 416.926).
5. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that functionally equals the severity of the
listings (20 CFR 416.924(d) and 416.926a).
6. The claimant has not been disabled, as defined in the
Social Security Act, since June 8, 2012, the date the