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Smith v. Colvin: SSDI Appeals

Smith v. Colvin is a case from the United States Court of Appeals for Tenth Circuit. In Smith, claimant applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied her application.  Specifically, as part of her application, she claimed a disability based on a problem with her left shoulder, an inability to reach, handle, or manipulate objects with her fingers, and that she could only do a moderate amount of work without resting.

1034029_medicine_2After her application was denied, she applied for an appeal and was eventually granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).  At her evidentiary hearing, ALJ determined she had a residual functioning capacity (RFC) that allowed her to work and found that she was not disabled. 

In a hearing such as this, the ALJ will typically ask a so-called vocational expert (VE) to list jobs that claimant can perform, using a book known as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT).  As our Boston disability attorneys can explain during your initial consultation, the Dictionary of Occupational Titles was primarily drafted in the 1970s and contains many jobs that seem obscure and are no longer relevant in today’s workplace.  However, despite the obvious issues with many of these jobs, they are still used when determining a residual functioning capacity.

In Smith, ALJ deterred that claimant could work as a telequotation clerk, surveillance systems monitor, and a call-out operator.  He found that since she could do these jobs and she was not disabled, and he affirmed the denial of her application for Social Security disability benefits.  This is a perfect example of how the Dictionary of Occupational Titles contains a list of obscure and obsolete job descriptions. It should be noted that when performing an internet search for the job of telequotation clerk, all of the page one results are related to Social Security Administration appeals and links to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, as there do not seem to be any actual openings in the United States for such a job.

After being denied benefits, claimant appealed to the United States district court in the district where jurisdiction was proper.  There is a possibility of appealing to the Social Security Administration’s appellate panel that is in place to review ALJ rulings, but this a discretionary review.  This means that the SSA can decide not to hear an appeal for no reason at all.  If this happens, such as was the case with Smith, the district court is the next place for file an appeal, and this is not a discretionary review.

In that appeal, the court reviewed the ALJ’s earlier order and determined that claimant did have a residual functioning capacity that allowed her to work and affirmed the denial of benefits.  At this point, the next, and generally last place to file an appeal is with the United States Court of Appeals for the circuit in which jurisdiction is proper.  In this case, the court reviewed the lower court’s ruling and determined the facts supported such a finding.

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Smith v. Colvin, May 9, 2016, United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Allensworth v. Colvin: SSDI Hearings and Appeals, April 1, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog