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Nicholson v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

January 2, 2018

ROBERT NICHOLSON O/B/O K.N., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Merrill Schneider Schneider Kerr & Robichaux Attorney for Plaintiff

          Janice E. Hebert Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn A. Miller Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Robert Nicholson brings this action on behalf of Plaintiff K.N. for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). The Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         An application for SSI was protectively filed on behalf of Plaintiff, a child under 18, on December 18, 2012, alleging disability as of August 31, 2010. Tr. 82.[1] Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 106, 113. On May 24, 2015, Plaintiff and her parents appeared with counsel for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 35. On April 29, 2015, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 34. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges disability based on a learning disability, mental health issues, and a broken collarbone. Tr. 179. She was 14 at the time of the administrative hearing. Tr. 40.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         An individual under the age of 18 is disabled if he has 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). The Social Security Administration has established a three-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating the disability claims of minors. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924. The claimant bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Valentine v. Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009).

         In the first step, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” If so, the claimant is not disabled. Id. at § 416.924(a). At step two, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or a combination of impairments that is severe. Id. If the claimant does not have any severe impairment or combination of impairments, the claimant is not disabled. Id.

         At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment “meets, medically equals, or functionally equals the listings.” Id. If the impairment meets or medically equals a listing and is expected to last 12 months, the claimant is presumed disabled. Id. If not, the Commissioner looks to six different domains to determine whether a minor's impairment results in limitations that functionally equal the listings: (i) acquiring and using information; (ii) attending and completing tasks; (iii) interacting and relating with others; (iv) moving about and manipulating objects; (v) caring for oneself; and (vi) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1). In order to be found disabled, the claimant's impairments must result in “marked” limitations in two domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation in at least one domain. Id. at 416.926a(d). In assessing whether the claimant has marked or extreme limitations, the Commissioner must consider the functional limitations from all medically determinable impairments, including any impairments that are not severe, as well as the interactive and cumulative effects of the claimant's impairments in any affected domain. Id. at 416.926a(a). ///

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the date of her application. Tr. 20. Next, at step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairment: depressive disorder. Tr. 20. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of a listed impairment. Tr. 21. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff's impairments did not functionally equal the severity of the listings. Tr. 22. Specifically, he found that Plaintiff had less than marked or ...


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