United States District Court, D. Nevada
I.J.B. by and through his guardian ad litem Jennifer Butler, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. ALBREGTS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a
report of findings and recommendations under 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B)-(C) and Local Rule IB 1-4. The case involves
review of an administrative action by the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying
Plaintiff I.J.B.'s (“Plaintiff”) application
for supplemental security income pursuant to Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. Ch. 7. The Court has reviewed
Plaintiff's Motion for Reversal or to Remand (ECF No.
16), filed March 24, 2018, and the Commissioner's
Response and Cross-Motion to Affirm (ECF Nos. 18-19), filed
April 23, 2018. Plaintiff did not file a Reply.
February 4, 2013, an application for supplemental security
income was protectively filed on Plaintiff's behalf,
alleging an onset date of October 1, 2012. AR 220-228.
Plaintiff's claim was denied initially, and on
reconsideration. AR 107-108. A hearing was held before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on July 2, 2015.
AR 73-96. On March 21, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision
denying Plaintiff's claim. AR 32-58. The ALJ's
decision became the Commissioner's final decision when
the Appeals Council denied review on September 15, 2017. AR
2-7. Plaintiff commenced this action for judicial review
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) on November 17, 2017.
(See Motion/Application for Leave to Proceed in
forma pauperis. (ECF No. 1).)
The ALJ Decision
followed the three-step sequential evaluation process set
forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.924 for child disability
cases. AR 32-58. She found Plaintiff was a school-age child
on February 4, 2013, the date the application was filed, and
an adolescent as of the date of the decision. AR 38. At step
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the application date.
Id. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has
the following severe impairments: attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, history of a cognitive disorder not
otherwise specified, and history of a learning disorder not
otherwise specified. Id. She also found a speech
disorder and encopresis were not medically determinable
impairments. At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, and
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
functionally equals the severity of the listings. AR 39. For
the six functional equivalence domains, the ALJ found
Plaintiff to have less than marked limitation in acquiring
and using information, less than marked limitation in
attending and completing tasks, no limitation in interacting
and relating to others, no limitation in moving about and
manipulating objects, no limitation in caring for yourself,
and less than marked limitation in health and physical
well-being. AR 46-54. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff has not been disabled since February 4, 2013. AR
Standard of Review
decisions in social security disability benefits cases are
reviewed under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Akopyan v.
Barnhart, 296 F.3d 852, 854 (9th Cir. 2002). Section
405(g) states: “Any individual, after any final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made after a
hearing to which he was a party, irrespective of the amount
in controversy, may obtain a review of such decision by a
civil action . . . brought in the district court of the
United States for the judicial district in which the
plaintiff resides.” The court may enter “upon the
pleadings and transcripts of the record, a judgment
affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding
the cause for a rehearing.” Id. The Ninth
Circuit reviews a decision affirming, modifying, or reversing
a decision of the Commissioner de novo. See Batson v.
Comm'r, 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
Commissioner's findings of fact are conclusive if
supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Ukolov v. Barnhart, 420 F.3d 1002
(9th Cir. 2005). However, the Commissioner's findings may
be set aside if they are based on legal error or not
supported by substantial evidence. See Stout v.
Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 454 F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th
Cir. 2006); Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954
(9th Cir. 2002). The Ninth Circuit defines substantial
evidence as “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.”
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995); see also Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211,
1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005). In determining whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence, the court “must review the administrative
record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports
and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's
conclusion.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715,
720 (9th Cir. 1998); see also Smolen v. Chater, 80
F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996).
the substantial evidence test, findings must be upheld if
supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.
Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193. When the evidence will
support more than one rational interpretation, the court must
defer to the Commissioner's interpretation. See Burch
v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005);
Flaten v. Sec'y of Health and Human Serv., 44
F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995). Consequently, the issue
before the court is not whether the Commissioner could
reasonably have reached a different conclusion, but whether
the final decision is supported by substantial evidence. It
is incumbent on the ALJ to make specific findings so that the
court does not speculate as to the basis of the findings when
determining if the Commissioner's decision is supported
by substantial evidence. Mere cursory findings of fact
without explicit statements as to what portions of the
evidence were accepted or rejected are not sufficient.
Lewin v. Schweiker, 654 F.2d 631, 634 (9th Cir.
1981). The ALJ's findings “should be as
comprehensive and analytical as feasible, and where
appropriate, should include a statement of subordinate
factual foundations on which the ultimate factual conclusions
are based.” Id.
Disability Evaluation Process
individual under eighteen years of age to be considered
disabled for the purpose of receiving benefits, he must
suffer from 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). An impairment meets this
requirement if it meets or equals in ...