United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
ORDER REMANDING TO THE COMMISSIONER
THOMAS RAY United States Magistrate. Judge.
Simmons (“Simmons”) applied for supplemental
security income benefits with an alleged onset date of
January 1, 2012. (R. at 47). After a hearing, the
administrative law judge (ALJ) denied his application. (R. at
20). The Appeals Council denied Simmons’s request for
review. (R. at 1). The ALJ’s decision stands as the
final decision of the Commissioner, and Simmons has requested
reasons stated below, the Commissioner’s decision must
be reversed and remanded.
The Commissioner’s Decision
proceeded through the five-step evaluative process, finding
that Simmons had the severe impairments of status-post
compression fractures of the thoracic spine, obesity,
post-traumatic stress disorder, and major depressive
disorder. (R. at 11). The ALJ found that Simmons retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to lift and
carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently;
stand and/or walk six hours in an eight-hour workday; sit six
hours in an eight-hour workday; and to push and/or pull
twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently. (R. at
13). Non-exertionally, the ALJ concluded that Simmons had the
RFC to understand, remember, and carry out simple job
instructions; make judgments in simple, work-related
situations; respond appropriately to coworkers/supervisors
with only incidental contact that is not necessary to perform
work; respond appropriately to minor changes in the usual
work routine; and have no dealings with the general public.
(R. at 13).
4 of the evaluative process, the ALJ found that Simmons could
not perform any of his past relevant work. (R. at 18).
5, the ALJ found that Simmons could perform the jobs of hand
bander or production worker. (R. at 19). Consequently, the
ALJ held that Simmons was not disabled. (R. at 20).
argues that the ALJ’s decision is not supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Specifically,
he contends that the ALJ erred in discrediting his subjective
allegations of pain.
Court must uphold the Commissioner’s decision if it is
not based on legal error and is supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Long v.
Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997).
“Substantial evidence” is evidence that a
reasonable mind would find sufficient to support the
ALJ’s decision. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d
923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009).
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
determining 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). The Court will defer to an 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). “[A]n 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).
discussed several factors in the course of discrediting
Simmons. First, the ALJ cited Simmons’s activities of
daily living, which included preparing simple meals, such as
microwave meals or sandwiches; folding laundry, though unable
to finish; watching television; and occasionally riding in a
car. (R. at 36-37, 189-96). The ALJ stated that these daily
activities “are not limited to the extent that one
would expect given the complaints of disabling symptoms and
limitations.” (R. at 16).
Eighth Circuit has held that activities far more extensive
than those engaged in by Simmons do not support a finding
that a claimant can engage in fulltime competitive work.
Baumgarten v. Chater, 75 F.3d 366, 369 (8th Cir.
1996). It is not necessary for Simmons to “prove that
[his] pain precludes all productive activity and confines
[him] to a life in front of the television.”
Id. Simmons, however, testified that his impairments
do practically keep him confined to sitting and watching
television. (R. at 36). These extremely limited daily
activities do not exemplify the ability to do competitive
the ALJ found that Simmons’s symptoms were controlled
by medication. (R. at 15). There is nothing in the record to
indicate that Simmons’s pain is controlled. The record
indicates that pain medicine helps and that Simmons has
sought refills of medication when he runs out, but this ...