United States District Court, D. Oregon
W. Brewer, Attorney for Plaintiff.
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Janice E.
Hébert, Assistant United States Attorney; United
States Attorney's Office, Jeffrey E. Staples, Special
Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General
Counsel, Social Security Administration, Attorneys for
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael H. Simon United States District Judge.
Jones, on behalf of her minor son, Mackarius Jones, seeks
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Because the
Commissioner's decision was not based on the proper legal
standards and the findings were not supported by substantial
evidence, the decision is REVERSED and this case is REMANDED
for further proceedings.
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
it is based on the proper legal standards and the findings
are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Molina v. Astrue, 673 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th
Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion” and is more than a “mere
scintilla” of the evidence but less than a
preponderance. Id. at 1110-11 (quotation omitted).
The Court must uphold the ALJ's findings if they
“are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the
record[, ]” even if the evidence is susceptible to
multiple rational interpretations. Id. at 1110. The
Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Batson v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). “[A]
reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole
and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of
supporting evidence.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d
625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation omitted).
Jones filed her child's application for SSI in December
2011, alleging disability as of September 6, 2011. AR 41.
Born in 2009, Mackarius Jones was two years old on the date
of his application for benefits. AR 44. Ms. Jones alleges
disability on behalf of her child due to attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”). The Commissioner
denied her application initially and upon reconsideration,
and she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). AR 41. After an administrative
hearing, the ALJ found Ms. Jones's child not disabled in
a decision dated November 13, 2014. AR 53. The Appeals
Council denied Ms. Jones's subsequent request for review
on March 22, 2016. AR 1-4. The ALJ's decision thus became
the final decision of the Commissioner, and Ms. Jones sought
review in this Court.
The Sequential Analysis
claimant under the age of 18 is disabled if he or she is can
demonstrate “a medically determinable physical or
mental impairment, which results in marked and 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). Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §
416.924(a), child disability claims are assessed according to
a three-step sequential evaluation process:
1. Is the child performing “substantial gainful
activity?” 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b). This activity
is work involving significant mental or physical duties done
or intended to be done for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. §
416.910. If the child is performing such work, he is not
disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §
416.924(b). If the child is not performing substantial
gainful activity, the analysis proceeds to step two.
2. Is the child's medically determinable impairment
“severe” under the Commissioner's
regulations? 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c). An impairment or
combination of impairments is “severe” if it is
more than “a slight abnormality or combination of
slight abnormalities that causes no more than minimal
functional limitations[.]” Id. If the claimant
has a medically determinable severe impairment, the analysis
proceeds to step three.
3. Does the child's severe impairment “meet,
medically equal, or functionally equal” one or more of
the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1? “An impairment(s) causes marked and severe
functional limitations if it meets or medically equals the
severity of a set of criteria for an impairment in the
listings, or if it functionally equals the listings. 20
C.F.R. § 416.924(d). If so, then the child is disabled.
Id. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d). If the impairment
does not meet, or medically or functionally equal, one or
more of the listed impairments, or does not meet the duration
requirement, the child is not disabled under the Act. 20
C.F.R. § 416.924(d)(2).
child has “a severe impairment or combination of
impairments that does not meet or medically equal any
listing, [the Commissioner] will decide whether it results in
limitations that functionally equal the listings.” 20
C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). In assessing how the child's
functioning is affected in all of the child's activities,
the following six domains are considered: (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 yourself; and (6) health
and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(b)(1). In
order to “functionally equal” any listing, the
“impairment(s) must be of listing-level severity;
i.e., it must result in ‘marked'
limitations in two domains of functioning or an
‘extreme' limitation in one domain[.]” 20
C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). A “marked” limitation
is one that “interferes seriously with your ability to
independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities . . .
the equivalent of the functioning we would expect to find on
standardized testing with scores that are at least two, but
less than three, standard deviations below the mean.”
20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2)(i). An “extreme”
limitation is one that “interferes very seriously with
your ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete
activities . . . the equivalent of the functioning we would
expect to find on standardized testing with scores that are
at least three standard deviations below the mean.” 20
C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(3)(i).