United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER 
M. Bodenhausen UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Allen ("Plaintiff), on behalf of J. J., a minor, appeals
the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
("Defendant") denying disability benefits under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 401 etseq. Because Defendant's decision
is not supported by substantial evidence, as discussed below,
it is REVERSED and this cause is REMANDED for additional
proceedings. See 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).
Procedural and Factual Background
is the grandmother of J. J., a minor who was a five year old
boy at the time of the original disability application at
issue in this case, which was filed on October 9, 2012. In
the application, Plaintiff alleges that J.J. is disabled
because of attention deficit hyperactive disorder
("ADHD"), attention deficit disorder
("ADD"), behavioral problems, stuttering, asthma,
and learning disabilities. (Tr. 53) Plaintiffs application
was denied, (Tr. 62) and Plaintiff then requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge ("ALJ").
Plaintiff appeared (with counsel) at this hearing, along with
J.J., on March 28, 2014. Both Plaintiff and J.J. testified
concerning the nature and extent of J.J. 's disability
and functional limitations. (Tr. 35-52)
decision dated June 4, 2014, the ALJ found that J.J. was not
disabled. (Tr. 19-29) Plaintiff appealed that decision, but
the Appeals Council declined review. (Tr. 1-3) Plaintiff has
therefore exhausted her administrative remedies, and the
matter is properly before this Court.
deciding that J.J. was not disabled, the ALJ followed the
three-step inquiry that applies in child disability cases, as
set out in the Commissioner's regulations. See
20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). At step one, the ALJ found that
J.J. was a preschooler at the time of his original disability
application, and that J.J. was not engaged in substantial
gainful activity. (Tr. 21-22) At step two, the ALJ found that
J.J. has the following severe impairments: asthma; ADHD;
stutter; and fine motor/visual motor skill delay.
(Tr. 22) At step three, the ALJ had to undertake a
multi-pronged analysis. The ALJ had to first determine
whether J.J.'s severe impairments met or medically
equaled a listed impairment. If not, the ALJ had to determine
whether J.J.'s severe impairments functionally equaled a
listing. The ALJ held (and Plaintiff does not contest) that
J.J.'s impairments do not meet or medically equal a
determining whether J.J.'s severe impairments
"functionally" equaled a listing, the ALJ evaluated
J.J.'s functioning within the six required domains. The
ALJ found that J.J. had "less than marked"
limitations in all of the six domains, except for the domain
of acquiring and using information, where the ALJ found that
J.J. had "no limitations." (Tr. 22-28) Because J.J.
did not suffer from either "extreme" limitations in
one domain, or "marked" limitations in two domains,
the ALJ found that there was no functional equivalence
between J.J.'s impairments and a listing. (Tr. 28)
arriving at this conclusion, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiffs and
J.J.'s credibility, and evaluated multiple pieces of
medical opinion evidence. With regard to credibility, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff and J.J. were "generally
credible, " but that their testimony at the hearing was
"not indicative of total disability." (Tr. 22) As
to the medical opinion evidence, the ALJ did not specifically
assign weight to the various pieces of opinion evidence, but
he clearly relied on the opinions of three state agency
decision-makers who ultimately opined that J.J. was not
functionally disabled. (Tr. 56-58)
this Court, Plaintiff makes several arguments for reversal.
First, she makes the broad and overarching argument that the
ALJ did not provide "sufficient detail" in his
analysis of J.J.'s functioning. Plaintiff argues that it
is not clear which evidence the ALJ is pointing to in order
to support his conclusions. Second, Plaintiff argues that the
ALJ's conclusions regarding three of the domains are not
supported by substantial evidence. In particular, Plaintiff
argues that the ALJ's conclusions that J.J. suffers from
"less than marked" limitations in the domains of
attending and completing tasks, interacting with others, and
moving and manipulating objects are not supported by
substantial evidence. In response, Defendant argues that all
of the ALJ's conclusions are supported by substantial
Legal Framework and Standard of Review
from low income families may receive Title XVI benefits if
certain income and asset requirements are met, and if the
child qualifies as "disabled." See 42
U.S.C. § 1382(a)(1). A child under the age of eighteen
is disabled if he or she "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." See 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). As
noted above, the Commissioner employs a three-step sequential
evaluation process to determine whether a child meets this
definition. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a).
one, the Commissioner determines whether the child is engaged
in "substantial gainful activity." If so, the claim
is denied; if not, the Commissioner moves on to step two.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.924(a), (b). At step
two, the Commissioner determines whether the child suffers
from any impairments or combination of impairments that are
"severe." 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). Under these
rules, an impairment is not severe if it "causes no more
than minimal functional limitations." See 20
C.F.R. § 416.924(c). If the child suffers from an
impairment or combination of impairments that qualifies as
"severe, " the analysis moves to step three. At
step three, the Commissioner determines whether the child has
a severe impairment or combination of impairments that: (1)
meets; (2) medical equals; or (3) functionally equals a
listed impairment set forth in Appendix 1 of 20 C.F.R. pt.
404, subpart P. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d).
"meet" or "medically equal" a listing, a
child's severe impairment must meet the severity criteria
for an individual listing. See Id. But if a
child has a severe impairment or combination of impairments
that does not "meet" or "medically equal"
any listing, the Commissioner will analyze whether the child
has limitations that "functionally equal" a
listing. See 20 § C.F.R. 416.926a(a).
considering functional equivalence, the Commissioner looks at
how the child's impairments affect "broad areas of
functioning" known as "domains." 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(b). To equal a listing functionally, the
impairments must result in "marked"  limitations in
two domains of functioning, or an