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Julie Brewster O/B/O D.B v. Michael J. Astrue

August 2, 2011

JULIE BREWSTER O/B/O D.B., PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alicia G. Rosenberg United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Julie Brewster ("Brewster") filed this action on February 2, 2010 on behalf of her nephew D.B.*fn1 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on March 2 and 3, 2010. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 12.) On March 25, 2010, the Court, upon stipulation of the parties, remanded the case pursuant to Sentence Six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) because the recording of the administrative hearing on May 11, 2009 could not be located. (Dkt. Nos. 15, 16.) On April 16, 2010, the Court, upon stipulation of the parties, ordered the case reopened. (Dkt. No. 18.) On August 11, 2010, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. The Court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument. The decision of the Commissioner is remanded for further proceedings.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On July 14, 2005, an application for supplemental security income benefits was filed on behalf of D.B. Administrative Record ("AR") 12. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 36-40, 44-48. Brewster requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 34-35. On June 6, 2007, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Brewster testified. AR 361-70. D.B. was present, but did not testify. Id. On June 22, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 9-18. The Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 3-5.

On February 7, 2008, Brewster filed Civil Action No. EDCV 08-00113 AGR on behalf of D.B. (See Case No. EDCV 08-00113 AGR, Dkt. No. 5.) On August 20, 2008, the Court, upon stipulation of the parties, remanded the case pursuant to Sentence Four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). AR 397-99. On September 26, 2008, the Appeals Council issued an order vacating the ALJ's decision and remanded the matter "for further proceedings consistent with the order of the court." AR 393-96. On May 11, 2009, the ALJ conducted a second hearing, at which additional exhibits were admitted. AR 436-40. No additional testimony was taken. Id. On November 4, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 371-88. This action followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence, or if it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

"Substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance -- it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion." Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. In determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the Court examines the administrative record as a whole, considering adverse as well as supporting evidence. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Child Definition of Disability

"An individual under the age of 18 shall be considered disabled . . . if that individual has 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).*fn2 An impairment is "marked and severe" if it meets, medically equals, or functionally equals an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix I. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d)(1). A claimant's condition "meets" a listed impairment if the claimant's impairment matches the listed impairment. Id. A claimant's condition "medically equals" the listed impairment by demonstrating medical findings that are of equal medical significance to the listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(b)(1)(ii). A claimant's condition "functionally equals" a listed impairment by showing either a marked limitation in two functional domains (out of six) or an extreme limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). The six domains are acquiring and using information, attending and completing tasks, interacting and relating with others, moving about and manipulating objects, caring for yourself, and health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1)(i-vi). A marked limitation is more than moderate and less than extreme, and occurs when an impairment(s) "interferes seriously with your ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2)(i). An extreme limitation occurs when an impairment(s) "interferes very seriously with your ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities." 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(3)(i).

B. The ALJ's Findings

D.B. had the severe impairments of "asthma, sleep apnea, obesity, gastroesophageal reflux disease, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder." AR 382. With respect to the six domains of function, D.B. had no limitation in acquiring and using information, no limitation in attending and completing tasks, less than marked limitation in interacting and relating with others, no limitation in moving about and manipulating objects, ...


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