United States District Court, D. Columbia.
SAMUEL MCLAURIN, Plaintiff: Stephen F. Shea, ELKIND & SHEA,
Silver Spring, MD.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security,
Defendant: Alexander Lee Cristaudo, LEAD ATTORNEY, SOCIAL
SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Philadelphia, PA.
Mehta, United States District Judge.
Samuel McLaurin seeks judicial review of a Social Security
Administration (SSA) decision that denied his application for
child's insurance benefits. The question before the court
is a discrete one: Did the Administrate Law Judge (ALJ) who
reviewed the denial of Plaintiff's claim for benefits
adequately consider and weigh the expert reports of a
psychologist who evaluated and rendered an opinion regarding
Plaintiff's developmental and learning disabilities? The
court concludes that she did. The Administrative Law Judge
correctly applied the controlling regulations and
sufficiently explained why she did not find Plaintiff's
psychologist's reports convincing. The court thus denies
Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment of Reversal and grants
Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Affirmance.
Samuel McLaurin was born on December 5, 1988. Within the
first few years of his life, he was diagnosed with several
impairments, including mild cerebral palsy and " severe
visual perceptual and visual processing problems."
Administrative Record, ECF No. 4-7, at 294-302 [hereinafter
" AR 4-[ECF Exhibit No.]" ]. Though he was expected
to face academic difficulties, id., Plaintiff
graduated from high school in 2008 at the age of 19. Soon
thereafter, Plaintiff began attending a " job
readiness" training program at a vocational
rehabilitation clinic to help address difficulties involving
his ability to concentrate and to work with others. AR 4-2 at
19; AR 4-6 at 289. Plaintiff worked a temporary job in
conjunction with his vocational rehabilitation, where
counselors reported that he did " a good job" and
excelled at " assembly type of work." AR 4-6 at
247. Plaintiff has had no other work experience. AR 4-2 at
still attending the vocational rehabilitation program,
Plaintiff saw Dr. Gordon Teichner, a licensed clinical
psychologist, on four occasions between April 21, 2009, and
June 22, 2009. AR 4-7 at 303. In a report dated October 29,
2009, Dr. Teichner produced a neuropsychological assessment
based on his findings from clinical interviews, intelligence
testing, and other performance-related academic achievement
tests. Id. The report identified numerous
impairments, including deficits resulting from " right
hemisphere dysfunction" and the " documented event
of neonatal hypoxic encephalopathy," as well as deficits
to " visual processing, visual spatial skills, and
visual memory" that " make it difficult for him to
efficiently perform functions that require such skills."
AR 4-7 at 309-10. Dr. Teichner's report also noted
additional deficits that impaired Plaintiff's handwriting
abilities, ability to maintain attention, behavioral
functioning, interpersonal relations, and emotional balance.
AR 4-7 at 310. Dr. Teichner assigned Plaintiff a Global
Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score of 45--which indicates
a low level of functioning, AR 4-6 at 292 (citing Am.
Psychiatric Ass'n, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) 30-32 (4th ed. 1996)--and a
Full Scale IQ (FSIQ) score of 83. AR 4-7 at 305, 309.
became eligible for child's insurance benefits under the
Social Security Act when his father, James McLaurin, died on
October 10, 2010. AR 4-2 at 16; 20 C.F.R. §
404.350(a)(5). Plaintiff filed an application for disability
benefits with the SSA on October 28, 2010. AR 4-2 at 16. In
his application, Plaintiff identified six disabilities:
diaphragmatic hernia-hypoxia at birth; cerebral palsy; a
learning disability; right-side brain damage; a repetitive
disorder; and asthma. AR No. 4-6 at 231-32.
Plaintiff's SSA application process, Dr. R. Allen Lish
performed a consultative evaluation in conjunction with the
review of Plaintiff's application. Def.'s Mem., ECF
No. 8, at 5. Dr. Lish memorialized his findings in a report
dated March 17, 2011. AR No. 4-7 at 322-34. His report
highlighted observations that Plaintiff seemed to be " a
man of below average intelligence" whose " mental
status and cognitive abilities appear[ ] diminished." AR
4-7 at 323. However, Dr. Lish found that Plaintiff could
manage his daily living needs without assistance and believed
that Plaintiff " does seem capable of independent living
with proper support." AR 4-7 at 324. Dr. Lish reported
Plaintiff's GAF score as 55. Id. Subsequently,
upon request by the ALJ, several other health care
professionals reached similar conclusions after reviewing
Plaintiff's medical records and related medical opinions.
AR 4-7 at 342-53.
denied Plaintiff's initial application on May 1, 2011,
and on June 30, 2011, denied an appeal for reconsideration of
the decision. AR 4-2 at 16. On June 26, 2011, Plaintiff
responded with a request for an administrative hearing. AR
4-4 at 126-30.
thereafter, on July 1, 2011, Dr. Teichner submitted an
additional letter addressed to the SSA that reaffirmed the
findings and opinions articulated in his 2009 report. AR 4-7
at 359-62. Dr. Teichner opined that Plaintiff " has
never demonstrated sufficient capacity to gain and maintain
meaningful employment" despite extensive assistance from
vocational rehabilitation services for over three years. AR
4-7 at 361 (emphasis in original).
February 17, 2012, Dr. Teichner submitted another report that
directly addressed the guidelines for disability outlined by
the Social Security Act. AR 4-7 at 364-74. In that report,
Dr. Teichner identified himself as Plaintiff's "
treating psychologist," AR 4-7 at 364, again listed the
impairments discussed in his 2009 report and 2011 letter, and
stated that Plaintiff's GAF score was 40, AR 4-7 at 365.
Dr. Teichner also opined that the prospect of Plaintiff
working in a non-sheltered work
setting is " extremely poor and highly improbable."
AR 4-7 at ...