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T.D.B. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 6, 2018

T.D.B., a minor, by and through his mother, Raisa Simmons Burrell, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on the Complaint [Docket No. 1] filed by plaintiff T.D.B. on June 23, 2016. Plaintiff seeks review of the final decision of defendant Nancy A. Berryhill (the “Commissioner”) denying his claim for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33 and 1381-83c. The Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 7, 2013, plaintiff applied for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Act. R. at 32. Plaintiff alleged that he had been disabled since January 1, 2007. Id. Plaintiff later amended his alleged onset date of disability to June 7, 2013. Id. After an initial administrative denial of his claim, plaintiff received a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on December 16, 2014. Id. On January 29, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiff's claim. Id. at 32-47.

         The ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: depression, learning disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Id. at 35. The ALJ concluded that these impairments, alone or in combination, did not meet one of the regulations' listed impairments, id., and ruled that plaintiff did not have an impairment that functionally equaled the severity of the listings. Id. at 35-46. The ALJ concluded that plaintiff had a marked limitation in interacting and relating with others and did not have an extreme limitation in any functional domain. Id. at 39-45.

         On April 19, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's denial of his claim. Id. at 1-4. Given the Appeals Council's denial, the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the Commissioner.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Review of the Commissioner's finding that a claimant is not disabled is limited to determining whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Angel v. Barnhart, 329 F.3d 1208, 1209 (10th Cir. 2003). The district court may not reverse an ALJ simply because the court may have reached a different result based on the record; the question instead is whether there is substantial evidence showing that the ALJ was justified in her decision. See Ellison v. Sullivan, 929 F.2d 534, 536 (10th Cir. 1990). “Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Flaherty v. Astrue, 515 F.3d 1067, 1070 (10th Cir. 2007). Moreover, “[e]vidence is not substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence in the record or constitutes mere conclusion.” Musgrave v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1371, 1374 (10th Cir. 1992). The district court will not “reweigh the evidence or retry the case, ” but must “meticulously examine the record as a whole, including anything that may undercut or detract from the ALJ's findings in order to determine if the substantiality test has been met.” Flaherty, 515 F.3d at 1070. Nevertheless, “if the ALJ failed to apply the correct legal test, there is a ground for reversal apart from a lack of substantial evidence.” Thompson v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 1482, 1487 (10th Cir. 1993).

         B. The Three-Step Evaluation Process

         “A child is considered disabled if she has ‘a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and . . . which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.'” Taylor v. Berryhill, 679 F. App'x 661, 662 (10th Cir. 2017) (unpublished) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i)).

         The Commissioner has established a three-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether a child is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a); Briggs ex rel. Briggs v. Massanari, 248 F.3d 1235, 1237 (10th Cir. 2001). The steps of the evaluation are:

(1) that the child is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, (2) that the child has an impairment or combination of impairments that is severe, and (3) that the child's impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in Appendix 1, Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404.

Briggs, 248 F.3d at 1237 (citing 20 C.F.R. ยง 416.924(a)). Under step three of the evaluation, the ALJ is required to assess a child's ability to ...


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