MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.
Plaintiff commenced this action on January 27, 2016, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). See Dkt. No. 1.
Plaintiff's date of birth is September 22, 1994, which made him thirteen years old in December 2007 when he began receiving SSI benefits. See Dkt. No. 9, Administrative Transcript ("T."), at 104. In February 2013, the Social Security Administration ("SSA") notified Plaintiff that his eligibility for SSI benefits was being terminated after an age 18 redetermination. See id. at 93. Plaintiff was nineteen years old on June 5, 2014, the date of Plaintiff's disability hearing. See id. at 33. At that time, Plaintiff was 5'7" and weighed approximately 360 lbs. See id. at 337. Plaintiff completed tenth grade in 2012
Plaintiff testified that his asthma impacts his everyday life. According to Plaintiff, working at the summer program was difficult because certain chemicals he handled exacerbated his asthma. See id. at 51-52. Plaintiff reported that his brother, who also worked at the summer program, frequently helped him perform tasks, including handling chemicals. See id. Plaintiff attested that he probably could not have completed his work at the summer program without his brother's assistance. See id. Plaintiff also testified that his asthma required him to leave work early on several occasions and that his asthma occasionally interrupts his sleep. See id. at 40, 53-54. Plaintiff claimed that he cannot walk a whole block and that attempting to do so causes shortness of breath. See id. at 52.
Plaintiff also suffers from a reading disorder. See id. at 40-41. Plaintiff testified that he is generally capable of reading children's books and occasionally reads to his five year old brother, but sometimes has difficulty. See id. at 41, 49. Plaintiff also testified that he needs help to read letters and simple recipes and usually cannot read newspaper articles. See id. at 40-42, 49-50. Plaintiff spends most of his time at home with his mother. See id. at 44. Plaintiff often plays board games, such as Sorry and Uno, with his mother but needs help reading instructions. See id. at 44-45, 55. Plaintiff testified that he assists with cooking, mopping, sweeping, and laundry; however, he can only occasionally perform such tasks without his mother's supervision. See id. at 44, 54. For example, Plaintiff claims that he struggles to measure the right amount of detergent and read the washing machine's controls by himself. See id. at 54. Plaintiff is generally able to purchase food at the grocery store, but struggles with certain items that are unfamiliar to him because he cannot read the labels. See id. at 50. Plaintiff testified that he is able to lift a gallon of milk and a bag of potatoes. See id. at 53. Plaintiff also indicated that he does not use a computer and that he becomes frustrated when he has tried. See id. at 55. Plaintiff also indicated that he enjoys watching sports but only watches them for a few minutes before getting bored and moving on to something else. See id. at 45, 54.
Plaintiff's mother testified that Plaintiff is generally unable to read children's books to his younger brother. See id. at 60. She also contended that Plaintiff is unable to go to the grocery store by himself, cannot count change, and tends to lose money. See id. at 60-62. She also attested that Plaintiff cannot follow multistep instructions, struggles to retain information, plays with children's toys, and cannot function alone. See id. at 65-68.
Cognitive testing performed in 2004 revealed a verbal score of 81 and a full scale score of 71, as well as a perceptual reasoning score of 73, a working memory score of 86, and a processing speed score of 68. See id. at 195-96. In 2008, Plaintiff received a verbal score of 93, as well as a perceptual reasoning score of 90, a working memory score of 99, and a processing speed score of 68. See id. at 196. In 2011, Plaintiff received a verbal score of 103, a nonverbal score of 88, and a full scale score of 96. See id. at 200. Most recently, in 2014, Plaintiff received a verbal score of 76 and a full scale score of 74, as well as a perceptual reasoning score of 77, a working memory score of 74, and a processing speed score of 71. See id. at 338.
