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L.W. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

December 15, 2019

L.W. BY TASHA LEE D., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Tasha Lee D. brings this action on behalf of L.W. for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying L.W.'s application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). Because the Commissioner's decision is free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record, the Court AFFIRMS the decision and DISMISSES this case.

         BACKGROUND

         L.W. was born on April 22, 2006. Tr. 16.[2] She was seven years old on July 1, 2013, the alleged disability onset date, eight years old on March 16, 2015, the date the application was filed, and eleven years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. Tr. 13, 16. L.W.'s mother asserts that L.W. is disabled based on conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and adjustment disorder with anxiety. Tr. 16.

         L.W.'s benefits application was denied initially on July 1, 2015, and upon reconsideration on November 16, 2015. Tr. 15. A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Jo Hoenninger on March 16, 2017. Tr. 15. On March 17, 2017, ALJ Hoenninger recused herself from the case. Tr. 13 n.1. On August 18, 2017, ALJ Christopher L. Dillon issued a written decision, finding that L.W. was not disabled and therefore not entitled to benefits. Tr. 29. The Appeals Council declined review, rendering ALJ Gaffney's decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-6.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         A claimant under the age of 18 is “disabled” within the meaning of the Act if she is not engaged in substantial gainful activity and has a medically determinable physical and/or mental impairment or combination of impairments that either meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment included in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, or results in marked or extreme functional limitations. SSR 09-1p (Mar. 19, 2009), available at 2009 WL 396031.

         In evaluating a child claimant's application for SSI, an ALJ first considers whether the child performs substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b). A child who performs substantial gainful activity is not disabled. Id. The ALJ next determines whether the child has a severe medically determinable impairment or impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416(c). A child who does not have such an impairment is not disabled. Id. If the child has a severe impairment or impairments, the ALJ determines whether the impairment or combination of impairments meets, medically equals, or functionally equals an impairment in the listings. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d). In making that determination, the ALJ evaluates the degree of limitation caused by the impairment in six domains: (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting with and relating to others; (4) moving about and manipulating objects; (5) caring for oneself; and (6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(a). An impairment functionally equals a listed impairment if it causes a marked limitation in two of these domains or an extreme limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(d). A child is disabled if an impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals an impairment in the listings. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(d)(1).

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At the first step of the disability analysis, the ALJ found that L.W. had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date. Tr. 16.

         At the second step, the ALJ determined that L.W. had “the following severe impairments: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), [and] adjustment disorder with anxiety.” Tr. 16.

         At the third step, the ALJ found that L.W. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met, medically equaled, or functionally equaled an impairment in the listings, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 16-28. The ALJ considered listings 112.08, 112.06, 112.11, and 112.15. Tr. 16. He concluded that L.W. had (1) no limitation in acquiring and using information, and moving about and manipulating objects; and (2) less than marked limitations in attending to and completing tasks, interacting with and relating to others, caring for herself, and health and physical well-being. Tr. 22-28. Based on these findings, the ALJ concluded that L.W. was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 28.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of benefits only when the Commissioner's findings are based on legal error or are unsupported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009). “Substantial evidence means more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Courts consider the record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's decision. Id.; Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). “Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be affirmed.” Vasquez, 572 F.3d at 591 (internal quotation marks omitted); see alsoMassach ...


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