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Cox v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas

June 13, 2016

Darrell Clay Cox, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration Defendant.

          Darrell Clay Cox, Plaintiff, Pro Se.

          Social Security Administration, Defendant, represented by Jonathan R. Clark, Social Security Administration & Stacey Elise McCord, U.S. Attorney's Office.

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          PATRICIA S. HARRIS, Magistrate Judge.

         Instructions

         The following recommended disposition was prepared for U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright. A party to this dispute may file written objections to this recommendation. An objection must be specific and state the factual and/or legal basis for the objection. An objection to a factual finding must identify the finding and the evidence supporting the objection. Objections must be filed with the clerk of the court no later than 14 days from the date of this recommendation.[1] The objecting party must serve the opposing party with a copy of an objection. Failing to object within 14 days waives the right to appeal questions of fact.[2] If no objections are filed, Judge Wright may adopt the recommended disposition without independently reviewing all of the record evidence.

         Reasoning for Recommended Disposition

         Darrell Clay Cox seeks judicial review of the denial of his application for social security disability benefits.[3] Cox's last reported earnings flowed from operating a punch press for Hytrol Conveyor Company.[4] He lost his job in December 2005, when his employer learned about his criminal history.[5] In April 2012, he applied for disability benefits and claimed he has been disabled since December 2005. He based disability on back problems, arthritis, shoulder pain, bipolar disorder, depression, and a broken clavicle.[6]

         The Commissioner's decision. The Commissioner's ALJ identified non-union of right-clavicle fracture, affective disorder, and substance abuse disorder as severe impairments.[7] The ALJ determined Cox could do some light work.[8] The ALJ application.[9] After the Commissioner's Appeals Council denied a request for review, [10] Cox filed this case to challenge the decision.[11] Although Cox was represented by an attorney in the agency proceeding, he proceeds pro se for this review. This recommended disposition explains why the court should affirm the decision.

         Cox's allegations. In his brief, Cox generally challenges the denial of his application, [12] and complains about a deterioration of his medical conditions. Even if his conditions have deteriorated, the court must review the record that was before the ALJ and consider the time period for which benefits were denied.[13]

         Applicable legal principles. The court must determine whether substantial evidence supports the decision.[14] For substantial evidence to exist, a reasonable mind must accept the evidence as adequate to show Cox can do some light work and work exists that Cox can do.[15] A reasonable mind will accept the evidence as adequate for the following reasons:

1. Medical evidence established no disabling physical impairment. A claimant must prove disability with medical evidence; his allegations are not enough.[16] Cox based disability on several physical allegations-back problems, arthritis, shoulder pain from a broken clavicle, foot pain, hip pain, back pain, and headaches-but medical evidence established one impairment-non-union of right clavicle fracture.[17]
According to Cox, he fractured his right clavicle in the 1990s in a horseback-riding accident.[18] Despite the non-union of the fracture, Cox worked for many years. That effort shows the right-clavicle impairment is not disabling. Although not disabling, the impairment likely causes neck and right-shoulder pain. According to medical experts, the impairment permits light work with right-arm limitations: occasional overhead reaching, pushing, and pulling with the right arm.[19]
The right-arm limitation is consistent with Cox's complaint that he cannot comfortably reach with his right arm.[20] A reasonable mind will accept the evidence as adequate to support the decision, because the ALJ required light work and limited the use of the right arm.
2. Medical evidence established no disabling mental impairment. Cox also based his claim on mental impairment: bipolar disorder and depression. There's no medical evidence of bipolar disorder or depression, but treatment records show a primary care ...

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