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Manley v. Colvin

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

September 29, 2014

SHEILA J. MANLEY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


JOHN A. ROSS, District Judge.

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Sheila Manley's ("Manley") application for supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 404-433.

I. Background

On August 16, 2007, Manley protectively filed an application for supplemental security income benefits, alleging disability since August 1, 1998. (Tr. 189) The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Manley's application on November 29, 2007. (Tr. 103-07) She filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on January 7, 2008. (Tr. 109-11) Following a hearing on October 1, 2009 (Tr. 61-80), the ALJ issued a written decision on November 10, 2009, upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 83-97) Manley requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council and on November 18, 2009, the Appeals Council remanded the case for further evaluation. (Tr. 98-102)

Manley appeared and testified at a hearing held on April 4, 2011. (Tr. 29-60) Following the hearing, the ALJ issued a written decision on December 28, 2011, finding Manley was not under a "disability." (Tr. 12-28) Mitchell again requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, which request was denied on February 25, 2013. (Tr. 1-6) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel , 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).

Manley filed this appeal on May 25, 2013. (Doc. No. 1) The Commissioner filed an Answer. (Doc. No. 11) Manley filed a brief in support of her complaint (Doc. No. 25) and the Commissioner filed a brief in support of the answer. (Doc. No. 30) Manley did not file a reply.

II. Decision of the ALJ

The ALJ determined that Manley had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 16, 2007, the application date.[1] (Tr. 15) The ALJ found Manley had the severe impairments of major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder and avoidant personality disorder, but that no impairment or combination of impairments met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id.)

After considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Manley had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: she would be limited to work that involved only simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. She would also require a low stress job, defined as requiring only occasional decision-making, occasional changes in work setting, no interaction with the public, and only causal and infrequent contact with coworkers. (Tr. 17) The ALJ found Manley had no past relevant work but that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that she can perform. (Tr. 22) Thus, the ALJ concluded that a finding of "not disabled" was appropriate. (Tr. 23)

Manley appeals, contending the RFC and credibility findings are not supported by substantial evidence. She also contends the ALJ failed to give proper weight to the opinions of her treating psychiatrist Georgia Jones, M.D. The Commissioner maintains that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.

III. Administrative Record

The following is a summary of the relevant evidence before the ALJ.

A. Hearing Testimony

The ALJ held a hearing in this matter on April 4, 2011. (Tr. 31) Manley testified and was represented by counsel. Wilma Edwards, Manley's aunt, also testified at the hearing. (Tr. 55-59) Following the hearing, the ALJ submitted interrogatories to a vocational expert. (Tr. 265-274)

1. Manley's testimony

At the time of the hearing, Manley was 36 years old. (Tr. 38) She was divorced and had joint custody of her three children, ages 13, 7 and 4. (Tr. 38) Her highest level of education was the eleventh grade. (Tr. 39) She was in special education classes from the first grade on. (Tr. 40) She had no vocational training. (Id.) Manley testified she has not worked since August 2007. (Tr. 40) She has never filed for unemployment benefits or claimed workers compensation. (Tr. 41) In 2000 Manley reported income of $1500 from a home-based mail order business selling vitamins. (Tr. 42) In 1998 she worked at a church day care for about a month. (Tr. 42-43) She quit because she saw some things she didn't like, such as bad parenting. (Tr. 43-44) In 1996 Manley worked at a Taco Bell, preparing food and washing dishes. (Tr. 44) She did not like working the cash register. (Id.) She left that job when she got married. (Id.)

It was Manley's testimony that she doesn't deal very well with people. She feels uncomfortable and anxious when out in public, and believes people are staring at her and talking about her. (Tr. 45-46, 53) At times she stays up all night thinking about things and talking with her parents on the phone. (Tr. 46-47)

Manley has a driver's license and drives every day with no problem. (Tr. 39) She can grocery shop, but typically has someone go with her. (Tr. 46) Sometimes her mother comes to stay with her and help her, but she has no trouble taking care of things around her house or with her children. (Tr. 50) She does most of the household chores, including vacuuming, washing the dishes, and cooking. (Tr. 49, 51) She showers every day. (Tr. 51) She has no problems with alcohol or drugs. (Tr. 44-45) She likes to read or watch television. (Tr. 53)

Manley has seen Dr. Georgia Jones approximately every four weeks since 1997-98. (Tr. 48) Her prescription medications include Effexor, [2] Invega, [3] "Clozapine or something, "[4] and a sleeping pill. (Tr. 51-52; 259) Manley testified that sometimes she feels as if she doesn't need her medication but takes it anyway, and feels it helps her symptoms of sadness, depression, and crying spells. (Tr. 52) She can remember to take her medication on her own. (Tr. 52)

2. Testimony of Wilma Edwards

Edwards testified that her niece cannot go places by herself, and that when she is in a crowd she feels as if she is being watched and talked about. (Tr. 56-57) She has issues with meeting new people and obsesses about small details. (Tr. 57-59)

Manley's parents are with her every week. (Tr. 57) Manley's mother stays with her at least one week out of the month because Manley is not stable. (Id.) Manley is on the phone with her parents all the time. (Id.) According to Edwards, ...

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