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Bradley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

September 26, 2017

CYNTHIA BRADLEY, 6/b/o K.M., a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett's! Report and Recommendation ("R&R") that this court reverse and remand Acting Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A. Berfyhill's ("the Commissioner") decision denying the application of Cynthia Bradley's ("Bradley") minor child, "K.M.", for supplemental security income ("SSI"). The Commissioner filed objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R, reverses the Commissioner's decision, and remands for further administrative proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Unless otherwise noted, the following background is drawn from the R&R.

         A. Procedural History

         On May 25, 2012, Bradley filed an application for SSI on K.M.'s behalf, alleging disability beginning that same date due to a learning disability. The Social Security Agency denied Bradley's claim initially and on reconsideration. Bradley requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), and ALJ Nicole S. Forbes-Schmitt held a hearing on July 17, 2014.

         The ALJ issued a decision on September 19, 2014, finding K.M. not disabled under the Social Security Act. Bradley requested Appeals Council review of the ALJ's decision.. The Appeals Council denied Bradley's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On March 10, 2016, Bradley filed this action seeking review of the ALJ's decision. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on July 17, 2017, recommending that this court reverse and remand the ALJ's decision. The Commissioner filed objections to the R&R on July 25, 2017. The matter is now ripe for the court's review.

         B: Medical History

         Because K.M.'s medical history is not directly at issue here, the court dispenses with a lengthy recitation thereof and instead notes a few relevant facts. The claimant was born on February 14, 2005, was seven years old and a school-age child on the alleged onset date, and is currently a school-age child.

         C. ALJ's Findings

         A person under the age of eighteen is considered disabled under the Social Security Act if he "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. The Social Security regulations establish a three:step sequential evaluation process to determine whether a child is disabled. 20.C.F.R. § 416.924(b)-(d). Under this process, the ALJ must determine whether the minor: (1) is engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) has a "severe" impairment; and (3) 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 Listings"). Id. According to the regulations, a severe impairment "is one which is more than a slight impairment that causes more than minimal functional limitations." James ex. rel. v. Colvin. Civil Action No. 9:12-2694-RMG, 2014 WL 131198, at *1 (D.S.C. Jan. 14, 2014) (citation omitted). To determine whether a child satisfies the functional equivalent equal to a Listing, the ALJ should consider the child's functional level in the following six areas: "(1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating to others; (4) moving about and manipulating objects; (5) caring for oneself; and (6) health and physical well[-]being." Id; 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1). To be found disabled under a functional equivalency analysis, the child ''must be shown to have a 'marked' impairment in at least two of the functional areas[, ]" James, 2014 WL 131198, at *1 (citing § 416.926a), or an "extreme" limitation in one functional area, § 416.926a(a). A marked impairment, which is a limitation that is "more than moderate but less than extreme, " is one that seriously interferes with the child's ability "to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities." § 416.926a(e)(2)(i). An extreme impairment is one that interferes very seriously with a child's ability "to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities." § 416.926a(e)(3)(i).

         The" ALJ employed the statutorily-required three-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether K.M. was disabled. The ALJ first determined that K.M. has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 25, 2012, the application date. Tr. 31. At the second step, the ALJ found that K.M. suffered from the following severe impairments: learning disability, speech and language delay, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and disruptive behavior disorder/oppositional defiant disorder. Tr. 31. At step three, the ALJ found that K.M.'s impairments or combination of impairments did not meet or equal one of the listed impairments in the Agency's Listings of Impairments ("the Listings"). Tr. 31-40; see 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1. Accordingly, the ALJ found that K.M. was not disabled during the period at issue. Tr. 40.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which specific, written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A party's failure to object is accepted as agreement with the magistrate judge's conclusions. See Thomas v. Arm474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). The R&R carries no presumptive weight, and the responsibility ...


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