United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
K. EPPS, UNITED STALES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Stanley, on behalf of A.L.M., appeals the decision of the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security denying her
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under the Social Security Act. Upon
consideration of the briefs submitted by both parties, the
record evidence, and the relevant statutory and case law, the
Court REPORTS and
RECOMMENDS pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), the Commissioner's final decision
be REVERSED and the case be
REMANDED to the Commissioner for further
consideration in accordance with this opinion.
September 13, 2013, Plaintiff applied for SSI on behalf of
Claimant, alleging disability from bipolar disorder and
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, with a stated onset
date of July 1, 2010. Tr. (“R.”), pp. 22, 157,
183. At the time of the application under review, Claimant
was nine years old, and she was twelve years old at the time
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued the
opinion under consideration. R. 35, 157. The Social Security
Administration denied Claimant's application initially
and on reconsideration. R. 80, 94, 106-09. Plaintiff
requested a hearing before the ALJ, R. 110-15, and the ALJ
held a hearing on July 26, 2016. R. 41-68. At the hearing,
the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff and Claimant, who
appeared with an attorney. Id. On August 15, 2016,
the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. 19-40.
the three-step sequential process required by 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.924(a), the ALJ found:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since September 13, 2013, the application date (20
C.F.R. §§ 416.924(b) and 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), bipolar
disorder with psychotic features, oppositional defiant
disorder, and intermittent explosive disorder. (20 C.F.R.
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.924, 416.925, and
416.926). The claimant does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that functionally equals the
severity of the listings (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.924(d)
and 416.926(a)). Thus, the claimant has not been disabled, as
defined by the Social Security Act, since September 13, 2013,
the date the application was filed. (20 C.F.R. §
the Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's
request for review, R. 1-6, the Commissioner's decision
became “final” for the purpose of judicial
review. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff then filed this
civil action requesting reversal or remand of that adverse
decision. Plaintiff argues the Commissioner's decision is
not supported by substantial evidence because (1) the ALJ
failed to consider the nature and extent of Claimant's
special education and placement when determining Claimant had
a marked impairment in the single domain of interacting and
relating with others, and (2) the AC erred in refusing to
remand the case to the ALJ based on counsel's submission
of additional items of school and medical evidence.
See doc. no. 15-1 (“Pl.'s Br.”);
doc. no. 18 (“Pl.'s Reply”). The Commissioner
maintains the administrative decision is supported by
substantial evidence, and the AC properly addressed
Plaintiff's additional evidence. See doc. no. 17
(“Comm'r's Br.”). As explained below, the
Court agrees with Plaintiff that remand is necessary to
consider additional evidence concerning Claimant's school
performance and mental health.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of social security cases is narrow and limited to the
following questions: (1) whether the Commissioner's
findings are supported by substantial evidence, and (2)
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards.
Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir.
1997). When considering whether the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence, the reviewing
court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's. Moore
v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005);
Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th
Cir. 1991). Notwithstanding this measure of deference, the
Court remains obligated to scrutinize the whole record to
determine whether substantial evidence supports each
essential administrative finding. Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983).
Commissioner's factual findings should be affirmed if
there is substantial evidence to support them. Barron v.
Sullivan, 924 F.2d 227, 230 (11th Cir. 1991).
Substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla, but
less than a preponderance: ‘[i]t is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239). If the Court finds
substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's
factual findings, it must uphold the Commissioner even if the
evidence preponderates in favor of the claimant. Crawford
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158-59 (11th
Cir. 2004). Finally, the Commissioner's findings of fact
must be grounded in the entire record; a decision that
focuses on one aspect of the evidence and disregards other
contrary evidence is not based upon substantial evidence.
McCruter v. Bowen, 791 F.2d 1544, 1548 (11th Cir.
deference accorded the Commissioner's findings of fact
does not extend to her conclusions of law, which enjoy no
presumption of validity. Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d
1233, 1236 (11th Cir. 1991) (holding that judicial review of
the Commissioner's legal conclusions are not subject to
the substantial evidence standard). If the Commissioner fails
either to apply correct legal standards or to provide the
reviewing court with the means to determine whether correct