further stated that, "My opinion is that while Ms. Detamore might be able to continue with her schooling for the remainder of this calendar year with all of the special arrangements in force, I think it is unrealistic for her to attempt to perform any type of work, even if it is primarily sedentary in nature." (Tr. 174). In Dr. Bruno's opinion, it would take an additional 6 to 8 months for her to recover sufficiently to attempt sedentary work. (Tr. 175).
Dr. Bruno's conclusions are supported by two other medical reports of record.
Kenneth Frank, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon, assisted Dr. Bruno with the plaintiff's operation. He examined her in May, 1981, prior to the operation. At that time, he found her mobility severely limited and described her disability as "essentially total." (Tr. 147-148).
Dr. Thakarar, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation who was the Social Security consulting physician, also examined the plaintiff in May, 1981. He diagnosed her impairment as resulting from "discogenic disease and degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine" and recommended that she "avoid prolonged sitting, standing, walking, crawling, climbing up and down steps, as well as any activity that requires bending over. She should also avoid doing any pushing and pulling, as well as lifting any heavy objects." (Tr. 152).
In support of his decision, the Secretary offered no medical evidence to rebut the evidence of the plaintiff's treating physician. The law requires that the treating physician's opinion cannot be rejected unless contradicted by other medical evidence of record. Rossi v. Califano, 602 F.2d 55 (3d Cir. 1979); Smith v. Califano, 637 F.2d 968 (3d Cir. 1981).
The unrebutted medical opinion of Dr. Bruno, plaintiff's treating physician, supports her claim of disability from February 1981 because of her lumbar disc disease. (Tr. 137, 141, 174). The opinion of Dr. Bruno is clear and unequivocal and is corroborated by the other medical evidence of record. Therefore, I find that under the law of this Circuit the ALJ was obliged to find the plaintiff disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
The ALJ's belief that the plaintiff could not be considered disabled while a law student is without merit.
The uncontested evidence clearly shows that the plaintiff was able to attend law school only under severe restrictions and limitations. Her classes were scheduled for only three days per week. Because of her back condition, the school allowed her to lie on the floor for almost all of her classes. (Tr. 36). She was allowed to lie down in a separate room to take exams and was given extra "break time" during the exams. (Tr. 36). Even so, her disability forced her to miss almost half of her classes and the school waived its usual attendance requirements in her case. (Tr. 55). The credibility of this evidence was not questioned. Indeed, it is supported by the reports of Dr. Bruno and the testimony of Holly Maguigan, the plaintiff's former supervisor and an instructor at the law school.
It is apparent that the plaintiff was able to attend law school only by extraordinary perseverance and with substantial accommodations by the school.
I find that the plaintiff's limited ability to attend school does not support the conclusion that she retained the functional ability to perform substantial gainful activity as defined by the Social Security Act. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572 (1982).
Upon evaluation of the record as a whole, I find no dispute as to material fact. The plaintiff is entitled to benefits for the period of her disability.
Accordingly, the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment will be granted; the Secretary's motion for summary judgment will be denied; the Secretary's decision will be vacated; and the case will be remanded for a computation of benefits.
AND NOW, this 1st day of June, 1983, it is hereby Ordered that:
1. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. Defendant's motion for summary judgment is DENIED.
2. The final decision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services is VACATED.
3. Judgment is entered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant.
4. This case is REMANDED for a computation of the benefits.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.