United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
E. JONES United States Magistrate Judge.
Peña alleges that her minor son, J.B., is disabled
because he suffers from several mental impairments that
seriously interfere with his functioning. She sought
supplemental security income on his behalf, but an
administrative law judge (ALJ) denied the application,
finding that J.B.'s impairments did result in marked or
severe functional limitations. Ms. Peña now seeks
judicial review of that decision.
Peña generally argues that the ALJ did not fully
consider how J.B.'s impairments affect his daily life.
The Commissioner contends that the ALJ did not commit an
error of law in reaching his decision and that the decision
is otherwise supported by substantial evidence. For the
reasons that follow, the Court agrees with the Commissioner
and therefore will affirm her decision denying J.B.
was born on September 2, 2005. Transcript 35, ECF Nos.
15-2-15-12. On June 29, 2012, J.B.'s mother, Patricia
Peña, applied for supplemental security income on his
behalf. See Tr. 198-206 & 209-28. Ms.
Peña alleged that J.B. was disabled as of August 1,
2008, on account of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) and a learning disorder. Tr. 219 & 223. After the
Social Security Administration (SSA) denied the application
initially, Tr. 63-72, and upon reconsideration, Tr. 73-84,
Ms. Peña requested a hearing before an ALJ,
see Tr. 110-15.
administrative hearing was held on November 10, 2015, before
ALJ Brent Bedwell. Tr. 30-62. J.B. had a non-attorney
representative at the hearing. See Tr. 30-33, 107-09
& 194-96. At the time of the hearing, J.B. was in fourth
grade. Tr. 35. He was living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with
his mother, older sister, grandparents, and
“dede.” Tr. 40 & 45. J.B. testified that he
did “good” in school but that he got in trouble
for being bad, disrespecting his teacher, and running in the
hall. Tr. 35-37. He had several school friends and spent his
free time playing with his cousin. Tr. 35-36 & 42. Ms.
Peña testified that her son struggled in school and
had many behavior problems, though he was doing better than
the preceding schoolyear. Tr. 48-50. She indicated that J.B.
did not care about consequences and that he had talked about
hurting himself in the past. Tr. 55 & 57-58. Ms.
Peña described her son as being very defensive, angry,
aggressive, and disrespectful. Tr. 52-53.
followed the three-step sequential evaluation process, and on
November 27, 2015, he issued a decision unfavorable to J.B.
Tr. 9-29. The ALJ determined that (1) J.B. had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his application date; (2)
J.B. suffered from five “severe” impairments:
ADHD, mood disorder/depression, conduct disorder (impulse
control and/or oppositional defiant disorder), borderline
intellectual functioning, and a learning disorder; and (3)
J.B. did not suffer from an impairment or combination of
impairments that met, medically equaled, or functionally
equaled the severity of a presumptively disabling impairment.
See Tr. 12-25. Based on those findings, the ALJ
concluded that J.B. was not disabled.
the Appeals Council denied Ms. Peña's request for
review, see Tr. 1-7 & 314, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security, see Loveless v. Colvin, 810 F.3d 502, 506
(7th Cir. 2016).
Peña filed this action as next friend of J.B. on
February 13, 2017, seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
See Complaint, ECF No. 1. The matter was reassigned
to this Court after the parties consented to magistrate judge
jurisdiction. See Consent to Proceed Before a
Magistrate Judge, ECF Nos. 5 & 6 (citing 28 U.S.C. §
636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73(b)). The Commissioner has filed a
brief in support of the ALJ's decision. Defendant's
Memorandum in Support of the Commissioner's Decision, ECF
No. 25. Ms. Peña, who is proceeding without the
assistance of counsel, has filed several letters in support
of her son's appeal, see ECF Nos. 20, 22 &
23, as well as additional evidence she would like the Court
to consider, see ECF Nos. 7, 12-13 & 16-17.
Standard of Review
review of Administration decisions under the Social Security
Act is governed by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).” Allord
v. Astrue, 631 F.3d 411, 415 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing
Jones v. Astrue, 623 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir.
2010)). Pursuant to sentence four of § 405(g), federal
courts have the power to affirm, reverse, or modify the
Commissioner's decision, with or without remanding the
matter for a rehearing.
205(g) of the Act limits the scope of judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision. See §
405(g). As such, the Commissioner's findings of fact
shall be conclusive if they are supported by
“substantial evidence.” See §
405(g). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118,
1120-21 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)) (other citations
omitted). The ALJ's decision must be affirmed if it is
supported by substantial evidence, “even if an
alternative position is also supported by substantial
evidence.” Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697,
699 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Arkansas v. Oklahoma,
503 U.S. 91, 113 (1992)).
reviewing the record, courts “may not re-weigh the
evidence or substitute [their] judgment for that of the
ALJ.” Skarbek v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 500, 503
(7th Cir. 2004) (citing Lopez ex rel. Lopez v.
Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003)). Rather,
reviewing courts must determine whether the ALJ built an
“accurate and logical bridge between the evidence and
the result to afford the claimant meaningful judicial review
of the administrative findings.” Beardsley v.
Colvin, 758 F.3d 834, 837 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing
Blakes v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 565, 569 (7th Cir.
2003) and Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 887 (7th
Cir. 2001)). The ALJ's decision must be reversed
“[i]f the evidence does not support the
conclusion.” Beardsley, 758 F.3d at 837
(citing Blakes, 331 F.3d at 569). Likewise,
reviewing courts must remand “[a] decision that lacks
adequate discussion of the issues.” Moore, 743
F.3d at 1121 (citations omitted).
also is warranted “if the ALJ committed an error of law
or if the ALJ based the decision on serious factual mistakes
or omissions, ” regardless of whether the decision is
otherwise supported by substantial evidence.
Beardsley, 758 F.3d at 837 (citations omitted). An
ALJ commits an error of law if his decision “fails to
comply with the Commissioner's regulations and
rulings.” Brown v. Barnhart, 298 F.Supp.2d
773, 779 (E.D. Wis. 2004) (citing Prince v.
Sullivan, 933 F.2d 598, 602 (7th Cir. 1991)). Reversal
is not required, however, if the error is ...