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Little v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

November 22, 2013

DONTE LITTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant

For DONTE LITTLE, Plaintiff: David E. Furrer, LEAD ATTORNEY, SEIGEL, TULLY & FURRER, Baltimore, MD.

For MICHAEL JAMES ASTRUE, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant: Alex S. Gordon, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE FOR MARYLAND, Baltimore, MD; Fred Elmore Haynes, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC; Thomas McLean Nanni, LEAD ATTORNEY, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Office of the General Counsel, Baltimore, MD.

For SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Interested Party: Fred Elmore Haynes, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

OPINION

Page 46

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH A. ROBINSON, United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Donte Little commenced this action against the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration seeking review of the Social Security Administration's denial of his claim for disability and supplemental security income benefits.[1]

Page 47

See Complaint (Document No. 1). Plaintiff initiated this action in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, and at Plaintiff's request, the action was later transferred to this court. See Order Granting Transfer of Jurisdiction and Substitution of Counsel (Document No. 12-2). The parties consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge for all purposes, and the matter was assigned to the undersigned. Order Referring Case to Magistrate Judge for All Purposes (Document No. 13). Pending for determination are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 22) and Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Affirmance (Document No. 24). Upon consideration of the motions, the memoranda in support thereof and opposition thereto, the administrative record, and the entire record herein, the undersigned will grant Plaintiff's motion in part, deny Defendant's motion, and remand the matter for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Donte Little is a sixteen year-old who " has been diagnosed with a learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as attention deficit disorder." Administrative Record (Document No. 17) at 14. On October 31, 2008, Plaintiff's guardian, Amy Jones, applied for supplemental security income on his behalf, contending that he has been disabled since his date of birth.[2] Id. at 104. The agency determined that Plaintiff is not entitled to supplemental security income benefits " because he is not disabled or blind under [the agency's] rules." Id. at 60. Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the decision, id. at 63, but after an additional review, the agency determined " that the first decision was correct," id. at 66. Thereafter Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and was appointed counsel. Id. at 69, 73-75. An Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) conducted a hearing on August 2, 2010, at which he heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and from Ms. Jones. Id. at 25-26.

The ALJ issued his findings on December 3, 2010, and determined that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Social Security Act. Id. at 8-24. Although the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments -- borderline intellectual functioning and anxiety disorder -- the ALJ found that his impairments do not meet, medically equal, or functionally equal one of the listed impairments. Id. at 14-16. The ALJ set forth his findings with respect to each of the six domains considered when evaluating whether a claimant's impairments functionally equal the listed impairments. Id. at 18-23. The ALJ found that Plaintiff " has less than marked limitation" in acquiring and using information, attending and completing tasks, interacting and relating with others, and health and physical well-being. Id. The ALJ further found that Plaintiff " has no limitation" in moving about and manipulating objects or in his ability to care for himself. Id. at 22-23. Accordingly, he concluded that Plaintiff's impairments do not functionally equal the listed impairments.

Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision before the Social Security Administration Office of Disability Adjudication and Review's Appeals Council, id. at 7, and submitted a written memorandum as additional evidence to be considered, id. at 4. On November 3, 2011, the Appeals Council

Page 48

denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at 1. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the agency, and Plaintiff timely commenced this action for review of the agency's decision.

CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES[3]

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence in the record, and thus requests that the court reverse the agency's decision, or, in the alternative, remand the case for a new hearing. Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (" Plaintiff's Memorandum" ) (Document No. 22-1) at 11. Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's determination that his impairments do not functionally equal the listed impairments, contending that " the ALJ made numerous errors of finding of fact and application of law" in reaching that determination.[4] Id. at 12. Plaintiff contends that in weighing the evidence from clinical social workers at Crawford Consulting and Mental Health Services, the ALJ failed to follow Social Security Ruling 06-03p by not providing " any analysis of the six factors enumerated" therein. Id. at 15. Plaintiff further contends that the ALJ erred in assigning greater weight to the opinions of Plaintiff's special education teacher and a state consultative examiner because their " records lacked adequate support and inherent consistency to justify the weight given by the ALJ." Id. at 17.

Defendant, in support of her motion and in opposition to Plaintiff's motion, maintains that the agency's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Affirmance and in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment of Reversal (" Defendant's Memorandum" ) (Document Nos. 24-1, 25) at 1. Defendant contends that the ALJ properly weighed the evidence " [i]n accordance with the proper rules and regulations, including SSR 06-03p" and gave explanations for his findings that were supported by substantial evidence in the record. Id. at 8-10. Responding to Plaintiff's contentions, Defendant argues that " [a]lthough the ALJ did not specifically mention the SSR 06-[0]3p, factors when doing his evaluation, the analysis of the evidence does indeed cover all of the relevant factors." Id. at 12. Defendant further contends that the ALJ properly relied on the opinions of Plaintiff's special education teacher and the state consultative examiner because they were consistent with the rest of the record. Id.

APPLICABLE STANDARD

A claimaint may seek judicial review in a United States ...


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