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Martin v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

February 28, 2019

CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Mechelle Renee Martin (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be AFFIRMED.

         I. Background:

         This case has a long and complicated procedural background. Plaintiff's original protective filing date was April 26, 2007 with an alleged onset date of April 13, 2007. (Tr. 1091). This case has had three administrative decisions: (1) January 19, 2012; (2) April 1, 2015; and (3) December II, 2017. (Tr. 12-36, 630-656, 1026-1062). The ALJ has held seven administrative hearings in Plaintiff's case: (1) January 23, 2009; (2) April 16, 2009; (3) January 4, 2012; (4) March 9, 2015; (5) October 5, 2016; (6) April 13, 2017; and (7) August 10, 2017. (Tr. 37-111, 657-684, 1063-1122). This Court has also remanded Plaintiff's case twice previously for further administrative review. (Tr. 740-748, 1198-1204). The first remand was on July 10, 2014, and the second remand was on March 29, 2016. (Tr. 740-748, 1205-1209). See Martin v. SSA, 2:13-cv-02150 (W.D. Ark. July 10, 2014); Martin v. SSA, 2:15-02122 (W.D. Ark. March 29, 2016).

         Since the second and most recent remand, three administrative hearings have been held. (Tr. 1063-1122). During the first and second administrative hearings, on October 5, 2016 and on April 13, 2017, the ALJ extensively developed the record regarding Plaintiff's impairments and work history. (Tr. 1079-1122). During the third administrative hearing, on August 10, 2017, the ALJ developed the issue of whether Plaintiff could perform other occupations considering her limitations. (Tr. 1063-1078).

         Subsequent to these hearings, on December 11, 2017, the ALJ entered the SSA's third hearing decision. (Tr. 1026-1062). This is the decision currently before the Court. The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since April 26, 2007, her application date. (Tr. 1031, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: bipolar I disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and polyarthritis. (Tr. 1032, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 1033, Finding 3).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 1036-1048, Finding 4). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except that she can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. She can frequently handle, finger and feel. In addition, the claimant can perform simple, routine and repetitive tasks involving only simple work-related decisions with few, if any, workplace changes and no more than incidental contact with coworkers, supervisors and the general public.


         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff had no PRW. (Tr. 1048, Finding 5). The ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 1048-1049, Finding 9). In making this determination, the ALJ relied upon the testimony of the VE. Id.

         Specifically, based upon that testimony and considering all of Plaintiff's limitations, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as the following sedentary, unskilled occupations: (1) tile table worker with 2, 834 such jobs in the nation; (2) etcher helper with 1, 329 such jobs in the nation; and (3) toy stuffer with 3, 725 such jobs in the nation. (Tr. 1049). Based upon these findings, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from April 26, 2007 through the date of the ALJ's decision or through December 11, 2017. (Tr. 1049, Finding 10). Thereafter, on April 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 16-17. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Applicable Law:

         In reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010); Ramirez v. Barnhart,292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel,240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that supports the Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. See Haley v. Massanari,258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If, after reviewing the record, it is possible to ...

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