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Aden v. Colvin

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

August 29, 2013

Roda Aden, on behalf of H.A., a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

PAUL A. MAGNUSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan dated July 15, 2013. In the R&R, Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan recommended that the Court deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and dismiss the matter with prejudice. Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R&R.

According to statute, the Court must conduct a de novo review of any portion of the Magistrate Judge's opinion to which specific objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); D. Minn. L.R. 72.2(b). Based on that de novo review, the Court declines to adopt the R&R and remands the matter to the ALJ for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Roda Aden sought Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits for her minor daughter, H.A., in May 2009.[1] Plaintiff claimed that her daughter was disabled because of asthma, and alleged that the disability began on the date of her daughter's birth, September 5, 2006. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application, and ultimately an Administrate Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing on the application. The ALJ determined that, although H.A.'s asthma was a severe impairment that caused more than minimal functional limitations, H.A. did not meet or medically equal the listing of impairments in the regulations, as required for payment of SSI benefits. (App. 27, 36.) Plaintiff unsuccessfully appealed that determination to the Appeals Council and now brings this lawsuit seeking SSI benefits for H.A.

In the R&R, Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan noted that the ALJ's decision hinged on her determination that medical evidence did not establish the requisite number of asthma attacks requiring physician intervention, or persistent low-grade wheezing between attacks, or an absence of extended symptom-free periods or growth impairment. (R&R at 4.) Plaintiff's arguments here focus on the first of these determinations, namely that the record does not show the required number of prescriptions for asthma attacks during a 12-month period.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

This Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to determining whether that decision is "supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole." McKinney v. Apfel , 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000).

Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion. In determining whether existing evidence is substantial, we consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it. As long as substantial evidence in the record supports the Commissioner's decision, we may not reverse it because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome or because we would have decided the case differently.

Id. (citations omitted).

Plaintiff raises three specific objections to the R&R's findings. First, she contends that the R&R erred in determining that a June 2008 prescription fell outside the 12-month window set forth in the regulations. Second, she argues that the R&R erred in finding that there were no treatment notes supporting a September 2008 prescription. Finally, she contends that the R&R erred in determining that a May 2009 prescription was issued for reasons other than asthma. The Government's "response" to Plaintiff's objections does not address specifically any objection, merely reciting the Government's belief that the Court should uphold the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits.[2]

B. Number of Prescriptions

As noted, the R&R's conclusions in this matter depend on the determination that Plaintiff had not established the requisite number of prescriptions within a 12-month period. To determine whether a child is disabled because of asthma, the regulations require that the child has been prescribed "[s]hort courses of corticosteroids that average more than 5 days per month for at least 3 months during a 12-month period." 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, § 103.03(C)(2). The type of medication contemplated by this provision is corticosteroids prescribed as short-court treatment for acute asthma attacks or severe persistent asthma, not lower doses of inhaled corticosteroid prescribed as a long-term treatment for asthma. (R&R at 7-8 (citing Sanchez v. Barnhart, No. 03-C-537-C, 2005 WL 752220, at *9 (W.D. Wis. Mar. 30, 2005).) The R&R found that the ...


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