United States District Court, D. South Carolina
OPINION AND ORDER
C. Coggins, Jr. United States District Judge.
has brought this action on behalf of her son pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her claim for
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). In accordance
with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02
(D.S.C.), this matter was referred to a United States
Magistrate Judge for pre-trial handling. On May 31, 2019,
Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker issued a Report and
Recommendation (“Report”), recommending that the
decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. ECF No. 16. On June
14, 2019, Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report, and the
Commissioner filed a Reply on June 24, 2019 ECF Nos. 17, 19.
For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts the Report and
incorporates it herein by reference.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with
this Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261,
270–71 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de
novo determination of only those portions of the Report that
have been specifically objected to, and the Court may accept,
reject, or modify the Report, in whole or in part. 28 U.S.C.
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme
established by the Social Security Act (“the
Act”) is a limited one. Section 205(g) of the Act
provides, “[t]he findings of the Secretary as to any
fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be
conclusive . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
“Substantial evidence has been defined innumerable
times as more than a scintilla, but less than
preponderance.” Thomas v. Celebreeze, 331 F.2d
541, 543 (4th Cir. 1964). This standard precludes a de novo
review of the factual circumstances that substitutes the
court’s findings for those of the Commissioner.
Vitek v. Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971). The
court must uphold the Commissioner’s decision as long
as it was supported by substantial evidence and reached
through the application of the correct legal standard.
Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650 (4th Cir. 2005).
“From this it does not follow, however, that the
findings of the administrative agency are to be mechanically
accepted. The statutorily granted right of review
contemplates more than an uncritical rubber stamping of the
administrative action.” Flack v. Cohen, 413
F.2d 278, 279 (4th Cir. 1969). “[T]he courts must not
abdicate their responsibility to give careful scrutiny to the
whole record to assure that there is a sound foundation for
the [Commissioner’s] findings, and that his conclusion
is rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at
applied for SSI on her son, T.L.'s, behalf on October 7,
2014, alleging disability since August 26, 2011, due to
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD").
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on
June 20, 2017. The ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim in a
decision issued on July 31, 2017. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for a review, making the
determination of the ALJ the final decision of the
Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court affirm the
Commissioner’s decision because it is supported by
substantial evidence and the proper legal standards were
applied. Plaintiff objects to the Report, claiming
"[t]he evidence overwhelmingly supports that T.L. has a
marked limitation in Interacting and Relating to
Others." ECF No. 17 at 1. Thus, Plaintiff contends that
the Magistrate Judge erred in recommending affirming the
determine if a child meets the functional equivalent of a
Listing, the ALJ must consider the child's ability in the
following six domains: (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. A child's
impairments or combination of impairments functionally equal
the Listings when the impairments result either in
"marked" limitations in two domains or an
"extreme" limitation in one domain. Id.
§ 416.926a(a). The ALJ will find that a child has a
"marked" limitation in a domain when the
child's impairment or combination or impairments
interferes seriously with his ability to independently
initiate, sustain, or complete activities. Id.
§ 416.926a(e)(2)(i). "Marked" limitation also
means a limitation that is "more than moderate" but
"less than extreme" and may arise when several
activities or functions are limited or when only one is
limited. Id. The ALJ will find that a child has an
"extreme" limitation in a domain when the
child's impairment or combination of impairments
interferes very seriously with his ability to independently
initiate, sustain, or complete activities. Id.
§ 416.926a(e)(3)(i). "Extreme" limitations are
those that are "more than marked" and may arise
when several activities or functions are limited or when one
is limited. Id. Here, the ALJ found that T.L. had a
"marked limitation" in acquiring and using
information, "less than marked limitation[s]" in
attending and completing tasks and interacting and relating
with others, and no limitations in the remaining domains. ECF
No. 9-2 at 25–34.
objections, Plaintiff exclusively argues that T.L. has a
"marked limitation" in Interacting and Relating to
Others. The relevant regulation defines this domain as
(i) Interacting means initiating and responding to exchanges
with other people, for practical or social purposes. You
interact with others by using facial expressions, gestures,
actions, or words. You may interact with another person only
once, as when asking a stranger for directions, or many
times, as when describing your day at school to your parents.
You may interact with people one-at-a-time, as when you are
listening to another student in the hallway at school, or in
groups, as when you are playing with others.
(ii) Relating to other people means forming intimate
relationships with family members and with friends who are
your age, and sustaining them over time. You may relate to
individuals, such as your siblings, parents or best friend,
or to groups, such as other children in childcare, your
friends in school, teammates in sports activities, or people
in your neighborhood.
(iii) Interacting and relating require you to respond
appropriately to a variety of emotional and behavioral cues.
You must be able to speak intelligibly and fluently so that
others can understand you; participate in verbal turntaking
and nonverbal exchanges; consider others' feelings and
points of view; follow social rules for ...