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Frock v. Colvin

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

September 11, 2013

JESSICA FROCK, o/b/o L.F., a minor, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.



This is an action reviewing the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Jessica Frock supplemental security income payments for her child L.F. (hereinafter referred to as “plaintiff”). The matter has been fully briefed by the parties.

I. General legal standards

The court's standard of review is set forth in 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which provides that "the findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive." The court should review the Commissioner's decision to determine only whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence and whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. Glenn v. Shalala, 21 F.3d 983, 984 (10th Cir. 1994). Substantial evidence requires more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance, and is satisfied by such evidence that a reasonable mind might accept to support the conclusion. The determination of whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision is not simply a quantitative exercise, for evidence is not substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence or if it really constitutes mere conclusion. Ray v. Bowen, 865 F.2d 222, 224 (10th Cir. 1989). Although the court is not to reweigh the evidence, the findings of the Commissioner will not be mechanically accepted. Nor will the findings be affirmed by isolating facts and labeling them substantial evidence, as the court must scrutinize the entire record in determining whether the Commissioner's conclusions are rational. Graham v. Sullivan, 794 F.Supp. 1045, 1047 (D. Kan. 1992). The court should examine the record as a whole, including whatever in the record fairly detracts from the weight of the Commissioner's decision and, on that basis, determine if the substantiality of the evidence test has been met. Glenn, 21 F.3d at 984.

II. Legal standards for child disability

The ALJ is required to apply a three-step analysis when making a determination of whether a child is disabled. In order to find that a child is disabled, the ALJ must determine, in this order, (1) that the child is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, (2) that the child has an impairment or combination of impairments that is severe, and (3) that the child’s impairment meets, medically equals, or functionally equals a listed impairment. Briggs v. Massanari, 248 F.3d 1235, 1237 (10th Cir. 2001); 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a) (2012 at 858).

If a child has a severe impairment which does not meet or medically equal any listing, the ALJ must decide whether the severe impairment results in limitations that functionally equal the listings. By “functionally equal the listings, ” the agency means that the severe impairment must be of listing level severity, i.e., it must result in marked limitations in two domains of functioning or an extreme limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). The six domains to be considered are: (1) acquiring and using information, (2) attending and completing tasks, (3) interacting and relating with others, (4) moving about and manipulating objects, (5) caring for yourself, and (6) health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1).

III. History of case

On August 12, 2011, administrative law judge (ALJ) John B. Langland issued his decision (R. at 12-25). Plaintiff was born on November 22, 2009 (R. at 15). Jessica Frock filed her application on behalf of her son on March 25, 2010 (R. at 12). At step one, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date (R. at 15). At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff has the following severe impairments: left fibular hemilemia status post syme amputation and osteotomy of left ankle (R. at 15). At step three, the ALJ determined that plaintiff’s impairments do not medically meet, equal or functionally equal a listed impairment (R. at 15-24). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been disabled since March 25, 2010, the application date (R. at 24).

III. Did the ALJ err in finding that plaintiff’s impairment did not meet or equal listed impairment 101.05B?

Plaintiff was born on November 22, 2009 (R. at 15). Plaintiff was born with a deformed left leg. Plaintiff underwent a below-the-knee amputation of his left leg on September 21, 2010. Plaintiff received his first prosthesis on November 7, 2010 (Doc. 14 at 4-5, 10; Doc. 23 at 2). Plaintiff was 1 year and between 8 and 9 months old at the time of the ALJ decision on August 12, 2011.

Listed impairment 101.05B is as follows:

Amputation (due to any cause)… B. One of both lower extremities at or above the tarsal region, with stump complications resulting in medical inability to use a prosthetic device to ambulate effectively, as defined in 101.00B2b, ...

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