United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
seeks judicial review of the Social Security
Administration's denial of an application for
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) filed on behalf of T.M., a
minor. Tr. 179-88.
social security cases, courts
. . . review the Commissioner's decision for substantial
evidence. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631
F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011). "Substantial evidence
is more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Id. (quotation omitted). . . .
"We may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence,
or substitute our judgment for that of the
Commissioner." Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178
(quotation and brackets omitted). "If the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, this Court must affirm, even if the proof
preponderates against it." Dyer v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005)
(quotation omitted). Mitchell v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., Ill. F.3d 780, 782 (11th Cir. 2014).
three-step sequential process is used to determine whether a
child is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924. At the first
step, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is
engaging in substantial gainful activity; if so, the claim is
denied. Id. § 416.924(b). At the second step,
the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant has a
severe impairment or combination of impairments; if the
claimant does not have any severe impairments, the claim is
denied. Id. § 416.924(c). At the third and
final step, the Commissioner must determine whether the
child's impairments meet or equal a "listed"
impairment. Id. § 416.924(d). If the claimant
does not have an impairment that meets, medically equals, or
functionally equals the Listings, he will be found not
disabled. Id. § 416.924(d)(2). The burden of
proving disability lies with the claimant. Moore v.
Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005).
who alleges disability since January 29, 2012, was 8 years
old when his SSI claim was denied. Tr. 15; 179-88 (protective
filing for SSI benefits). He was a preschooler at the time of
application and school-aged at the time of the ALJ's
decision. Tr. 15. After a hearing, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision. Tr. 34-62, 12-28. The ALJ found that
T.M.'s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
and mood disorder constituted severe impairments but did not
meet or equal a Listing. Tr. 15-28. Hence, the ALJ found, he
is not disabled. Tr. 28.
Lay Witness Testimony
accorded "little weight" to licensed social worker
(LCSW) Mary Say re, Nurse Michele D. Hughes, and kindergarten
teacher Mary Elam. Tr. 17-27. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ
erred by failing to accord proper weight to these sources.
that is required of an ALJ regarding non-medical source
evidence is that the evidence be considered. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 416.926, 416.926a, 416.927,
416.929.There is no requirement that an ALJ give
any particular amount of weight to non-medical source
evidence. See Id. In rejecting lay witness
testimony, the ALJ need only provide "arguably germane
reasons" for dismissing the testimony, even if she does
"not clearly link [her] determination to those
reasons." Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 512
(9th Cir. 2001) (cited in Cole v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 2012 WL 4077233 at *4 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 17, 2012)).
An ALJ may reject lay witness testimony if it is inconsistent
with the record. See, e.g., Lewis, 236 F.3d at
511-12 (rejecting lay witness testimony conflicting with the
plaintiffs testimony and the medical record); Bayliss v.
Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1218 (9th Cir. 2005) (rejecting
lay witness testimony conflicting with the medical record).
may "draw inferences logically flowing from the
evidence." Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639,
642 (9th Cir. 1982). Further, "[i]f the ALJ gives
germane reasons for rejecting testimony by one witness, the
ALJ need only point to those reasons when rejecting similar
testimony by a different witness." Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1114 (9th Cir. 2012); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1529(c)(3), 404.1545(a)(3), see
also SSR 06-03p (recognizing that "there is a
distinction between what an adjudicator must consider and
what the adjudicator must explain in the disability
determination or decision"); Osborri v.
Barrihart, 194 F.App'x 654, 666 (11th Cir. 2006)
("[W]e conclude that the ALJ's specific and explicit
credibility determination as to Osborn's testimony
sufficiently implies a rejection of Mrs. Osborn's
testimony as well.").
1. LCSW Sayre
ALJ rejected LCSW Sayre's 2014 opinion that T.M. had
"marked limitations" in every area of functioning
(see tr. 381-82) because she was not an acceptable
medical source, she provided no commentary explaining or
supporting her assessment, and her assessment was
inconsistent with both her own treating notes and with
plaintiffs testimony. Tr. 19-20; see tr. 45
(plaintiff testified that T.M. was in regular classes with no
special assistance, had never been held back a grade, and was
"doing okay as far as his grades"), tr. 50-52
(plaintiff also testified that T.M. mostly got along well
with other children and with adults and had no problems
caring for his personal needs); see also Lewis, 236
F.3d at 511-12. The ALJ also properly relied upon agency
reviewing psychologist Dr. James Mullins' opinion - who
plaintiff notably does not dispute was properly
accorded significant weight by the ALJ - that T.M. had less