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McCain v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

April 13, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT



Rodney McCain applied for social security disability benefits alleging an onset date of November 1, 2011. (R. at 91). He requested a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ), who denied benefits. (R. at 38). The Appeals Council denied his request for review, making the ALJ’s decision the final decision for judicial review. (R. at 1). McCain has requested judicial review, and the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge.

For the reasons stated below, this Court affirms the ALJ’s decision.

I. The Commissioner’s Decision

The ALJ found that McCain had the severe impairments of degenerative disk disease of the cervical and lumbar spine and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (R. at 30). The ALJ found that McCain had the residual functional capacity to perform light work, except that he could stoop and crouch only occasionally; must avoid concentrated exposure to dust, fumes, gases, odors, smoke, poor ventilation, and other airborne irritants; and must have the option to sit down or stand up at will. (R. at 31). This RFC rendered McCain unable to perform his past relevant work as a heavy equipment operator. (R. at 37). Having taken testimony from an impartial vocational expert, the ALJ found that McCain could perform other occupations such as inspector or cashier and therefore found that he was not disabled. (R. at 38).

II. Discussion

McCain argues that the ALJ erred in determining that he was not entirely credible concerning his disabling conditions and that the record as a whole did not contain substantial evidence supporting the ALJ’s RFC determination. The Court’s role is to determine whether the Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). “Substantial evidence” is less than a preponderance, but requires more than a mere scintilla. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009). It is “enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the ALJ’s decision.” Id. (citation omitted). The Court considers evidence supporting and evidence detracting from the Commissioner’s decision, but it will not reverse simply because substantial evidence could support a different outcome. Prosch, 201 F.3d at 1012.

a. Credibility Determination

McCain contends that the ALJ erred by not specifically identifying inconsistencies between his subjective complaints and the medical evidence and basing the credibility determination entirely on the medical evidence.

If objective evidence does not fully support a claimant’s subjective complaints of pain, the ALJ will consider all evidence relevant to those complaints. Milam v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 978, 984 (8th Cir. 2015). If the ALJ provides good reason for finding a claimant incredible, the Court will defer to the ALJ’s judgment. Id.

In this instance, the ALJ provided a number of reasons for discrediting McCain’s subjective complaints. One of McCain’s providers expressed concerns that he was “faking” during an evaluation and noticed improvement in McCain’s performance after expressing this concern. (R. at 307). The same doctor opined that McCain did not appear to be in pain and stated that he did not fully believe what McCain told him. (R. at 309-10). McCain was advised to stop smoking, (R. at 308), but has continued to smoke almost pack a day. (R. at 54). Failure to stop smoking when recommended in the course of treatment is properly considered when determining a claimant’s credibility. See Mouser v. Astrue, 545 F.3d 634, 638 (8th Cir. 2008). When visiting another provider, McCain complained of knee pain after helping a friend work on floors. (R. at 362).

The ALJ discussed each of these reasons for discrediting McCain’s subjective complaints, in addition to discussing the inconsistencies between his complaints and the objective medical evidence. The ALJ provided good reason for her credibility determination, and this Court will defer to the ALJ’s determination.

b. Sufficiency of the Evidence

McCain complains that the ALJ should have included a limitation on overhead reaching when setting the RFC. He points to an evaluation by an examining physician calling for limits on head and trunk movement. (R. at 276). After some recovery time, the same physician revised those limits to say that McCain should not move his head quickly or look over his shoulder. (R. at 281). Another doctor stated that work above his head could injure McCain. (R. at 310). Yet another noted 50% limitation in shoulder motion in all planes. (R. at 359). During a functional capacity evaluation, the examiner noted that McCain had trouble reaching overhead. (R. at 336) However, the examiner still assigned McCain a medium work capacity without including overhead reaching limitations. (R. at 350). Another evaluation noted ...

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