United States District Court, D. Maine
MEMORANDUM DECISION 
H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge.
This Social Security Disability (“SSD”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) appeal
raises the question of whether the administrative law judge
supportably found the plaintiff capable of returning to his
past relevant work as a salesperson. The plaintiff seeks
remand on the bases that the administrative law judge erred
in failing to recognize that the past relevant work at issue
constituted a “composite job” and in failing to
evaluate an opinion of treating nurse practitioner Shelley
Moore-Littlefield, RN-FNP, in accordance with Social Security
Ruling 06-03p (“SSR 06-03p”). See
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors in Support of a Social
Security Appeal (“Statement of Errors”) (ECF No.
12) at 10-15. I find no reversible error and,
accordingly, affirm the commissioner's decision.
to the commissioner's sequential evaluation process, 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Goodermote v.
Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 690 F.2d 5, 6
(1st Cir. 1982), the administrative law judge found, in
relevant part, that the plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31,
2017, Finding 1, Record at 19; that he had severe impairments
of degenerative disc disease with a history of laminectomy in
2011, left elbow crepitus, and right hand injury, Finding 3,
id. at 20; that he had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except
that, due to the combination of his impairments, he could
only climb, balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, or crawl
occasionally, could only occasionally finger or feel, and
needed to avoid irregular terrain, Finding 5, id. at
21; that he was capable of performing past relevant work in
sales, general merchandise, which sales work did not require
the performance of work-related activities precluded by his
RFC, Finding 6, id. at 25; and that he, therefore,
had not been disabled from October 1, 2012, his alleged onset
date of disability, through the date of the decision,
February 21, 2015, Finding 7, id. at 26. The Appeals
Council declined to review the decision, id. at 1-4,
making the decision the final determination of the
commissioner, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481;
Dupuis v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs.,
869 F.2d 622, 623 (1st Cir. 1989).
standard of review of the commissioner's decision is
whether the determination made is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3);
Manso-Pizarro v. Secretary of Health & Human
Servs., 76 F.3d 15, 16 (1st Cir. 1996). In other words,
the determination must be supported by such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the
conclusion drawn. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971); Rodriguez v. Secretary of Health &
Human Servs., 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981).
administrative law judge reached Step 4 of the sequential
evaluation process, at which stage the claimant bears the
burden of proving inability to return to past relevant work.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f); Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987). At this step, the
commissioner must make findings of the plaintiff's RFC
and the physical and mental demands of past work and
determine whether the plaintiff's RFC would permit
performance of that work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f),
416.920(f); Social Security Ruling 82-62 (“SSR
82-62”), reprinted in West's Social Security
Reporting Service Rulings 1975-1982, at 813.
Failure To Recognize Composite Job
on the testimony of a vocational expert at hearing, the
administrative law judge found the plaintiff capable of
returning to past relevant work as a salesperson, general
merchandise, Dictionary of Occupational Titles
(“DOT”) § 279.357-054 (U.S. Dep't of
Labor 4th Ed. 1991). See Record at 25, 56, 59. The
plaintiff contends that in doing so, he erred in failing to
recognize that this was a composite job. See
Statement of Errors at 10-12.
court has explained:
“[C]omposite jobs have significant elements of two or
more occupations and, as such, have no counterpart in the
DOT.” Social Security Ruling 82-61, reprinted in
West's Social Security Reporting Service Rulings
1975-1982 (“SSR 82-61”), at 838. “Such
situations will be evaluated according to the particular
facts of each individual case.” Id.
“A claimant is not disabled at step four if the
claimant can perform [her] past relevant work either as the
claimant actually performed it or as generally performed in
the national economy.” Malusa v. Astrue, No.
CV 07-655-TUC-CKJ (CRP), 2009 WL 2707219, at *14 (D. Ariz.
Aug. 25, 2009) (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). That is true of composite jobs, as well, except
that each job, within a composite job, must be taken
into consideration. See, e.g., SSR 82-61 at 838
(composite jobs must be “evaluated according to the
particular facts of each individual case”). An
administrative law judge may not deem a claimant capable of
performing past relevant work by dividing the demands of a
composite job into two separate jobs and finding him or her
capable of performing the less demanding of the two jobs.
See, e.g., Roberts v. Astrue, No.
8:08-CV-120-T-17EAJ, 2009 WL 722550, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Mar.
18, 2009) (“In deciding whether claimant can perform
[her] past relevant work, an ALJ [administrative law judge]
may not separate a composite job into two jobs and fail to
focus on all the demands of the composite job.”);
see also, e.g., Valencia v. Heckler, 751 F.2d 1082,
1086 (9th Cir. 1985) (“Every occupation consists of a
myriad of tasks, each involving different degrees of physical
exertion. To classify an applicant's ‘past relevant
work' according to the least demanding function of the
claimant's past occupations is contrary to the letter and
spirit of the Social Security Act.”).
Gallant v. Astrue, Civil No. 09-357-P-S, 2010 WL
2927263, at *5 (D. Me. July 20, 2010) (rec. dec.,
aff'd Aug. 10, 2010) (emphasis in original).
plaintiff notes that he provided reports to the Social
Security Administration indicating that he worked at Wal-Mart
for almost eight years, from 1997 through 2005, as a
“truck unloader, ” “sales associate,
” and “Dep[artment] Manager[, ]” and
testified at hearing that he worked at Wal-Mart as an
overnight receiver unloading trucks, then worked “on
the sales floor, ” before becoming “department
manager.” Statement of Errors at 10-11; Record at 55,
201, 221. Yet, he complains, at no point did the
administrative law judge seek clarification as to the amount
of time spent in each position, the skills acquired in each,
how the work was actually or generally performed, or the
overlapping duties of each. See Statement of Errors
argues that the administrative law judge, thus, committed the
reversible error of relying on the least demanding of the
three composite positions without analyzing the demands of
each and any overlap in responsibilities between them.
See Id. He asserts that, because a claimant is the
“primary source” of evidence regarding past work,
the administrative law judge “could have easily
inquired about his past work or issued an interrogatory to
him or his counsel asking [him] to elaborate on the duties of
each position, the overlapping nature of those duties,
” and so forth. Id. at 12 (citations omitted).
as the commissioner observes, see Defendant's
Opposition to Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
(“Opposition”) (ECF No. 14) at 8-9, this case is
distinguishable from Gallant in that there is no
evidence that the sales job was a composite job. In
Gallant, the claimant testified that, “in
performing the job of laundry worker, she not only bagged and
handled clothing but also did cashiering[.]”
Gallant, 2010 WL 2927263, at *5.
case, by contrast, the plaintiff indicated in a form that he
“worked for Wal[-]Mart for 7 years, started as truck
unloader, sales floor, Inventory control, Dept.
manager.” Record at 221. He added: “[A]s a truck
unloader and Inventory control specialist I would move a lot
of heavy inventory, less as a sales associate and Dept[.]
manager.” Id. This report most reasonably is
read as indicating that he performed a series of separate
jobs for Wal-Mart. To the extent there is doubt, when the
administrative law judge inquired at hearing what the
plaintiff did at Wal-Mart, he testified:
I started out unloading trucks. I was an overnight receiver.
. . . And then I moved to working on the sales floor. . . .