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Martin v. Colvin

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

January 12, 2017

DEWAYNE MARTIN PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          ORDER

         I. Background

         Dewayne Martin seeks judicial review of the denial of his application for supplemental security income benefits.[1] (Docket entry #13) Mr. Martin claims he has been disabled since October 12, 2006, when he was injured in a car accident. (SSA record at 104) Mr. Martin based disability on arthritis in his hands and problems with his neck and left shoulder. (Id. at 61)

         The Commissioner's ALJ held a hearing on Mr. Martin's application. Mr. Martin appeared, but was not represented by counsel. (Id. at 21) After considering Mr. Martin's application, the ALJ determined that Mr. Martin had severe impairments - left shoulder pain and cervical degenerative disc disease - but that he could do light work with no frequent overhead reaching with the left upper extremity. (Id. at 11) The ALJ went on to find, at step four, that Mr. Martin could perform his past relevant work as a “small business manager.” (Id. at 14) Alternatively, the ALJ found, at step five, that because a vocational expert (“VE”) identified office helper and small products assembler as representative available work, Mr. Martin was not disabled and denied the application. (Id. at 15)

         After the Commissioner's Appeals Council denied a request for review, the ALJ's decision became a final decision for judicial review. (Id. at 1-3) Mr. Martin filed this case to challenge the decision. (#2) In reviewing the decision, the court must determine whether substantial evidence supports the decision and whether the ALJ made a legal error.[2]

         II. Mr. Martin's Allegations

         Mr. Martin challenges two aspects of the ALJ's decision: (1) the determination that he could perform his past relevant work; and (2) the assessment of his credibility. (#13) Mr. Martin claims that the VE mischaracterized his past relevant work as a “Manager, Retail Store” Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) listing 185.167-046. He says that he worked from 1993 to 2010 as a self-employed glass installer and thirteen years as a glass installer for S&S glass both before and after being self-employed. (Id. 24-25) He contends that working as a glass installer exceeds his ability for light work without frequent overhead reaching with his left arm.

         Further, according to Mr. Martin, the other jobs identified by the VE, office helper and small products assembler, require frequent and constant reaching respectively. He claims that both jobs exceed his limitations and that the VE did not explain the conflict. Consequently, he contends that the Commissioner failed to meet her burden to show work exists that he could do. For these reasons, he argues, substantial evidence does not support the decision.

         III. Discussion

         A. Applicable Legal Principles

         Mr. Martin's arguments implicate steps four and five of the disability-determination process.

At step four, the ALJ determines whether the claimant retains the “residual functional capacity” (RFC) to perform his … past relevant work. If the claimant remains able to perform that past relevant work, he is not entitled to disability … benefits. If he is not capable of performing past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step five and considers whether there exist work opportunities in the national economy that the claimant can perform given his … medical impairments, age, education, past work experience, and RFC. If the Commissioner demonstrates that such work exists, the claimant is not entitled to disability … benefits.

McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).

         B. Credibility

         Substantial evidence supports the ALJ's credibility assessment. To determine a claimant's RFC, the ALJ must first assess the claimant's credibility because it plays a role in determining RFC. See SSR 96-7p, Policy Interpretation Ruling Titles II & XVI: Evaluation of Symptoms in Disability Claims: Assessing the Credibility of an Individual's Statements. To assess Mr. Martin's credibility, the ALJ followed the required two-step process and considered the required ...


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