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Langley v. Colvin

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

August 19, 2016




         This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Amanda Langley ("Langley") application for disability insurance benefits.

         I. Background

         Langley was born in 1980, and she alleged that she became disabled beginning September 2, 2008. Langley alleged disability based upon severe asthma, scoliosis, endometriosis, hypoxemia, [1] a learning disability and obesity. (Tr. 63).

         The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Langley's application for benefits, and she filed a timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). The SSA granted Langley's request and a hearing was held on March 9, 2011. The ALJ issued a written decision on May 20, 2011, upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 14). Langley filed a timely Request for Review of Hearing Decision with the Appeals Council (Tr. 7). The Appeals Council denied Langley's Request for Review. (Tr. 1-3). The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000). Langley filed this appeal on September 10, 2015. (ECF No. 1). Langley filed a Brief in Support of her Complaint on December 14, 2015. (ECF No. 10). The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer on March 11, 2016. (ECF No. 16). Langley filed a Reply Brief on March 25, 2016. (ECF No. 17).

         II. Decision of the ALJ

         The ALJ found that Langley had the following severe combination of impairments: asthma/bronchitis, obesity, scoliosis and questionable borderline intellectual functioning. (Tr. 19). The ALJ, however, determined that Langley did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 20). The ALJ found that Langley had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b), meaning that she can lift-carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand/walk a total of 6 hours in 8, except that she should avoid climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds and can only occasionally balance, kneel, crouch, crawl, and stoop. She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, and she should avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants and prolonged exposure to extreme heat or cold. Mentally, the claimant was limited to performing simple routine tasks. (Tr. 21). The ALJ found that Langley was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 28). The ALJ determined that, based on Langley's RFC, jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Langley could perform. (Tr. 28). Consequently, the ALJ found that Langley was not disabled. (Tr. 28).

         III. Administrative Record

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

         A. Hearing Testimony

         Langley testified on March 9, 2011, as follows:

         She was born in 1980 and went to school until the 11th grade. (Tr. 37). She took General Education Diploma ("GED") classes but did not take the GED. (Tr. 37). She got her driver's license in 2002, when she was 22. (Tr. 38). She got divorced in 2007. (Tr. 38). She has three children aged: 13, 12 and 9. She lives with her children, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's mother. (Tr. 38). She's lived with them since June 2010. Before that, she and her boyfriend lived in their own house. (Tr. 39). She has been with her boyfriend for four years. (Tr. 39). Her boyfriend and her kids do a lot of the house work. (Tr. 39). Her boyfriend is disabled: he was born with spinal meningitis and it "fried the front part of his brain." (Tr. 39). They met at Kinfolks, a restaurant where they both worked. (Tr. 39). She met her boyfriend in September 2007. (Tr. 39). She receives $149/month as "wife's benefits" from her first husband and her kids receive $149/month as well. (Tr. 39). She also receives food stamps. (Tr. 40).

         Langley became disabled September 2, 2008. (Tr. 40). On that date, she was working at Kinfolks and she collapsed with a lung infection. (Tr. 40). Kinfolks fired Langley when she returned to work. (Tr. 40). She has been out of work since then. She has applied for jobs but no one will hire her. (Tr. 40). She most recently applied for a job last year at McDonald's. (Tr. 40).

         She has had difficulty with learning her jobs in the past. (Tr. 41). She could not understand how to use a cash register. (Tr. 41).

         She has had trouble with her lungs since 1996. (Tr. 41). She is short of breath all the time. (Tr. 41). Temperatures impact her breathing. (Tr. 41). She has to go on breathing treatments at the hospital and take steroids. (Tr. 41). Her lungs do not cause her any problems unless she is having one of her attacks. It can take her 3-4 hours to return to normal functioning after a breathing attack. (Tr. 42). Sometimes her breathing attacks will make it difficult for her to care for her children. (Tr. 42). She can be in bed for two to three days at a time. (Tr. 42). At home, she uses a nebulizer every two hours. (Tr. 42). The nebulizer makes her shaky such that she cannot hold a cup without a lid or her children. (Tr. 42-43). She has been taking these medications for her breathing since 1996. (Tr. 43).

         She also has problems with her mood. (Tr. 43). It depresses her that she cannot play with her kids. (Tr. 43).

         Her boyfriend helps with the housework. (Tr. 43-44). She can do dishes, but not vacuuming, sweeping, mopping or laundry because of her asthma. (Tr. 44). Her boyfriend or his mother does the grocery shopping. (Tr. 44). She helps with her kids' social studies homework but she cannot help them with their math homework. (Tr. 44). She was in special education classes at school. (Tr. 44).

         She got her driver's license at age 22. (Tr. 45). She took the driver's test two times. (Tr. 45). She claims she didn't get her license sooner ...

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