United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
AFFRM THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER (Dkt. Nos. 16 &
KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the court is an action for judicial review of a final
decision by the acting Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) regarding the
plaintiff's entitlement to Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). Plaintiff Damaris Santiago Martinez
(“Plaintiff”), on behalf of her son A.G.C.
(“A.G.C.”), asserts that the Commissioner's
decision denying A.G.C. SSI benefits, which denial was
memorialized in a July 8, 2014 decision by an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”), was not based on substantial
evidence. Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings, while the Commissioner has filed a competing
Motion to Affirm the Commissioner's Decision, in which
the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) argues
that the Commissioner's decision was supported by
parties have consented to this court's jurisdiction (Dkt.
No. 17). See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P.
73. For the reasons set forth below, the court will allow the
Commissioner's motion to affirm, and deny Plaintiff's
motion for judgment on the pleadings.
filed a protective application for SSI benefits on April 23,
2010 alleging a December 13, 2002 onset of disability
(Administrative Record (“A.R.”) at 311-317). The
application was denied initially and on reconsideration.
Following a December 12, 2011 hearing, the ALJ found that
A.G.C. was not disabled (id. at 181-199). The
Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ for review and
discussion of records from A.G.C.'s school (id.
at 200-03). Following a second hearing, the same ALJ again
determined that A.G.C. was not disabled (id. at
70-87). The Appeals Council denied review (id. at
1-6), and this appeal followed.
Social Security Act defines a child under the age of 18 as
disabled if the child “has a medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which results in marked and
severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to
result in death or to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C).
When a claim for benefits is made on behalf of a child under
the age of 18, the Commissioner must determine whether the
child's alleged impairment is severe. 20 C.F.R. §
416.924(a)(c). If an impairment is found to be severe,
“the question becomes whether the impairment is one
that is listed in, or medically or functionally equals, the
Listings.” Blackmore ex rel. v. Astrue, Civil
No. 09-385-P-S, 2010 WL 2674594, at *1 (D. Me. June 29,
2010), adopted, 2010 WL 2899704 (D. Me. July 19,
2010) (citing 20 C.F.R. 416.924(a)).
The Social Security regulations include a three-step test for
the purpose of adjudicating children's disability claims
. . . 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(b)-(d). That test, known as
the Children's Benefit Analysis, requires the ALJ to
determine: (1) whether the child is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity, ” (2) whether the
child has “a medically determinable impairment that
is severe, ” and (3) whether the child's
impairment(s) . . . meet, medically equal, or functionally
equal [a] list[ed impairment.]” Id.; see
generally Fleetwood v. Colvin, 103 F.Supp.3d 199, 202-03
(D.R.I. 2015). A negative answer at any step precludes a
finding of disability. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a).
“The claimant seeking [childhood] benefits bears the
burden of proving that his or her impairment meets or equals
a listed impairment.” Hall ex rel. Lee v.
Apfel, 122 F.Supp.2d 959, 964 (N.D.Ill. 2000) (citing
Maggard v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 376, 380 (7th Cir.
In considering whether the child has an impairment or
combination of impairments that functionally equals the
severity of a listing, the six functional equivalence domains
set forth in the regulations must be considered. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(g)-(1). They 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 oneself; and
6. Health and physical well-being.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(I). To qualify as
functionally equivalent to a listing, the child's
impairment “must result in [either] ‘marked'
limitations in two domains of functioning or an
‘extreme' limitation in one domain.” 20
C.F.R. § 416.926a(a). The child has a
“marked” limitation - i.e., one “that is
‘more than moderate' but ‘less than
extreme'”- when the impairment “interferes
seriously with [the child's] ability to independently
initiate, sustain, or complete activities.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(e)(2)(i). The child has an
“extreme” limitation when the impairment
“interferes very seriously with [the child's]
ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete
activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(e)(3)(i).
Costa O/b/o X.C. v. Colvin, C.A. No. 15-540ML, 2016
WL 7974120, at *5 (D.R.I. Dec. 21, 2016), adopted,
2017 WL 354284 (D.R.I. Jan. 24, 2017). The functional
equivalence rules require the Commissioner to consider how a
child seeking SSI benefits “functions every day and in
all settings compared to other children the same age who do
not have impairments.” SSR 09-1P, 2009 WL 396031, at *2
(2009). An ALJ is required to ...