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Grover v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

December 20, 2019

ANDREW M. SAUL,[1] Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Currently before the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") (Doc. 16) of the Honorable Erin L. Wiedemann, Chief United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Arkansas, filed in this case on November 7, 2019. The Magistrate Judge recommends affirming the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision to deny Plaintiff Paula Graver's claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Ms. Grover filed objections to the R&R (Doc. 17), and the Court has now reviewed the entire case de novo, paying particular attention to those findings or recommendations to which objections were made. See 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1)(C). For the reasons stated herein, Ms. Graver's objections are overruled, and the R&R is adopted in its entirety.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ms. Grover filed her applications for DIB and SSI benefits on July 27, 2016, alleging an inability to work since March 3, 2016, due to spinal stenosis, bone spurs on the spine, carpal tunnel syndrome of both hands, numb fingers, and radiculopathy. The ALJ found that she had severe impairments, including degenerative disc disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, disorder of female genital organs, and obesity. However, the ALJ concluded that these impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. According to the ALJ, Ms. Graver retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with some restrictions. DIB and SSI benefits were therefore denied.

         Ms. Graver's first objection is that the ALJ did not properly consider and evaluate her subjective complaints using the Po/as/c/factors. In particular, Ms. Graver argues that substantial evidence in the record establishes that her back pain is disabling because she has not experienced any significant improvement in her pain and mobility since her back surgery. As for her symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, Ms. Graver contends that she still has moderately severe restrictions with respect to her right wrist, even after carpal-tunnel release surgery. Finally, with regard to her symptoms of persistent urinary pain and incontinence, she maintains that there is no evidence in the medical record to support the R&R's conclusion that these symptoms were greatly improved with medication. In fact, Ms. Graver believes that the medical evidence indicates her urinary issues have worsened since June of 2017.

         Ms. Graver's second objection is to the ALJ's RFC determination of light work. She believes the medical record does not support such a determination.

         Her third objection is that the ALJ improperly discounted or disregarded some of the opinions of one of her treating physicians, Dr. Stephen Irwin. In Ms. Graver's view, the Magistrate Judge did not adequately explain why substantial evidence supported the ALJ's finding that Dr. Irwin's recommendations about lifting, bending, and twisting restrictions were inconsistent with the record as a whole. Ms. Graver also believes the Magistrate Judge failed to identify the evidence she relied on in arriving at her opinions about Dr. Irwin. The Court will take up each of Ms. Graver's objections in turn.


         A. Ms. Graver's Subjective Complaints

         According to the R&R:

The ALJ was required to consider all the evidence relating to Plaintiffs subjective complaints including evidence presented by third parties that relates to: (1) Plaintiffs daily activities; (2) the duration, frequency, and intensity of her pain; (3) precipitating and aggravating factors; (4) dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of her medication; and (5) functional restrictions. See Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1984).

(Doc. 16, p. 13).

         The above five considerations are known as the Polaski factors. Ms. Grover contends that the ALJ improperly evaluated her subjective complaints of back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and urinary issues, and the Magistrate Judge erred in finding the ALJ's analysis to be adequate. The R&R correctly noted that an ALJ may discount subjective complaints where inconsistencies appear in the record as a whole, and an ALJ may also evaluate a claimant's credibility regarding her subjective complaints. (Doc. 16, p. 13). The Court has reviewed the entire medical file and finds that Ms. Graver's objections about the sufficiency of the evidence should be overruled. The ALJ properly evaluated her subjective complaints and supported his opinions with citations to the medical evidence in the file.

         1. ...

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