Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rockwell v. Astrue

March 12, 2010

DIANNA ROCKWELL O/B/O R.R., PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ralph Zarefsky United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The plaintiff, a minor, appears here through his mother, who has been appointed his guardian for this litigation. She contests the finding of the Commissioner that her son, beset by an autistic disorder, no longer is disabled. Because the Commissioner did not properly find medical improvement, the Court reverses the decision and orders that benefits continue.

The Administrative Law Judge found that Plaintiff met the Listing for Autistic Disorders, 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, Listing No. 112.10, for the period from August 11, 2006 to December 31, 2007 [AR 13], and therefore that Plaintiff was disabled for that time. See Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828 (9th Cir. 1996) (claimants meeting or equaling listing are conclusively presumed to be disabled). The Administrative Law Judge proceeded to find that Plaintiff had experienced medical improvement as of January 1, 2008 [AR 14], and that thereafter Plaintiff did not qualify for disability payments, given the Administrative Law Judge's findings as to Plaintiff's ability to function within the six domains applicable to evaluation of claims for childhood disability, if a claimant does not meet or medically equal a listing. [AR 15] The Administrative Law Judge relied heavily on the testimony of the medical expert [AR 13 et seq.], a doctor who never had examined Plaintiff.

The Court asked the parties for supplemental briefing as to how to approach this case, given that the Administrative Law Judge had found both a closed period of disability, and a subsequent period where Plaintiff was not disabled. Both parties responded that, when there is a period of closed disability, as here, the appropriate analysis is to consider whether medical improvement had occurred thereafter, just as the adjudicator would do in a case of termination of benefits. Plaintiff's Supplemental Memorandum at 1; Defendant's Supplemental Briefing in Support of Defendant's Answer at 1. See Mendoza v. Astrue, 88 F. Supp. 2d 1108, 1113 (C.D. Cal. 2000) (cited by both Plaintiff and Defendant here); Shepherd v. Apfel, 184 F.3d 1197 (10th Cir. 1999). For medical improvement to be found, there must be a comparison between the claimant's capacity when the claimant was disabled, and his capacity when currently evaluated. 20 C.F.R. § 416.994a.

The listing applicable here provides that an autistic disorder is sufficiently serious to be disabling when the requirements in both categories A and B are satisfied. In category A, there must be medically documented findings of:

a. Qualitative deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction; and

b. Qualitative deficits in verbal and non-verbal communication and in imaginative activity; and

c. Markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests.

In Category B, for a claimant of Plaintiff's age, there must be two or more of the following (incorporated from Listing No. 112.02(B)(2)):

a. Marked impairment in age-appropriate cognitive/communicative function, documented by medical findings (including consideration of historical and other information from parents or other individuals who have knowledge of the child, when such information is needed and available) and including, if necessary, the results of appropriate standardized psychological tests . . . ; or

b. Marked impairment in age-appropriate social functioning, documented by history and medical findings (including consideration of information from parents or other individuals who have knowledge of the child, when such information is needed and available) and including, if necessary, the results of appropriate standardized tests; or

c. Marked impairment in age-appropriate personal functioning, documented by history and medical findings (including consideration of information from parents or other individuals who have knowledge of the child, when such information is needed and available) and including, if necessary, appropriate standardized tests; or

d. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace.

In finding Plaintiff disabled for the period August 11, 2006 to December 31, 2007 because he medically equaled a listing, the Administrative Law Judge necessarily found that the "medical findings are at least equal in severity and duration to the listed findings." 20 C.F.R. ยง 416.926(a). But all the Administrative Law Judge said, in finding medical improvement, was that the medical expert had testified that Plaintiff had shown a marked improvement in behavior and functioning. [AR 14] ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.