On February 25, 2013, the SSA determined that Plaintiff was no longer disabled and therefore no longer qualified to receive SSI benefits. See id. at 93. In March 2013, Plaintiff's mother filed a request for reconsideration on Plaintiff's behalf. See id. at 99. Plaintiff attended a Disability Hearing Officer hearing on September 24, 2013. See id. at 102. By decision dated October 28, 2013, the Disability Hearing Officer upheld the decision to terminate Plaintiff's SSI benefits. See id. at 111-16. Plaintiff then requested a hearing by an administrative law judge. See id. at 117-19. A video-conference hearing was conducted on June 5, 2014 before Administrative Law Judge Jennifer Smith (the "ALJ"). See id. at 33-89. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision to Plaintiff dated September 15, 2014. See id. at 15-32. The ALJ made the following determinations: (1) Plaintiff turned eighteen on September 21, 2012, was eligible for SSI benefits as a child, and was notified that he was no longer disabled as of February 25, 2013, based on a redetermination of disability; (2) since February 25, 2013, Plaintiff has had the following severe impairments: obesity, asthma, and a learning disability in reading and writing; (3) since February 25, 2013, Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of a Listed Impairment in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 (the "Listed Impairment(s)"); (4) since February 25, 2013, Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b) except that he must avoid concentrated exposure to respiratory irritants and extreme temperatures, and Plaintiff can stand, walk, or sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday with occasional lifting or carrying of twenty pounds and frequent lifting or carrying of ten pounds; (5) Plaintiff has no past relevant work; and (6) considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. See id. at 15-32. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's disability ended on February 25, 2013 and that Plaintiff was not under a disability from February 25, 2013 through the date of the ALJ's decision. See id. at 28.
Plaintiff timely filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council See id. at 5-7. In a notice dated November 27, 2015, the request was denied, rendering the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. See id. at 1-4. Plaintiff then commenced this action for judicial review of the denial of his claim by the filing of a complaint on January 27, 2016. See Dkt. No. 1. Both parties have moved for judgment on the pleadings. See Dkt. Nos. 12, 18. The Court orders that the Commissioner's decision is vacated and remanded.
A. Standard of Review
In reviewing a final decision by the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405, the Court does not determine de novo whether a plaintiff is disabled. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Brault v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 683 F.3d 443, 447 (2d Cir. 2012); Pratts v. Chater, 94 F.3d 34, 37 (2d Cir. 1996). The Court must examine the administrative transcript as a whole to determine whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Brault, 683 F.3d at 447; Lamay v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 562 F.3d 503, 507 (2d Cir. 2009); Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 500-01 (2d Cir. 1998). "A court may not affirm an ALJ's decision if it reasonably doubts whether the proper legal standards were applied, even if it appears to be supported by substantial evidence." Barringer v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 358 F.Supp.2d 67, 72 (N.D.N.Y. 2005) (citing Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 986 (2d Cir. 1987)). The Second Circuit has explained that upholding a determination based on the substantial evidence standard where the legal principles may have been misapplied "creates an unacceptable risk that a claimant will be deprived of the right to have her disability determination made according to the correct legal principles." Johnson, 817 F.2d at 986. However, if the record is such that the application of the correct legal principles "could lead to only one conclusion, there is no need to require agency reconsideration." Id.
"Substantial evidence" is evidence that amounts to "more than a mere scintilla," and it has been defined to be "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quotation omitted). If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's factual determinations are conclusive, and the Court is not permitted to substitute its analysis of the evidence. See Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982) ("We would be derelict in our duties if we simply paid lip service to this rule, while shaping our holding to conform to our own interpretation of the evidence"). In other words, this Court must afford the Commissioner's determination considerable deference, and may not substitute "its own judgment for that of the [Commissioner], even if it might justifiably have reached a different result upon a de novo review." Valente v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 733 F.2d 1037, 1041 (2d Cir. 1984). This very deferential standard of review means that "once an ALJ finds facts, [the Court] can reject those facts `only if a reasonable factfinder would have to conclude otherwise.'" Brault, 683 F.3d at 448 (quoting Warren v. Shalala, 29 F.3d 1287, 1290 (8th Cir. 1994)).
