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BAINEY v. SECRETARY OF HHS

January 11, 1990

RONALD A. BAINEY, Plaintiff,
v.
SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SMITH

 Plaintiff Ronald A. Bainey brings this action under sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), to review a final determination of the Secretary of Health and Human Services denying his application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits based on disability. Both sides have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). For the reasons stated in this opinion, plaintiff's motion is granted and defendant's motion is denied.

 Plaintiff, a 52 year-old male at the time of the ALJ hearing, applied for benefits on the basis of a heart-related disability. (Tr. at 64, 367). The substance of plaintiff's claim is that he suffers from severe coronary artery disease. Plaintiff's Brief in Support of His Motion for Summary Judgment at 2.

 Plaintiff's complaint seeks a review of the Secretary's final decision pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Our review is limited to a determination of whether the Secretary's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Id. Findings supported by substantial evidence are conclusive, where substantial evidence is defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1981) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S. Ct. 206, 83 L. Ed. 126 (1938)). Absent substantial evidence to support the findings, we may modify, remand or reverse the Secretary's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

 Our review of the ALJ's decision follows the sequential analysis set forth in the Social Security Regulations. See C.F.R. § 416.920. This analysis establishes a framework for determining whether an individual is disabled according to the regulations. The first inquiry is whether the plaintiff is performing any substantial gainful activity. If so, the plaintiff is not disabled and the inquiry is concluded. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b). If not, the next step scrutinizes whether an individual has a severe impairment.

 A severe impairment may be established by showing that one is unable to perform basic work activities, or by demonstrating that the plaintiff's physical and/or mental conditions meet the criteria of a listing in the appendix of impairments. See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (hereinafter Appendix 1). If an individual's condition satisfies the requirements of a listed impairment, the plaintiff is automatically determined to be disabled and benefits are awarded. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c), (d).

 If a plaintiff's impairment, though severe, fails to satisfy the criteria of a listed impairment, the individual must prove he is unable to perform past relevant work. If the plaintiff satisfies this burden of proof, then the Secretary must show that the individual has the residual functional capacity to do other work. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (e), (f).

 In the instant case, the plaintiff was not performing any substantial gainful activity, his last day of work being March 30, 1987. (Tr. at 72). Therefore, the plaintiff's impairment had to be assessed to determine if it was severe.

 Plaintiff testified that from September 15, 1986 until March 30, 1987, he was employed at a shopping center in a light duty capacity as a salesclerk. (Tr. at 73). *fn1" By March 1987, he was experiencing shortness of breath accompanied by weakness in his arms and legs. (Tr. at 72). Plaintiff visited the Veterans Hospital as a walk-in patient on March 31, 1987, where he was instructed not to return to work. (Tr. at 72, 422, 424). At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was treating with nitroglycerin seven to ten times per week. (Tr. at 76). Plaintiff also treats daily with Isosorbid and Diltiazem (medications for treatment of angina). (Tr. at 76).

 Plaintiff's medical records reveal that he suffered an acute inferior wall myocardial infarction in June, 1985. (Tr. at 236). Additionally, the discharge report of his June, 1985, hospitalization indicates that he suffered persistent angina and anterior chest wall syndrome at that time. Id. Thereafter, plaintiff underwent a series of cardiac catheterizations which consistently revealed coronary artery disease. (Tr. at 275, 346-48, 518-19, 527-28). In April, 1986, and again in January, 1988, angioplasty procedures were performed on plaintiff's coronary arteries. (Tr. at 346-48, 518-19).

 The ALJ determined that although the plaintiff's symptoms limit his ability to do basic work activities, the plaintiff fails to meet the criteria of any of the cardiovascular listed impairments. Appendix 1, § 4.04. (Tr. at 16). The listed impairments pertaining to cardiovascular disability in Appendix 1 require results of a treadmill exercise test by plaintiff of 5 METS or less or, in the absence of an acceptable treadmill test, various prescribed wave findings, resting ECG findings or angiographic evidence of coronary artery narrowing. Id. In this case, acceptable treadmill test results were available which demonstrated that plaintiff achieved an exercise level of 11.7 METS in February, 1987 (Tr. at 474-75), 12 METS in August, 1987 (Tr. at 485-86), and 10.7 METS in April, 1988 (Tr. at 565-84). None of the test results contained in the record indicate a level of 5 METS or less.

 We conclude that the ALJ's determination that the plaintiff failed to satisfy the listed impairments pertaining to cardiovascular disability is supported by substantial evidence. However, in light of the evidence of record, we conclude that the ALJ's decision that the plaintiff had a ...


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