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PFEISTER v. BOWEN

November 10, 1987

Edwin M. Pfeister, Plaintiff,
v.
Otis R. Bowen, M.D., Secretary of Health and Human Services, Defendant


Cohill, C.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL

COHILL, C.J.

 This case is before us on cross-motions for summary judgment. The complaint requests review of the determination of the defendant Secretary of Health and Human Services denying plaintiff Edwin M. Pfeister disability benefits. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the defendant will be affirmed. We will deny the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

 I. BACKGROUND

 The plaintiff, Edwin Pfeister, was born February 25, 1936. T.237. He completed high school through the ninth grade. Id. Prior to ceasing employment in 1978, plaintiff worked as a movie projectionist and janitor. Id. Plaintiff was last insured for disability purposes as of December 31, 1983.

 On November 1, 1983, plaintiff reapplied for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income under sections 216(i), 223, and 1614(a)(3) of the Social Security Act claiming severe angina pectoris, ulcers, and diabetes. 42 U.S.C. § 416(i), § 423, § 1382c(a)(3). An ALJ found plaintiff capable of continuing his janitorial duties and on May 23, 1985, rejected plaintiff's claim for benefits. This decision was affirmed by the Appeals Council on July 24, 1985. Plaintiff then appealed the Secretary's determination to this court.

 On November 11, 1985, we granted the defendant's motion to remand for consideration of new mental impairment regulations established by the Social Security Disability Reform Act of 1984. The Appeals Council vacated its denial of benefits on January 31, 1986, and remanded the case to the ALJ. On May 29, 1986, the ALJ held a supplemental hearing and on October 29, 1986, rejected plaintiff's application for disability benefits. The Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ on March 19, 1987. On April 7, 1987, this court granted plaintiff's motion, pursuant to sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, to reopen the ALJ's final determination that plaintiff is not disabled. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), § 1383(c)(3). Thus, presently before this court is the ALJ's determination of October 29, 1986, that plaintiff has not been disabled since June 30, 1983.

 II. DISCUSSION

 In order to receive disability insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income, one must be adjudged disabled by the Secretary. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1)(C), § 1382. The Secretary will find a claimant disabled if he is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), § 1382c(a)(3)(A).

 To assist in evaluating the alleged disability of a claimant, the Secretary has provided the ALJ with a multi-step sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a), § 416.920(a). The ALJ must determine: (1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) if not, whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) if the claimant has a severe impairment, whether it meets or equals the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R., pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1; (4) if the impairment does not satisfy one of the listings, whether the claimant's impairments prevent him from performing his past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant is incapable of performing past relevant work, whether he can perform any other work which exists in the national economy, in light of his age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, § 416.920. If at any point in the review the ALJ determines that the claimant is or is not disabled, the inquiry must end. Id.; Santise v. Schweiker, 676 F.2d 925, 927 (3rd Cir. 1982).

 When reviewing a denial of disability benefits under the Social Security Act, we are concerned with two issues: (1) whether the Secretary applied the proper legal standards, and (2) whether the Secretary's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Friedberg v. Schweiker, 721 F.2d 445, 447 (3rd Cir. 1983). In his motion for summary judgment before this Court, plaintiff requests a reversal of the ALJ's determination that plaintiff is not disabled and alleges three grounds of error: (1) the ALJ improperly failed to consider the application of impairment listing 12.07, (2) the ALJ improperly disregarded certain I.Q. score evidence resulting in his failure to apply impairment listing 12.05(C), and (3) the ALJ's finding that plaintiff is capable of performing gainful and substantial work is not supported by substantial evidence. The defendant contends that the ALJ's determination is supported by substantial evidence.

 Plaintiff's first assignment of error involves the third step in the ALJ's sequential analysis. The ALJ must consider whether the applicant's alleged impairment equals or exceeds in severity the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R., pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a(c)(2), § 416.920a(c)(2). The Listings of Impairments describe, for each of the major body systems, impairments which are considered severe enough to prevent a person from doing any gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1525(a), § 416.925. If the ALJ determines that the applicant suffers from a listed impairment and that the requisite duration requirements are met, the applicant must automatically be found disabled without consideration of his age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d), § 416.920(d).

 Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to refer to Listing 12.07 of the Listing of Impairments in his decision and ignored its application to plaintiff's case. Listing 12.07 provides:

 
Somatoform Disorders : Physical symptoms for which there are no demonstrable organic findings or known physiological mechanisms. The required level of severity for these disorders is met when the requirements in both A and B are satisfied.
 
A. Medically documented by evidence of one of the following:
 
1. A History of multiple physical symptoms of several years duration, beginning before age 30, that have caused the individual to take medicine frequently, see a physician often and alter life patterns significantly; or
 
2. Persistent nonorganic disturbance of one of the following:
 
a. Vision; or
 
b. Speech; or
 
c. Hearing; or
 
d. Use of a limb; or
 
e. Movement and its control (e.g., coordination disturbance, psychogenic seizures, ...

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