Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

MORGAN v. BARNHART

February 4, 2004.

LOVIE MORGAN o/b/o ANTONIO MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DEBORAH ROBINSON, Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Plaintiff Lovie Morgan brings this action on behalf of her son, Antonio Morgan, for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration terminating Antonio's supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381, 1382c (a)(3)(C), effective July 1, 1997. Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment of Reversal (Docket No. 7), and Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Affirmance (Docket No. 10), are pending for consideration by the undersigned.*fn1 Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the administrative record, and the entire record herein, the undersigned will recommend that Plaintiff's motion be granted; that Defendant's motion be denied; and that this action be remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff's son, Antonio, was born on February 9, 1990. R. at 12. Antonio was awarded Page 2 SSI benefits effective November 1, 1993, based upon a determination that he was disabled as a result of a severe speech impediment and a learning disorder. R. at 10, 43-46. On July 31, 1997, Plaintiff received notice from the Social Security Administration that Antonio "no longer qualifie[d]" for SSI benefits as of July 1, 1997, and was scheduled to receive his last payment in September, 1997. R. at 50-51.*fn2 On August 21, 1997, Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the determination that Antonio would no longer be qualified for SSI benefits. R. at 53-54. A hearing was conducted on June 17, 1998, and on July 9, 1998, the hearing officer determined that Antonio was not disabled. R. at 55-61. Plaintiff sought reconsideration of the July 9, 1998 determination, and on February 13, 1999, requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). R. at 62. The hearing before the ALJ was conducted on September 9, 1999. R. at 10. In a decision rendered on November 22, 1999, the ALJ found that Antonio was not disabled for the purposes of eligibility for SSI benefits. R. at 10-22. Plaintiff's subsequent request for review by the Appeals Council was denied on January 17, 2002. R. at 2-3. Plaintiff timely filed this action on March 21, 2002.

 STANDARD OF REVIEW

 A. Scope of Review

  The applicable standard of review requires considerable deference to the decision Page 3 rendered by the administrative law judge. Davis v. Shalala, 862 F. Supp. 1, 4 (D.D.C. 1994). The issue before this court is whether the Administrative Law Judge's findings, which have been adopted by the Commissioner, are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Jackson v. Barnhart, 271 F. Supp.2d 30, 33 (D.D.C. 2002). If the findings are (1) supported by substantial evidence and (2) not tainted by error of law, then the district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision. Id.; see Davis, 862 F. Supp. at 4. Thus, when a claimant challenges the decision of the Commissioner, judicial review is limited to ensuring that the decision rendered is in accordance with applicable law and rests upon substantial evidence. Id. "Substantial evidence" is that evidence which "a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Substantial evidence need not be a large amount, but must be more than a scintilla. See Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988).

  The District of Columbia Circuit has held that "Section 405(g), which governs judicial review of final SSA decisions, authorizes only two types of remands: those pursuant to sentence four and those pursuant to sentence six." Krishnan v. Barnhart, 328 F.3d 685, 691 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (citing Melkonvan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89, 99-100 (1991)). Upon a finding by the district court that the Commissioner's decision does not rest upon substantial evidence, "sentence four" provides that the court may remand the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings, but requires the court to enter "a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g): see Melkonvan, 501 U.S. at 98. Alternatively, a district court may retain jurisdiction over the case while remanding it to the Commissioner when either "(1) the Commissioner requested a remand before filing his answer, or (2) there is `new evidence Page 4 which is material and [] there is good cause for the failure to incorporate such evidence into the record in a prior proceeding.'" Krishnan, 328 F.3d at 691 (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)).

 B. Eligibility Standard

  Section 1381a of the Social Security Act provides that every eligible "aged, blind, or disabled individual" shall be awarded benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security. 42 U.S.C. § 1381a; Morales v. Barnhardt, 2002 WL 31729526, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. December 5, 2002).

  On August 22, 1996, Congress enacted the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act ("PRWORA" or "the Act"). The PRWORA set forth new standards for determining whether a child is "disabled" for purposes of eligibility for supplemental security income benefits. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Public Law 104-193, §§ 211-212. The Act provides, in pertinent part, that
[a]n individual under the age of 18 shall be considered disabled for the purposes of this subchapter if that individual has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked or 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)*997); see also Rodriguez v. Barnhart, 2003 WL 22709204, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. November 7, 2003).

  PRWORA further mandated that within one year of its date of enactment, the Commissioner "redetermine the eligibility of individuals under the age of 18 who qualified for SSI based on disability as of August 22, 1996, and whose eligibility might terminate because of changes made by Public Law 104-193." Supplemental Security Income; Determining Disability for a Child Under Age 18, 65 Fed. Reg. 54, 747-48 (Sept. 11, 2000). It was in accordance with this Page 5 provision that the Social Security Administration determined that Antonio was no longer eligible for SSI benefits as of July 1, 1997.

  The Social Security Administration promulgated new regulations to conform to the requirements of the new legislation, and issued "interim final regulations," effective April 14, 1997. Childhood Disability Provisions, 62 Fed. Reg. 6408; see Keys, 347 F.3d at 992. The interim final regulations ("interim regulations") established a three-step sequential evaluation process pursuant to which the Commissioner inquired whether a child: (1) had engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) suffered from one or more severe impairments; (3) and had an impairment or combination of impairments that met, medically equaled or functionally equaled the Listing of Impairments for childhood disability. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a) (2000) (codifying interim final regulations); see also Morales, 2002 WL 31729526, at *5-6. At step three, the child's impairment(s) would be found functionally equal to a listed impairment if the child's condition: (1) resulted in "extreme limitation of one specific function, such as walking or talking" or "extreme limitation in one area of functioning or marked limitation in two areas of functioning[;]" (2) subjected the child to "episodic" limitations such as "frequent illnesses or attacks[;]" or (3) required treatment that "cause [d] marked and severe functional limitations." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1)-(4)(2000); Booker-Shelton v. Barnhart, 266 F. Supp.2d 818, 821 (N.D.Ill. 2003). "Broad areas of functioning" for children between the ages of three and 18 were defined as: (1) cognition/communication; (2) motor; (3) social;(4) personal; and (5) concentration, persistence, or pace. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(c)(4)(2000); Morales, 2002 WL 31729526, at *6. The interim regulations were in effect on November 22, 1999, at the time of the ALJ's decision that Antonio was not disabled for the purposes of SSI benefits. R. at 10. Page 6

  On September 11, 2000, the Social Security Administration published final regulations implementing PRWORA, effective January 2, 2001. 65 Fed. Reg. at 54, 747. The final regulations provide for substantially the same three-step sequential analysis for the determination of whether a child is "disabled" as the analysis for which interim regulations provided. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). First, the ALJ must determine whether the child is engaged in substantial gainful activity. Id. If the ALJ finds that the child is engaged in substantial gainful activity, then he or she is not entitled to SSI benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b). Next, the ALJ must determine whether the child has a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924. If the ALJ finds the child's impairment to be severe, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.