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Jackson v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 27, 2013

JOY JACKSON, on behalf of her minor son, M.J., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Social Security Case)

VICTOR B. KENTON, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the Administrative Record ("AR") before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified AR.

Plaintiff raises the following issues:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred by not finding Plaintiff disabled pursuant to Social Security Listing 111.09 considering the substantial evidence that supported such a finding;
2. Whether the ALJ erred by not calling upon a medical expert to review Plaintiff's file in its entirety; and
3. Whether the ALJ erred by not affording controlling weight to the opinions of Plaintiff's treating providers.

(JS at 2.)

This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that for the reasons set forth, the decision of the Commissioner must be reversed and the matter remanded.

I

THE ALJ DID NOT APPROPRIATELY EVALUATE FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE FOR CHILDREN AS SET FORTH IN 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a

Plaintiff filed this suit on behalf of her minor child, M.J., who was born February 18, 2009. (AR 388.)

After reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate functional equivalence pursuant to C.F.R. § 416.926a. Before explaining this conclusion, the Court will briefly address the relevant law as set forth in that regulation.

In Plaintiff's case, the ALJ determined that he has severe impairments including a cranial defect, status post-surgery and developmental delays. (AR 15.) Pursuant to the regulations, the Commissioner must determine whether such severe impairments result in limitations that functionally equal a Listing. Functional equivalence is defined in § 416.926a(a) as resulting in "marked" limitations in two domains of functioning, or an "extreme" limitation in one domain. The domains of functioning are identified as follows: 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 (§ 416.926a(b)(1)(i-vi)).

In determining whether an impairment functionally equals the Listings, the regulation instructs that, "We will not compare your functioning to the requirements ...


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