1. Five-step analysis
For purposes of SSI, a person is disabled when he is unable "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment 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)(A).
McIntyre v. Colvin, 758 F.3d 146, 150 (2d Cir. 2014); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v).
2. Listed impairment
At step three of the disability analysis, a plaintiff who meets or medically equals one of the Listed Impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 is "conclusively presumed to be disabled and entitled to benefits." Dixon v. Shalala, 54 F.3d 1019, 1022 (2d Cir. 1995). Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's determination that he is no longer disabled should be remanded back to the Commissioner because the ALJ failed to properly evaluate his claim under the Listed Impairments of § 12.05 (Intellectual Disability) of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 ("§ 12.05").
a. Section 12.05(C)
Section 12.05(C) provides for a disability where there is "[a] valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70 and a physical or other mental impairment imposing an additional and significant work-related limitation of function." In cases where a claimant has taken multiple IQ tests, "courts tend to prefer the lowest IQ score across multiple, valid tests." Davis v. Astrue, No. 06-CV-657, 2010 WL 2925357, *5 (N.D.N.Y. July 21, 2010) (collecting cases); see also Kennerson v. Astrue, No. 10-CV-6591, 2012 WL 3204055, *8 (W.D.N.Y. Aug. 3, 2012) ("When there are multiple IQ tests, the lowest IQ score should be used unless there is some indication that the score is invalid"). Moreover, the regulations provide that "[i]n cases where more than one IQ is customarily derived from the test administered, e.g., where verbal, performance, and full scale IQs are provided in the Wechsler series, we use the lowest of these in conjunction with 12.05." 20 C.F.R. § Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 § 12.00(D)(6)(c). Even where a plaintiff's lowest valid IQ score exceeds 70, he may medically equal § 12.05C, provided that he suffers from other disorders that impose an additional and significant work-related limitation and his IQ score falls within the borderline range of 70-75. See Aviles v. Barnhart, No. 02-CV-4252, 2004 WL 1146055, *7 (E.D.N.Y. May 11, 2004) ("Plaintiff's prior low score of 74 also warranted careful consideration since, according to the Commissioner's Program Operations Manual System ("POMS"), `slightly higher IQ's (e.g.70-75) in the presence of other physical or mental disorders that impose additional and significant work-related limitation of function may support an equivalence determination'") (quoting POMS § DI 24515.056(D)).
In the present matter, the ALJ found at step two that Plaintiff's obesity, asthma, and learning disability constitute "severe impairments." See T. at 20-21. The Court therefore finds that Plaintiff suffers from impairments imposing additional and significant work-related limitations for purposes of § 12.05(C). See Stephens v. Colvin, ___ F. Supp. 3d ___, No. 15-CV-622, 2016 WL 4094885, *6 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 2, 2016) ("Plaintiff's COPD also meets the  requirement of a physical impairment imposing an additional and significant work-related limitation, as it was found severe at step two").
As for Plaintiff's IQ, Plaintiff received a full scale score of 71
The Court also notes that the ALJ seems to have given little weight to Plaintiff's full scale score of 74, finding in her analysis of Plaintiff's RFC that the "full-scale IQ score of 74 is not consistent with a school psychologist's full-scale IQ score of 96." T. at 26 (citations omitted). If the ALJ intended to find the full scale score of 74 invalid, she was required to explain why that score is inconsistent with the medical evidence. See Lyons, 2014 WL 4826789, at *12 ("The ALJ's failure to more fully reconcile the IQ scores requires remand"); Salem v. Colvin, No. 12-CV-1441, 2014 WL 975696, *1 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 12, 2014) (finding that the ALJ "was required to provide something more than a conclusory opinion, expressed in a single sentence without supporting citation [to medical evidence], when he deviated from the requirement (or presumption) in favor of the lowest available IQ score"); Davis, 2010 WL 2925357, at *5 ("Although the ALJ had the ability to find Plaintiff's later IQ scores invalid because they were inconsistent with evidence in the record, if that is indeed what he found, he should explain the basis for his decision").
