The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Adams v. Astrue on Tuesday, November 1, 2011.
The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Petitioner filed an application for SSI benefits on behalf of her son, who was five at the time, alleging that he became disabled in 2004 due to asthma. The agency denied the application initially and on reconsideration. An ALJ later issued a decision denying benefits, finding that the child (1) had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the filing of his application, (2) his asthma, history of tonsillectomy, and history of bilateral pressure equalization tubes are severe impairments, but (3) he did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met, medically equaled, or functionally equaled, any of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Listing of Impairments or Listing(s)). Petitioner, who is not an attorney, then sought judicial review on behalf of her son. The district court adopted the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation and affirmed the Commissioner’s denial of benefits.
The Court agreed with the decision of the lower courts. The Court found that Petitioner may proceed pro se on behalf of her minor child to challenge in federal court the administrative denial of SSI benefits, but they affirmed the Commissioner’s denial of those benefits. The Court rejected Petitioner’s argument that the ALJ should have found her son’s asthma was “medically equivalent” to adult asthma; it is discretionary whether the adjudicator applies that criteria to a child and the record evidence does not support the suggestion that the child’s asthma was potentially life-threatening. While the ALJ found the child’s and Petitioner’s testimony credible, the ALJ properly rejected the ultimate claim that he was disabled within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C) because “’the allegations regarding the intensity, duration, and limiting effects of [his] severe impairments and symptoms’ were undercut by his and his mother’s reports of ‘relatively normal physical and mental activities with very little limitation.’”