Dowden v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION Signed by Honorable Erin L. Setser on September 19, 2012. (sh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
JOYCE M. DOWDEN
CIVIL NO. 11-3048
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner
Social Security Administration
Pending before this Court is the above action seeking judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying Plaintiff's claims
for disabled adult child (DAC) benefits under Title II.1 (Doc. 1). In reviewing the record, the
Court had questions regarding inconsistencies with dates used in the ALJ’s January 29, 2010
decision (Tr. 15-27), as well as by the Appeals Council Notice dated May 27, 2011. (Tr.10-14).
By Order dated August 28, 2012, the Court directed each party to file supplemental briefs
addressing these inconsistencies. (Doc. 12). Both parties filed supplemental briefs on
20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a) states as follows:
a) General. You are entitled to child's benefits on the earnings record of an insured person who is entitled to
old-age or disability benefits or who has died if-(1) You are the insured person's child, based upon a relationship described in §§ 404.355 through 404.359;
(2) You are dependent on the insured, as defined in §§ 404.360 through 404.365;
(3) You apply;
(4) You are unmarried; and
(5) You are under age 18; you are 18 years old or older and have a disability that began before you became 22
years old; or you are 18 years or older and qualify for benefits as a full-time student as described in § 404.367.
September 10, 2012. (Docs. 14, 15).
One of the Court’s inquiries was in regard to a cessation of benefits claim that the ALJ
mentioned as being before him during the September 21, 2009 administrative hearing, but did
not address in the January 29, 2010 unfavorable decision. In response to the Court’s inquiry,
Defendant stated as follows:
Due to the complexity of the cessation matter, the ALJ specifically recommended
that before addressing the matter Plaintiff seek legal representation, which the
mother agreed to do (Tr. 983). As a result, at the administrative hearing, the ALJ
addressed only Plaintiff’s September 21, 2007 application for benefits, and did
not discuss the cessation issue any further at the administrative hearing (Tr. 982993). Therefore, the ALJ, properly, did not address the cessation of benefits
matter in the January 29, 2010, administrative decision (Tr. 18-27). Additionally,
Plaintiff did not raise cessation of benefits as an issue in her appeal brief.
(Doc. 14, p. 3).
Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §416.987, when an individual who was granted supplemental
security income (SSI) benefits as a child attains the age of 18, that individual’s eligibility for
continued SSI benefits as an adult must be redetermined. Social Security Ruling 11-2P, indicates
that individuals between the age of 18 to approximately 25 are considered young adults, and that
disability determinations for young adults are the same as for other adults. Social Security
Ruling 11-2P, TITLES II AND XVI: DOCUMENTING AND EVALUATING DISABILITY IN
YOUNG ADULTS, 2011 WL 4055665, 2 (September 12, 2011).
As pointed out by Defendant in the supplemental brief, the ALJ found the relevant time
period to be November 1, 2001, Plaintiff’s alleged onset date, through January 29, 2010, the date
of the ALJ’s decision. The record shows that Plaintiff was granted child SSI benefits on May
6, 2002, and received SSI child benefits from November 1, 2001, until her case was reviewed
by a hearing officer under the adult standard in January of 2008, as Plaintiff had turned 18 years
of age on November 20, 2007. (Tr. 41). The ALJ’s January 29, 2010, unfavorable decision
stated that it considered the time period of November 2001, the date of Plaintiff’s child SSI
application, through the date of the decision. The Court questions how the ALJ could have sidestepped discussing the cessation of benefits claim when he stated during the September 21, 2009,
administrative hearing that the cessation of benefits claim was also before him; and the time
period in question pertains to both the cessation of benefits claim and the disabled adult child
claim. (Tr. 983).
As Plaintiff’s Title II application for disabled adult child benefits pertains to the same
time period as Plaintiff’s cessation of benefits claim, and the same adult standard is used to
evaluate both claims, the Court finds remand necessary so that the ALJ can more fully and fairly
develop the record regarding Plaintiff’s cessation of benefits claim.
Accordingly, the Court concludes that the ALJ’s decision is not supported by substantial
evidence, and therefore, the denial of benefits to the Plaintiff should be reversed and this matter
should be remanded to the Commissioner for further consideration pursuant to sentence four of
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
IT IS SO ORDERED this 19th day of September, 2012.
/s/ Erin L. Setser
HON. ERIN L. SETSER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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