United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
ORDER REMANDING TO THE COMMISSIONER
THOMAS RAY United States Magistrate Judge
Cole (“Cole”) applied for social security
disability benefits with an alleged onset date of March 15,
2012. (R. at 166). After a hearing, the administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) denied Cole’s applications.
(R. at 30). The Appeals Council denied review, rendering the
ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
(R. at 1). Cole has requested judicial review.
reasons stated below, this Court reverses and remands the
The Commissioner’s Decision
found that Cole had the severe impairments of degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar spine; cervical fracture versus
motion artifact; headaches; obesity; gastroesophageal reflux
disease; osteoarthritis; anxiety disorder; and depressive
disorder. (R. at 122). Based on those impairments, the ALJ
found that Cole had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work, with the following
restrictions: he must sit and stand at will throughout the
day; cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl; cannot work around hazards; can frequently
reach overhead; can only have occasional changes to the
workplace; is limited to tasks that have a complexity of one
or two steps and are learned and performed by rote with few
variables and little judgment; requires supervision that is
simple, direct, and concrete; and can perform simple jobs
that can be learned within thirty days. (R. at 124).
on the testimony from a vocational expert (“VE”),
the ALJ found that Cole could not perform any of his past
relevant work but could perform other jobs such as office
helper or cashier. (R. at 129-30). Thus, the ALJ held that
Cole was not disabled at step 5 of the five-step evaluative
asserts that the ALJ erred in finding that his testimony was
not fully credible. He also maintains that the ALJ failed to
fully develop the record and should have included
manipulative limitations based on a lack of feeling in
Court reviews the Commissioner’s decision to ensure
that it is not based on legal error and is supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Long v.
Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997).
“Substantial evidence in the record as a whole”
has been defined to mean “less than a preponderance,
but enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to
support the ALJ’s decision.” Slusser v.
Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009). Even if two
inconsistent conclusions can be drawn from the evidence, the
Court must affirm if one of those conclusions is consistent
with the ALJ’s findings. Milam v. Colvin, 794
F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2015).
The ALJ’s Credibility Determination
found that Cole had severe impairments but that his
statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and
limiting effects of the symptoms were not entirely credible.
(R. at 126). Cole maintains that the ALJ improperly
discounted his subjective complaints of pain by only
considering whether those complaints were supported by
objective medical evidence.
ALJ may disbelieve subjective complaints if there are
inconsistencies in the evidence as a whole.” Goff
v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 792 (8th Cir. 2005). When
making determinations regarding the credibility of a
claimant's subjective allegations of pain, the ALJ must
examine: (1) the claimant's daily activities; (2) the
duration and intensity of the pain; (3) the precipitating and
aggravating factors; (4) dosage, effectiveness, and side
effects of medication; and (5) functional restrictions.
Miller v. Sullivan, 953 F.2d 417, 420 (8th Cir.
1992) (citing Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320,
1322 (1984)). The ALJ may not discount subjective complaints
simply because they lack support in the medical record.
Id. “When rejecting a claimant's
complaints of pain, the ALJ must make an express credibility
determination, must detail reasons for discrediting the
testimony, must set forth the inconsistencies, and must
discuss the Polaski factors.” Baker v.
Apfel, 159 F.3d 1140, 1144 (8th Cir. 1998). This Court
will defer to the ALJ’s credibility determination if it
is supported by good reasons and substantial evidence.
Turpin v. Colvin, 750 F.3d 989, 993 (8th Cir. 2014).
However, the Eighth Circuit has “cautioned …
that an ALJ may not circumvent the rule that objective
evidence is not needed to support subjective complaints of
pain under the guise of a credibility finding.”
Penn v. Sullivan, 896 F.2d 313, 316 (8th Cir. 1990).
discussing Cole’s credibility, the ALJ simply states
that his statements “are not entirely credible for the
reasons explained in this decision.” (R. at 126). The
discussion that follows concerns Cole’s physical RFC,
and it discusses only medical records. (R. at 126-27). The
ALJ “notes the claimant’s subjective complaints
of pain are out of proportion to the objective medical
evidence.” (R. at 127). The Commissioner maintains that
the ALJ considered all of the Polaski factors, but
the ALJ identifies no inconsistencies between Cole’s
complaints and any other part of the record. The decision
contains no explanation for the finding that Cole was not
credible aside from stating that objective medical evidence
does not support Cole’s subjective complaints of pain.
physicians do not suggest that he is a malingerer, nor is
there any indication in the record that he is exaggerating
his symptoms. Cole reported limited activities of daily
living. (R. at 264-71). A sister cleans his house, and Cole
uses a scooter when shopping and a shower chair when bathing.
(R. at 125). He avoids driving because some of his
medications have caused seizures in the past. (R. at 141).
The ALJ pointed to no evidence inconsistent with these
statements. Cole’s mother provided a Third Party
Function Report that is consistent with Cole’s
statements. (R. at 281-90). The ALJ did not give any
significant consideration or weight to this statement, citing
to SSR 06-03P in support of the lack of consideration.
However, SSR 06-03P states that “we consider all
relevant evidence in the case record when we make a
determination or decision about whether the individual is