Sampson v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER entered...Upon consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED and that this action be DISMISSED, as further set out in Order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Bert W. Milling, Jr on 5/29/2014. (clr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
on behalf of S.J.S., a minor,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Social Security Commissioner,
CIVIL ACTION 13-563-M
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
In this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), Plaintiff
seeks judicial review of an adverse social security ruling which
denied a claim for Supplemental Security Income for Children
(hereinafter SSI) (Docs. 1, 10).1
The parties filed written
consent and this action has been referred to the undersigned
Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings and order the entry
of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 (see Doc. 16).
action (Doc. 15).
Oral argument was waived in this
Upon consideration of the administrative
record and the memoranda of the parties, it is ORDERED that the
decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED and that this action be
1Though her mother brought this action, the Court will refer
to the child as Plaintiff.
This Court is not free to reweigh the evidence or
substitute its judgment for that of the Secretary of Health and
Human Services, Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th
Cir. 1983), which must be supported by substantial evidence.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
substantial evidence test requires “that the decision under
review be supported by evidence sufficient to justify a
reasoning mind in accepting it; it is more than a scintilla, but
less than a preponderance.”
Brady v. Heckler, 724 F.2d 914, 918
(11th Cir. 1984).
At the time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was
thirteen years old and had completed a seventh-grade education
In claiming benefits, Sampson alleges disability due
to scoliosis, ADHD, asthma, and borderline intellectual
functioning (Doc. 10 Fact Sheet).
The Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on November 22,
2010 (Tr. 110-17; see also Tr. 16).
Benefits were denied
following a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who
determined that although Sampson had severe impairments, she was
not disabled (Tr. 16-29).
Plaintiff requested review of the
hearing decision (Tr. 10-11) by the Appeals Council, but it was
denied (Tr. 1-5).
Plaintiff claims that the opinion of the ALJ is not
supported by substantial evidence, alleging that the ALJ did not
properly consider the opinions expressed in a Teacher
Questionnaire (Doc. 10).
Defendant has responded to—and denies—
these claims (Doc. 11).
The Court notes at the outset that the single claim brought
by Sampson in this action is very focused.
will be very little review of the record evidence in this
The specific claim raised is that the ALJ improperly
discounted Sampson’s Advisor’s opinions regarding her ability to
Acquire and Use Information (Doc. 10).2
The Court notes that the
ALJ is required to "state specifically the weight accorded to
each item of evidence and why he reached that decision."
v. Schweiker, 662 F.2d 731, 735 (11th Cir. 1981).
earlier, the Court is not free to reweigh the evidence.
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239.
The opinions on which Plaintiff bases her claim were
expressed in a Teacher Questionnaire completed by Phyllis Reeves
who indicated that she had advised Sampson once or twice a month
for two years regarding her schoolwork (Tr. 141-48).3
Advisor indicated that although Plaintiff was in the seventh
grade, she was receiving instruction at the fifth-to-sixth grade
Acquiring and Using Information is one of the six domains of
functioning evaluated by the ALJ to reach a decision as to a
claimant’s disability. See 20 C.F.R. 416.926a(b)(1)(i).
Reeves indicated in the Questionnaire that she was Sampson’s
advisor and case manager, but was not her teacher (Tr. 143).
levels in her core classes by a special education teacher.
completing a page entitled “Acquiring and Using Information,”
Reeves indicated that Sampson had an obvious problem with her
ability to comprehend oral instructions, understand school and
content vocabulary, recall and apply previously learned
material, and in applying problem-solving skills in class
discussions (Tr. 142).
The Advisor went on to express the
opinion that Plaintiff had a serious problem in reading and
comprehending written material, understanding and participating
in class discussion, providing organized oral explanations and
adequate descriptions, expressing ideas in written form, and
learning new material; Sampson had a very serious problem in
comprehending and doing math problems.
In the comments section,
Reeves stated that Plaintiff “require[d] extra help with one on
one instruction by a special ed teacher or paraprofessional”
In his determination, the ALJ made the following findings:
The opinion of the case manager in
Exhibit 4E is given some weight. Her
interaction with the claimant in the school
setting provides her opinion additional
weight. Her opinions are largely consistent
with the remainder of the school records.
Likewise, there is no medical evidence
substantially inconsistent with her
opinions. Nonetheless, she is given reduced
4The Court notes that although Reeves provided more information
about Sampson’s abilities, it is not relevant to this claim.
weight with regard to the limitations in
acquiring and using information, although
not inconsistent with the evidence, her
opinion in that domain is inconsistent with
the ARMT results and the level of inclusion
in regular classes that the claimant has
The ALJ went on to find that Plaintiff had less than
marked limitation in acquiring and using information, noting
that the state agency medical and psychological experts had
reached that same conclusion (Tr. 23).
Sampson, in making her arguments, points to information
from her Individualized Education Program (hereinafter IEP) that
indicated that “[d]ifficulties in Reading and Math adversely
affect [her] learning; she requires specialized instruction in
order to find success in the classroom” (Tr. 182).
noted that the IEP provided for certain accommodations including
narrow choices on classroom tests; tests may be
read; tests may be taken in the special education classroom;
accommodations needed for SAT/ARMT testing; spell checker may be
used; proximity seating; and extended time to complete
assignments (Tr. 186-87).
In looking further at the IEP, however, the Court notes,
that Sampson “receive[d] services in the regular classroom for
all subjects and has inclusion support and accommodations in her
core classes” (Tr. 182).
There is also a very clear indication
from test results that Plaintiff was more knowledgeable than
school grades reflected (Tr. 182).
More specifically, while
Sampson’s first quarter scores averaged 75.8 and her second
quarter scores averaged 75, her third quarter test score average
for the same subject areas was 85.8, a full grade higher (Tr.
The Court notes again that the ALJ, in reaching his
decision, relied on state agency medical and psychological
experts who also indicated that Sampson had less than marked
limitation in acquiring and using information (Tr. 23).
Court notes that although their report acknowledged her
limitations as set out in the IEP, they also pointed to the test
scores, summarized above, that indicated that Plaintiff was
acquiring and using information and not as limited as has been
argued (Tr. 325; cf. 213-26, 314-17).
The Court finds substantial evidence to support the ALJ’s
Though the ALJ’s wording is more muddled than one
would hope, his conclusions are, nevertheless, clear.
has experienced some learning difficulties but tests have shown
that she is, in fact, acquiring and using information in her
Even though some of the information in Plaintiff’s
IEP indicates that she has learning difficulties, the IEP also
5The subject areas reflected in these scores are language arts,
reading, pre-algebra, social studies, and science.
demonstrates that the difficulty is not as severe as argued.
Sampson has raised a single claim in bringing this action.
That claim is without merit.
Upon consideration of the entire
record, the Court finds "such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Perales, 402 U.S. at 401.
Therefore, it is ORDERED that the
Secretary's decision be AFFIRMED, see Fortenberry v. Harris, 612
F.2d 947, 950 (5th Cir. 1980), and that this action be
Judgment will be entered by separate Order.
DONE this 29th day of May, 2014.
s/BERT W. MILLING, JR.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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