By Payroll and Entitlements Editorial Staff
As part of the disability determination, an ALJ considers the intensity and persistence of a claimant’s symptoms to determine how they may impact the ability to work. Some of the factors that the ALJ considers are the type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication that a claimant may take to alleviate their pain or other symptoms. Here, the claimant argued that the ALJ failed to analyze whether the side effects of her medications impacted her ability to work. The court considered that the ALJ found that the claimant’s statements regarding the intensity and severity of her symptoms were inconsistent with the medical evidence. In addition, the ALJ observed that the claimant had "consistently noted effectiveness of pain medication without side effects." The claimant asserted that the ALJ improperly ignored other evidence of side effects in the record. However, the court reasoned that the ALJ was not required to make findings about the claimant’s side effects. The record did not suggest that the claimant suffered side effects that impacted her ability to work. Any warning from her doctor regarding her medications was only evidence that her medications could cause side effects, not that they actually did. It would be speculation to assume that the claimant automatically suffered from the common side effects of a medication. Indeed, the treating physician stated that the claimant was taking her medication without experiencing any side effects. Based on the record, the court ruled that any conclusion about how the claimant’s side effects impacted her ability to work would have been speculation. The denial of benefits was affirmed (Meretha Arnold v. Commr., CA-7, No. 20-2067, March 11, 2021).
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