On January 20, 1984, Lorraine Polaski filed a complaint in federal district court for the District of Minnesota, seeking review of the termination of her social security disability benefits by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary). She later successfully amended her complaint to pursue her case as a class action on behalf of similarly situated disabled persons within the Eighth Circuit. The amended complaint alleges: first, that the Secretary is not following Eighth Circuit law by requiring that objective medical evidence fully corroborate a disability claimant's allegations of pain and other subjective complaints; and second, that the Secretary is not following Eighth Circuit law by terminating disability benefits absent new evidence demonstrating either that the claimant's condition has materially improved or that the original decision granting benefits was erroneous.
On April 27, 1984, the district court issued a preliminary injunction and revised its class certification order, 585 F.Supp. 1004. The court determined that the Secretary was nonacquiescing in Eighth Circuit decisions concerning both the standard for evaluating pain and other subjective complaints and the standard for evaluating medical improvement. The court enjoined the Secretary from denying or terminating disability benefits without following those decisions. It also provided for reconsideration of the claims of persons within the class under the proper standards.
On May 1, 1984, the Secretary sought an emergency stay of the preliminary injunction pending appeal to our Court. The district court denied the motion for a stay on May 2, 1984. The Secretary filed a notice of appeal on May 15, 1984. On May 25, 1984, our Court granted a temporary stay pending appeal. We heard oral argument on June 12, 1984.
In her brief and at oral argument, the Secretary maintained that she had been applying Eighth Circuit cases concerning the standard for evaluating allegations of pain and other subjective complaints. At the conclusion of oral argument, we stated from the bench that our Court would defer any immediate action in order to allow the parties a chance to reach an agreement on the standard to be used in evaluating pain and other subjective complaints in cases within the Eighth Circuit.
On July 11, 1984, the Justice Department notified this Court that the parties reached a settlement, agreeing that the relevant standard is as follows:
The parties also agreed that the Secretary will transmit the agreed-upon language to adjudicators within the Eighth Circuit responsible for determining disability, including personnel in state and district offices, and personnel within the Social Security Administration, ALJs, and the Appeals Council. The language is to be transmitted no later than July 18, 1984.
This Court agrees with the above language as a correct statement of the law concerning the evaluation of pain and other subjective complaints for determining disability. This language thus serves as a correct restatement of our case law, to be followed in all administrative and judicial proceedings within the Eighth Circuit.
This order shall be issued forthwith. All other questions raised in this appeal are reserved for further decision by this Court.