b. Section 12.05 diagnostic description
To meet the listed impairment of intellectual disability under § 12.05, claimants also "must satisfy a diagnostic description contained in the introductory paragraph" of that section by making a "threshold showing that they suffer from `significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive functioning' initially manifested prior to age 22." Casey v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 13-CV-947, 2015 WL 5512602, *6 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 15, 2015); see also Talavera v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 153 (2d Cir. 2015). "Listing 12.05 does not require a complete lack of adaptive functioning, and Plaintiff need not be completely helpless in order to be deemed as having deficits in adaptive functioning." Stephens, 2016 WL 4094885, at *7. Rather, "`deficits in adaptive functioning . . . denotes an inability to cope with the challenges of ordinary everyday life.'" Barton v. Astrue, No. 08-CV-810, 2009 WL 5067526, *7 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 16, 2009) (quoting Novy v. Astrue, 497 F.3d 708, 710 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted)). "This District has previously looked to factors such as living on one's own, independently caring for children, cooking, paying bills, communication abilities, and daily living skills as indications of deficits in adaptive functioning." Stephens, 2016 WL 4094885, at *6 (citation omitted).
In the present case, the ALJ found that Plaintiff "does not currently have any deficits in adaptive functioning" based on his "reported activities of daily living." T. at 23. Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has "mild restrictions" in activities of daily living, noting that Plaintiff helps his mother with chores and cooking, that there is evidence Plaintiff can use social media on his phone and computer, and that a psychological consultant also opined that Plaintiff has mild limitations with activities of daily living. See id. at 22. The ALJ did not, however, address substantial evidence contrary to her conclusion, including the following: Plaintiff has a learning disability and attended special education classes (see id. at 288, 340), dropped out of school in tenth grade (see id. at 159), lives with and spends most of his time with his mother (see id. at 44, 337, 340), struggles to cook and complete chores independently (see id. at 44, 54, 337, 341), and cannot handle funds (see id. at 61-62, 288, 341), all of which are indicative of deficits in adaptive functioning. See Geil v. Colvin, No. 14-CV-6463, 2015 WL 9217026, *9 (W.D.N.Y. Dec. 16, 2015) ("The record is replete with evidence of plaintiff's need for special education classes and such evidence is particularly relevant to adaptive functioning deficit. . . . Most importantly, perhaps, is the substantial evidence . . . showing that, despite the Commissioner's characterization, plaintiff does not and cannot live independently"); Decarlo v. Astrue, No. 06-CV-488, 2009 WL 1707482, *6 (N.D.N.Y. June 17, 2009) ("Courts have found circumstantial evidence, such as the following, sufficient to infer deficits in adaptive functioning prior to age 22: evidence a claimant attended special education classes; dropped out of school before graduation; or had difficulties in reading, writing, or math") (collecting cases); Barton, 2009 WL 5067526, at *6 (finding that the plaintiff had deficits in several areas of adaptive functioning where the record showed, inter alia, that he lived with his mother, attended special education classes, did not independently shop or clean, and had limited social skills).
The Court therefore finds that the ALJ "erred by relying solely on those medical records which emphasize [Plaintiff's] health, while ignoring equally relevant medical evidence that emphasizes [Plaintiff's] instability." Geil, 2015 WL 9217026, at *10; see also Barton, 2009 WL 5067526, at *7 ("[T]he ALJ's failure to address the substantial evidence of record indicating that Plaintiff had deficits in adaptive functioning suggests that the ALJ treated adequate functioning in one or two areas as excluding evidence of clear deficits in other areas"). Accordingly, the Court remands this matter back to the Commissioner.
After carefully reviewing the entire record in this matter, the Parties' submissions, and the applicable law, and for the above-stated reasons, the Court hereby