United States District Court, D. Idaho
JUDITH LYNN HITCHCOCK, on behalf of M.L.H., a minor child, Petitioner,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,  Respondent.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Candy W. Dale, United States Magistrate Judge
Judith Hitchcock filed a petition for review on behalf of her
minor daughter on February 20, 2018, seeking a reversal or
remand of the Respondent’s denial of social security
benefits. (Dkt. 1.) The Court has reviewed the Petition for
Review and the Answer, the parties’ memoranda, and the
administrative record (AR), and for the reasons that follow,
will affirm the decision of the Commissioner.
filed an application for child’s supplemental security
income benefits on July 14, 2014. This application was denied
initially and on reconsideration, and a hearing was conducted
on September 28, 2016, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
Marie Palachuck. After considering testimony from
Petitioner’s mother, a medical expert, and Petitioner,
Palachuck issued a decision on November 15, 2016, finding
Petitioner not disabled. Petitioner timely requested review
by the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review
on December 19, 2017.
timely appealed this final decision to the Court. The Court
has jurisdiction to review the ALJ’s decision pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
time of the hearing on September 28, 2016, Petitioner was
fifteen years of age and had begun her first year of high
school. Petitioner had no past relevant work experience.
Petitioner alleges disability due to the following
impairments, which the ALJ found to be severe: attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder; high functioning autism
spectrum disorder versus pervasive developmental disorder;
and depressive disorder. (AR 23.)
review, the Court is instructed to uphold the decision of the
Commissioner if the decision is supported by substantial
evidence and is not the product of legal error. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Brown-Hunter v. Colvin, 806 F.3d 487,
492 (9th Cir. 2015); Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d
947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). “Substantial evidence”
means “more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance.” Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d
1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005). “It is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Burch v. Barnhart, 400
F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks
omitted). The Court is required to review the record as a
whole and to consider evidence detracting from the decision
as well as evidence supporting the decision. Robbins v.
Social Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006);
Verduzco v. Apfel, 188 F.3d 1087, 1089 (9th Cir.
1999). “Where the evidence is susceptible to more than
one rational interpretation, one of which supports the
ALJ’s decision, the ALJ’s conclusion must be
upheld. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th
Cir. 2002) (citing Morgan v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999)). It is
well-settled that, if there is substantial evidence to
support the decision of the Commissioner, the decision must
be upheld even when the evidence can reasonably support
either affirming or reversing the Commissioner’s
decision, because the Court “may not substitute [its]
judgment for that of the Commissioner.” Verduzco v.
Apfel, 188 F.3d 1087, 1089 (9th Cir. 1999).
under the age of eighteen is disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act “if that individual 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 which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(C)(i) (as amended); see 20 C.F.R. §
416.906; see Merrill ex rel. Merrill v. Apfel, 224
F.3d 1083, 1085 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing §
1382c(a)(3)(C)(i)). The three-step evaluation process
applicable to child disability applications requires the ALJ
to determine: (1) whether the claimant is currently engaged
in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has
a medically determinable impairment or combination of
impairments that is severe; and (3) whether the
claimant’s impairment or combination of impairments
meets or medically equals the requirements of a listed
impairment, or functionally equals the listings. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.924(b)-(d). “[I]f the child’s
impairment or impairments do not meet, medically equal, or
functionally equal in severity a listed impairment, the child
is not disabled.” Brown v. Callahan, 120 F.3d
1133, 1135 (10th Cir. 1997) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.928
(a)); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.902, 416.906,
416.924-416.926a (regulations concerning childhood disability
a listed impairment, a claimant must show that her impairment
“meet[s] all of the specified medical criteria. An
impairment that manifests only some of those criteria, no
matter how severely, does not qualify.” Sullivan v.
Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530 (1990); see Tackett v.
Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1099 (9th Cir. 1999). To medically
“equal” a listed impairment, a claimant must
present medical findings at least equal in severity and
duration to all of the criteria for the most similar listed
impairment. See Sullivan, 493 U.S. at 531;
Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1099-1100; 20 C.F.R. §
416.926 (discussing medical equivalence for adults and
child disability claimant does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals any
listing, the ALJ must consider whether it “functionally
equals” a listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§
416.924(a), 416.926a. “Functional equivalence” is
determined not by reference to the criteria for any
particular listed impairment, but by reviewing all relevant
information in the case record, including information from a
broad range of medical sources and nonmedical sources, to
assess the child’s functioning in six areas, which are
referred to as domains. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.926a. The six domains 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. 20 C.F.R. §
416.926a(b)(1)(i)-(vi). An impairment or combination of
impairments functionally equals a listing if, applying
criteria detailed in the Commissioner’s regulations, it
results in “marked” limitations in two domains or
an “extreme” limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(a), (e)(1).
found that Petitioner did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that functionally equaled the
severity of a listed impairment. Although numerous objective
tests documented Petitioner’s poor processing speed,
the ALJ determined Petitioner had less than a marked
limitation in acquiring and using information, and in
attending and completing tasks. In making these two
determinations, the ALJ considered cognitive testing; her
grades in school; Petitioner’s school ...