Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Rudolph Atz v. U.S. Steel Corporation, No. A-78281.
Louis A. Raimond, for petitioner.
Margaret D. Blough, with her J. Scott Leckie and Kenneth J. Yablonski, for respondents.
Judges Mencer, Rogers and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 57 Pa. Commw. Page 202]
Rudolph Atz, a 66 year old veteran coal miner, lately employed in the mines of U.S. Steel Corporation, was awarded Workmen's Compensation benefits by a referee and the Appeal Board for total disability due to pneumoconiosis, an occupational disease compensable under the Workmen's Compensation Act.*fn1 It is undisputed that the claimant has, by long exposure to coal dust, contracted this form of "black lung" disease. The only issue raised for our review is whether the referee's factual finding number six: "that on September 2, 1977, the claimant became totally and permanently disabled . . ." is supported by substantial evidence in the record.
At the referee's hearing the claimant testified that he has difficulty breathing after uphill walking or other exertion; that he experiences a cough that is particularly troubling in the morning; that he has difficulty sleeping due to shortness of breath; and that this shortness of breath and general weakness have prevented him from engaging in any strenuous activities including the duties of his former employment.
The claimant's treating physician, Dr. Macy I. Levine, was deposed and testified that exposure to coal
[ 57 Pa. Commw. Page 203]
dust has resulted in the claimant's total and permanent disability due to pneumoconiosis.*fn2 The diagnosis was based on characteristic lung changes revealed by x-rays, on the physician's observation and examination of the claimant, and on the claimant's medical history. This evidence, which the referee believed, is sufficient to support the factual determination of disability.
A physician testifying for the employer stated that in his opinion based on an examination of the claimant including certain lung function tests which yielded normal and "super normal" findings, the claimant's pneumoconiosis was not disabling. The employer's principal argument is that it was unreasonable and without medical basis for Dr. Levine to conclude that the claimant is disabled in the face of normal lung function test results. When questioned on this apparent inconsistency, Dr. Levine testified:
It is very common in my experience for patients that I think are disabled due to pneumoconiosis such as this patient to have normal pulmonary function tests. I believe that this reflects the limitations of spirometry in this kind of patient. . . . The inconsistency is that the state of the ...