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Carter v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

November 4, 2019

CHANDRA CARTER o/b/o/ E.K.W Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL[1], Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) denying E.K.W.'s (a minor child) application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Act. Chandra Carter is pursuing this matter on behalf of the minor and pursuant to § 405(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. The Court has reviewed the briefs filed by the parties and the entire administrative record, including the transcript and medical evidence. For the reasons set forth below, the denial of E.K.W's application will be affirmed.

         Facts and Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for children's SSI on behalf of her minor son E.K.W. on December 18, 2015, alleging a disability onset date of December 1, 2015. The application was initially denied on February 25, 2016. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on May 12, 2016.

         On November 30, 2017, a hearing was held. Plaintiff waived her right to counsel. Following the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision on February 13, 2018 finding that plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order and on September 13, 2018, the Appeals Council denied her request for review. The decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Record Evidence and Testimony

         On January 10, 2015, E.K.W. presented to People's Health Centers for a well child exam. This was his first visit to People's Health Centers. He was examined by Dr. Sarah Bryant. Plaintiff reported to Dr. Bryant that she was concerned about E.K.W.'s behavior and activity, and that E.K.W. was very active “all the time.” Dr. Bryant discussed behavioral interventions with Plaintiff and referred her to a child psychologist to discuss behavior plans. Dr. Bryant noted that E.K.W. exhibited age-appropriate behavior. E.K.W. “passed” all 4-year-old developmental milestones, except for drawing people, which he “failed, ” and playing well with others, which he did “sometimes.” E.K.W.'s grade level was pre-school; he was noted as performing at grade level and not having a learning disability.

         On November 24, 2015, E.K.W. presented to People's Health Centers for a well child checkup and behavior. Again, he was examined by Dr. Bryant, who noted that E.K.W. exhibited age-appropriate behavior and that all areas of development were appropriate for his age. E.K.W. was attending full day kindergarten, performing at grade level, and did not have a learning disability; he also reported being suspended or expelled. Plaintiff reported to Dr. Bryant that E.K.W.'s behavior was a big problem in that E.K.W. was very hyperactive, was running around all the time, and had been getting aggressive with his teachers. Plaintiff stated that E.K.W. exhibited similar behavior at home, though not as bad. Plaintiff also reported that E.K.W. had similar behavioral problems in pre-K. She reported that he hadn't been doing anything “out of the ordinary” or “aggressive” at home until that year, although he would get into fights with his cousins. Dr. Bryant noted that no IEP evaluation had been done, and that Plaintiff was interested in in-home therapy services. Dr. Bryant's patient plan for E.K.W. included completion of “Vanderbilts, ” (presumably the ADHD Diagnostic Rating Scales for parents and teachers, see, e.g. Mark L. Wolraich et al., Psychometric Properties of the Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Parent Rating Scale in a Referred Population, J. of Pediatric Psychol., Volume 28, Issue 8, December 2003, 559- 568, available at https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jsg046) and returning for a follow-up. She also noted that she should would refer to Epworth.

         On December 15, 2015, E.K.W. presented to People's Health Centers for ADD/ADHD and was examined by Dr. Janelle Spaulding. During the exam, E.K.W. was oriented to time, place, person, and situation and exhibited age-appropriate behavior. E.K.W. was attending full day kindergarten, was performing at grade level, and did not have a learning disability. All areas of development were noted as appropriate for E.K.W.'s age. Plaintiff reported to Dr. Spaulding that E.K.W. had behavior problems at home and school that had persisted for more than six months. Plaintiff reported continuing issues at school, including E.K.W.'s one-day suspension the week prior, and noted that E.K.W. was pending IEP. Dr. Spaulding noted that the Vanderbilt scales had been completed by a parent and by a teacher. Spaulding assessed E.K.W. as having ADHD predominantly hyperactive type, and started E.K.W. on Adderall XR 5 mg. E.K.W. was to follow up in one month and pursue a behavioral therapist.

         In the initial Disability Report (Form SSA-3820) dated December 29, 2015, Plaintiff listed People's Health Centers as E.K.W.'s only medical provider and noted that E.K.W.'s first visit to People's Health Centers was in August 2015. Plaintiff also reported that E.K.W. was a Kindergartener at Jamaa Learning Center beginning in August 2015 and listed no other educational history.

         On January 4, 2016, the Office of Special Education for St. Louis Public Schools responded to an SSA request for information, stating that it “[could] not locate information indicating that [E.K.W.] received special education services.”

         The record contains a February 2, 2016 letter from Epworth Family Support Network which indicates that E.K.W. was being seen by a family therapist but contains no information about assessment or treatment. A February 2, 2016 Authorization for Release of Information between Epworth and Jessica Arteaga of Grace Hill Home-Based Head Start Family Education is also present in the record.

         On February 11, 2016, E.K.W.'s teacher at Jamaa Learning Center, Megan Willard, wrote about her observations of E.K.W. after being on ADHD medication. Willard wrote that she saw a great difference in him, with E.K.W.'s ability to focus his attention improving to all day instead of just moments throughout the day. He had also calmed down and spoke in a more understanding and respectable way. Willard noted that E.K.W. was, however, sleeping more often in class and complaining that he did not feel well, which could take up a half to full day of learning. Willard also wrote that on days that E.K.W. said he did not feel well and thus did not take his medication, his behavior was uncontrollable because he could not control his hyperactive body and mind and spoke about unrealistic situations.

         On February 25, 2016, Linda Skolnick, a state psychological consultant, submitted a Disability Determination Explanation in E.K.W.'s case. Dr. Skolnick opined that E.K.W.'s impairment of ADHD was severe, but did not meet, medically equal, or functionally equal the SSA listings. Dr. Skolnick found that E.K.W had some limitations in attending and completing tasks and in interacting and relating with others, but that these limitations were less than marked. Dr. Skolnick noted that E.K.W.'s medical providers reported that he performed at grade level in a regular educational setting and exhibited age-appropriate behavior at medical exams. She also noted that E.K.W. had recently started ADHD medications, and noted Plaintiff's reports that E.K.W. was active, had behavioral problems at home and school, and sometimes fought his cousins.

         In the Disability Report - Appeal (Form SSA-3441) dated May 13, 2016, Plaintiff wrote that E.K.W.'s medical condition changed in January 2016 in that she “[has] to go to the school every day. [E.K.W.] hit the teacher. He run[s] out of the classroom. He can't stay focused. He hit[s] kids. He doesn't follow directions. He gets angry and tears up things.” She also noted that “[E.K.W.] is very aggressive. He is angry. We don't know what is wrong with him. When we try to talk to him he just cry. He has always been like that, but it has gotten worse.” On the appeal form, Plaintiff indicated that E.K.W. had received more medical care since the initial application - People's Health Centers was still listed as the only medical provider. Plaintiff also listed Head Start - Grace Hill as an entity with medical information about E.K.W., noting that “Jessica came to the house for an hour two times a week to do activities with him.” Plaintiff again listed Jamaa Learning Center as E.K.W.'s school. She ...


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