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Goodman v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division

August 3, 2018




         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to Judge James M. Moody Jr. Either party may file written objections with the Clerk of Court. Objections should be specific and should include the factual or legal basis for the objection. To be considered objections must be received by the Clerk within 14 days of this Recommendation's filing. By not objecting, the right to appeal questions of fact may be jeopardized. And, if no objections are filed, Judge Moody can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record.

         I. Background

         Lori Goodman applied for social security disability benefits with an alleged onset date of August 6, 2015. (R. at 51). After a hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) denied Ms. Goodman's applications. (R. at 24). The Appeals Council denied her request for review. (R. at 1). The ALJ's decision now stands as the Commissioner's final decision. Ms. Goodman filed this lawsuit seeking judicial review.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision

         The ALJ found that Ms. Goodman had attempted to work after the alleged onset of disability, but that it was an unsuccessful work attempt. (R. at 14). The ALJ found that Ms. Goodman had the following severe impairments: chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), asthma, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and obesity. (R. at 14).

         The ALJ found that Ms. Goodman had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work and could occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; occasionally reach overhead with the right upper extremity; frequently, but not constantly, use the bilateral upper extremities to finger and feel; and should not have concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, dust, fumes, humidity, or other pulmonary irritants. (R. at 16). The ALJ took testimony from a vocational expert (VE), who testified that the assigned RFC would allow Ms. Goodman to return to her past relevant work as social service worker as the job is generally performed. (R. 20-21). The ALJ held, therefore, that Ms. Goodman was not disabled. (R. at 21).

         III. Discussion

         Ms. Goodman argues that the ALJ's credibility determination is flawed because the ALJ did not properly consider the Polaski factors, failed to identify any inconsistencies that would detract from her credibility, and improperly discredited her subjective complaints based on the medical evidence alone.

         The task of the Court is to determine whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's findings. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). “Substantial evidence” in this context means “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) (citation omitted). In performing this analysis, the Court must look not only at the evidence supporting the Commissioner's findings, but also, evidence that detracts from the decision. Milam v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2015).

         Courts generally defer to the ALJ's credibility determination. Even so, that determination must be supported by good reason and substantial evidence. Milam, 794 F.3d at 984. In assessing the subjective complaints of a plaintiff, the ALJ is to consider such matters as the plaintiff's daily activities; the duration, frequency, and intensity of pain; any precipitating and aggravating factors; the dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication; treatment other than medication; and functional restrictions. Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1984). This does not require a methodical discussion of each factor, as long as the ALJ acknowledges and examines these considerations in assessing the claimant's subjective complaints. Steed v. Astrue, 524 F.3d 872, 876 (8th Cir. 2008).

         Ms. Goodman argues that the ALJ gave no proper consideration to her work history. The ALJ wrote that, “[c]onsideration was also given to all the evidence related to the claimant's prior work history.” There is no further discussion of Ms. Goodman's long work history, which stretched over twenty years. (R. at 156).

         The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's single statement is sufficient. Were the rest of the credibility factors properly considered, this single sentence might satisfy the requirement to consider all the credibility factors. Here, however, there are other flaws with the ALJ's credibility determination. Not only did the ALJ fail to discuss Ms. Goodman's work history, but when this is considered alongside the other inadequacies, Ms. Goodman has overcome any presumption that the ALJ properly considered her work history with this boilerplate statement.

         Ms. Goodman also contends that the ALJ improperly considered her daily activities, which the ALJ noted include “eating breakfast with her husband, watching television, reading, using a computer, and visiting family.” (R. at 18). The fact that a claimant “tries to maintain her home and does her best to engage in ordinary life activities is not inconsistent with her complaints of pain.” Draper v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 1127, 1131 (8th Cir. 2005). “The test is whether the claimant has ‘the ability to perform the requisite physical acts day in and day out, in the sometimes competitive and stressful conditions in which real people work in the real world.'” Id. (quoting McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1147 (8th Cir. 1982) (en ...

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