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Polaski v. Heckler

751 F.2d 943 (1984)

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Polaski v. Heckler

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

751 F.2d 943 (1984)


A class-action lawsuit was brought against the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Margaret Heckler (defendant), by a class of plaintiffs represented by Polaski. The class claimed that the secretary improperly discounted its members’ subjective complaints of pain when denying their applications for benefits in contravention of Social Security regulations. A United States district court granted a preliminary injunction to the class, and the secretary appealed. The parties entered an agreement with respect to the administration’s evaluation of pain, including the following terms: a claimant has the burden to prove that he or she has a medically determinable impairment; some adjudicators may have interpreted that requirement to require claimants to present medical evidence to support subjective pain symptoms; adjudicators may not disregard a claimant’s subjective complaints solely because the medical evidence does not fully support them; the absence of objective medical basis for asserted pain is only one factor to be considered; and the adjudicator must fully consider evidence presented of a claimant’s complaints, his or her prior work record, observations from third-parties and treating and examining physicians observations when evaluating the credibility of testimony and complaints. The administrative-law judge (ALJ) should consider five factors in such an evaluation: the claimant’s daily activities; the duration, frequency, and intensity of the pain; precipitating and aggravating factors; dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of medication; and functional restrictions. The ALJ may not accept or reject the claimant’s subjective complaints solely on the ALJ’s personal observations. However, the ALJ may discount the complaints if they are inconsistent with the totality of the administrative record. A United States court of appeals entered the stipulation as a correct statement of the law under the Social Security Act and within the circuit. Each party filed briefs to explain how the agreement on the pain standard impacted the litigation.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Heaney, J.)

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