Pounds v. Social Security Ad. Office of Disability Adjudication
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander on 5/29/15. (bnd)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
PINNIE B. POUNDS, on behalf of
J.M.J.P. (minor child)
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:14CV139-SAA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
Plaintiff Pinnie Pounds has filed an appeal under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)on behalf of J.M.J.P.,
a minor, for judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying an
application of for supplemental security income (SSI) payments under Section 1614(a)(3) of the
Social Security Act. Plaintiff filed the application for benefits on March 28, 2011, alleging that
J.M.J.P became disabled on that date. Docket 20, p. 112. The claim was denied initially on May
25, 2011, and upon reconsideration on July 5, 2011. Id. at 44-47, 51-54. Plaintiff filed a request
for hearing on July 25, 2011 (id. at 56), and an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) scheduled the
hearing for on March 15, 2013. Docket 20, p. 22-28. On that date, the ALJ agreed to postpone
the hearing so that plaintiff could obtain a representative. Id. at 25. Despite this postponement,
plaintiff attended the second hearing on June 15, 2013 without a representative. Docket 20, p.
28-41. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on July 25, 2013, and on July 3, 2014, the
Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request for a review. Id. at 9-18, 1-3. On August 4, 2014, the
Appeals Council granted plaintiff an additional 30 days to file a civil action in federal court.
Docket 20, p. 6.
Plaintiff timely filed the instant appeal, and it is now ripe for review.
Because both parties have consented to have a magistrate judge conduct all the
proceedings in this case as provided in 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the undersigned has the authority to
issue this opinion and the accompanying final judgment.
J.M.J.P. was born on January 4, 2011 and was two years old at the time of the hearing.
Docket 20, p. 33, 112. Plaintiff contends that he became disabled before the application for
benefits as a result of “one leg longer than other, hole in heart, shaking spells like seizures.”
Docket 20, p. 115.
The ALJ determined that while J.M.J.P. suffered from medically determinable
impairments of bronchitis and leg length discrepancy, he did not have any severe impairment or
combination of impairments that is severe. Docket 20, p. 15. Therefore, the ALJ determined
that J.M.J.P. is not disabled. Id. at 17. Plaintiff, in her one page brief, claims that the ALJ erred
because she did not allow her sufficient time to establish that J.M.J.P. was disabled. Docket 16.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The ALJ made his determination under the rules adopted by the Social Security
Administration in accordance with the changes to children's disability benefits in the Personal
Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.1 To be considered disabled under the
Act a child must have a "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."2
See 42 U.S.C. § 1382c.
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(I).
In assessing a child's alleged disability, the Commissioner, through an ALJ, must work
through a three-step sequential evaluation process used specifically to determine whether a child
meets the disability criteria.3 The burden rests upon the plaintiff to prove disability at all stages
of the proceedings. First, the ALJ determines whether the child is working.4 Second, the ALJ
decides whether the child has a medically determinable "severe" impairment or combination of
impairments.5 Finally, at step three, for a finding of disabled, the ALJ must conclude the child's
impairment or combination of impairments meets, medically equals or functionally equals the
severity of an impairment listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1, §§ 1.00-114.02. 20
C.F.R. §§ 416.924(d) & 416.925 (2006). If plaintiff's impairment is severe but does not meet or
equal in severity of a Listing, the ALJ must then undertake a Functional Equivalence Analysis
("FEA") to determine whether the impairment is "functionally equal in severity to a listed
The court considers on appeal whether the Commissioner’s final decision is supported by
substantial evidence and whether the Commissioner used the correct legal standard. Crowley v.
Apfel, 197 F.3d 194, 196 (5th Cir. 1999), citing Austin v. Shalala, 994 F.2d 1170 (5th Cir. 1993);
Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir. 1990). The court has the responsibility to
scrutinize the entire record to determine whether the ALJ’s decision was supported by
substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied in reviewing the claim.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.924 (2004).
20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b) (2006).
20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c).
20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a).
Ransom v. Heckler, 715 F.2d 989, 992 (5th Cir. 1983). The court has limited power of review
and may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner,7 even
if it finds that the evidence leans against the Commissioner’s decision.8
In the Fifth Circuit substantial evidence is defined as “more than a scintilla, less than a
preponderance, and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Crowley v. Apfel, 197 F.3d 194, 197 (5th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted).
Conflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner to decide, and if there is substantial evidence
to support the decision, it must be affirmed even if there is evidence on the other side. Selders v.
Sullivan, 914 F.2d 614, 617 (5th Cir. 1990). The court’s inquiry is whether the record, as a
whole, provides sufficient evidence that would allow a reasonable mind to accept the
conclusions of the ALJ. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). “If supported by
substantial evidence, the decision of the [Commissioner] is conclusive and must be affirmed.”
Paul v. Shalala, 29 F.3d 208, 210 (5th Cir. 1994), citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
390, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971).
Plaintiff’s only assignment of error is that the ALJ did not allow her sufficient time to
establish that her son was disabled. Docket 16. In response, the Commissioner notes that the
ALJ and Appeals Council afforded plaintiff every extension that she requested. Plaintiff’s first
request for an extension was during the administrative hearing held on March 15, 2013, two
Hollis v. Bowen, 837 F.2d 1378, 1383 (5th Cir. 1988).
Bowling v. Shalala, 36 F.3d 431, 434 (5th Cir. 1994); Harrell v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 471,
475 (5 Cir. 1988).
years after the application for benefits was filed. Docket 20, p. 25. During this hearing plaintiff
indicated that she wished to obtain representation, and the ALJ agreed to reschedule the hearing
to allow her sufficient time to do so. Id. However, plaintiff still had not obtained representation
by the June 25, 2013 hearing. Docket 20, p. 28-41. Plaintiff mad no further requests for
additional time until August 4, 2014, when she requested and was granted additional time to file
an appeal in federal court. Docket 20, p. 6. Over three years elapsed between the application for
benefits and the Appeals Council’s final decision. Plaintiff has not provided any evidence to
support her assertion that the Commissioner did not allow her sufficient time to prove that her
son was disabled or that any additional time would have resulted in a different outcome.
Therefore, plaintiff’s assignment of error is without merit.
After diligent review, the court holds that the ALJ’s decision was supported by
substantial evidence and must be affirmed. A final judgment in accordance with this
memorandum opinion will issue this day.
SO ORDERED, this, the 29th day of May, 2015.
/s/ S. Allan Alexander
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?