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H.N.D. By and Through Her Guardian Ad Litem, Felicia Lech v. Michael J. Astrue

July 27, 2012

H.N.D. BY AND THROUGH HER GUARDIAN AD LITEM, FELICIA LECH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Jacqueline Chooljian United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. SUMMARY

On February 17, 2012, Felicia Lech ("plaintiff's mother"), as the guardian ad litem for minor child H.N.D. ("plaintiff"), filed a Complaint on behalf of plaintiff, seeking review of the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of an application for benefits. The parties have consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, respectively ("Plaintiff's Motion") and ("Defendant's Motion"). The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; L.R. 7-15; February 23, 2012 Case Management Order ¶ 5.

Based on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. The findings of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") are supported by substantial evidence and are free from material error. *fn1

II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

On May 15, 2009, plaintiff's mother, on behalf of plaintiff, filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 20, 159-65). Plaintiff's mother asserted that plaintiff became disabled on September 29, 2004, and that plaintiff suffers from speech and other developmental problems. (AR 198). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and plaintiff's mother on August 16, 2010. (AR 114-36).

On October 4, 2010 the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 20-32). Specifically, the ALJ found:

(1) plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 15, 2009, the application date (AR 23); (2) plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: anxiety disorder with some psychotic symptoms, phonological (speech delay) disorder, and asthma (AR 23); (3) plaintiff does not suffer from an impairment or combination of impairments that meets, medically equals, or functionally equals one of the listed impairments (AR 23-24); and (4) plaintiff has *fn2 not been disabled since the application was filed (AR 26).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 3).

III. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Childhood Disability Claims -- Sequential Evaluation Process

"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); see also Howard ex rel. Wolff v. Barnhart, 341 F.3d 1006, 1013 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). In assessing whether a child is disabled, the Commissioner conducts a three-step sequential evaluation process:

(1) Is the child engaged in substantial gainful activity? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If ...


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