Graham v. Social Security Administration
ORDER affirming the Commissioner's decision on Graham's claim for M.L.M. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 3/14/2012. (jct)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
on behalf of M.L.M., a minor child
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner,
Social Security Administration
1. The Administrative Law Judge concluded that M.L.M., Graham's
teenage daughter, had several severe impairments-attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, unspecified mood
disorder, and unspecified bipolar disorder. The ALJ also concluded, however,
that M.L.M. was not disabled because none of her impairments, nor all of
them combined, met, medically equaled, or functionally equaled an
impairment listed in the regulations. 20C.F.R. §416.924(c)-(d);20C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix L Graham submitted additional evidence to the
Appeals Council, but it denied review. Graham appeals the Commissioner's
decision that, because M.L.M. is not disabled, Graham is not entitled to
Supplemental Security Income on her daughter's behalf. Does substantial
evidence on the record as a whole support the Commissioner's decision? 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Moore ex reI. Moore v. Barnhart, 413 F.3d 718, 721
(8th Cir. 2005).
2. Graham contends that M.L.M.' s severe impairments combine to be
the functional equivalent of a Listed Impairment. Functional equivalence is
evaluated based on domains of functioning - broad areas of functioning
intended to capture all of what a child can or cannot do. An impairment is
functionally equivalent to one that is listed when the impairment results in
"marked" limitations in two domains of functioning or an
limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). A marked limitation is
more than moderate, but less than extreme. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(2). It
seriously interferes with a young person's ability to initiate, sustain, or
complete activities independently. Ibid. It is a level of functioning that, if
quantified by standardized testing, would be between two and three standard
deviations below the mean. Ibid.
3. There are six domains of functioning. Graham agrees that M.L.M.
has no limitations in two domains: moving about and manipulating objects,
and caring for one's self. Graham challenges the ALI's findings about four
domains: (1) acquiring and using information, (2) attending and completing
tasks, (3) interacting and relating with others, and (4) health and physical
The acquiring and using information" domain covers skills related to
learning and thinking. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(g). M.L.M.' s grades in Fall 2008
at the alternative school were:
Tr. at 148. True, she has had serious problems with math. Tr. at 148, 223,
242. But her most recent reports show substantial improvement: in Spring
2010, back at her junior high school, she could boast a 93% in Algebra. Tr. at
252. Substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the ALI's
determination that M.L.M. had no marked limitation in this domain.
The domain attending and completing tasks" measures M.L.M's
abilities to focus and maintain attention. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(h). The ALJ
found that M.L.M. had a less than marked limitation in this domain. Tr. at 17.
Substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports that finding. Cindy
Eagle, the social worker at M.L.M.' s junior high, reported in Fall 2008 that this
teenager had"obvious problems" in ten subareas of this domain. Tr. at 129.
But by Spring 2009 Eagle observed only "slight" problems, and only in six
subareas. Tr. at 149. In seven subareas Eagle observed no problems at all.
Ibid. A psychoeducational evaluation from Spring 2010 noted that M.L.M.
"did not display any distractibility or inattentiveness[,]" Tr. at 248, and that
the school ADD rating scale "[did] not identify any significantweaknesses."
Tr. at 250. All of this is evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as
adequate to support the ALI's finding: M.L.M.' s limitations here were less
The ALJ also found a less than marked limitation in the third challenged
domain, "interacting and relating with others." This domain measures a
claimant's abilities to initiate and sustain emotional connections and to
cooperate with others. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(i). Graham reported that her
daughter lacked friends her own age and got along poorly with teachers and
family members. Tr. at 115. And M.L.M. was assigned to alternative school
after behavior problems in the eighth grade. Tr. at 30-31. But Eagle reported
no behavior problems in either of her reports. Tr. at 130, 150. And in 2010
M.L.M.' s psychoeducationalexaminerreported her to be "very pleasant" and
wrote that she"smiled often and appeared to put forth her best effort at all
times." Tr. at 248. That is substantial evidence.
The ALJ found no limitation in "health and physical well-being," the
fourth disputed domain, and substantial evidence supports that finding too.
Tr. at 21. This domain incorporates the negative physical effects of illness or
20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(I).
While M.L.M. has several
diagnosed psychological disorders, and has been on medication for some, e.g.,
Tr. at 194, the Court sees no evidence, substantial or otherwise, of any physical
effect on M.L.M. Indeed, she seems to be a physically normal and healthy
teenage girl. Tr. at 183.
4. The Court has reviewed the entire record, including the briefs, the
ALI's decision, the hearing transcript, and the medical and other evidence.
Graham had the burden of proving that her daughter was disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.912(a). She did not carry that burden. The Commissioner's decision is
not based on legal error. And it is supported by ample evidence that iia
reasonable mind would find ... adequate to support [the ALI's conclusions]."
Reutter ex reI. Reutter v. Barnhart, 372 F.3d 946, 950 (8th Cir. 2004). This Court
therefore affirms the Commissioner's decision on Graham's claim for M.L.M.
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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