The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bua, District Judge.
Plaintiffs submitted a motion for summary judgment, pursuant
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.
The Secretary submitted a cross-motion for summary judgment.
For the reasons stated herein, the plaintiffs' motion for
summary judgment is granted and the Secretary's cross-motion
I. THE CHALLENGED REGULATIONS AND THE ACT
Plaintiffs challenge the above regulations on two grounds:
(1) 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c) do not consider vocational
factors (age, education, and work experience) and residual
functional capacities; and (2) 404.1522, 416.922, and SSR
82-55 do not combine "nonsevere" impairments. Before
proceeding to consider the validity of these regulations, an
overview of the regulations and the Act is helpful.
The OASDI and SSI programs provide for the payment of
benefits to disabled persons. Under both programs, a person is
considered disabled if he or she 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). The Act provides
that "for purposes of" applying this definition, an individual
shall be determined to be under a disability only
if his physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that he is not
only unable to do his previous work but cannot,
considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the
national economy. . . .
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A) & 1382c(a)(3)(B).
The Secretary is authorized to establish rules and
regulations, consistent with the Act, governing the
determination of disability claims. 42 U.S.C. § 405(a) &
Pursuant to this authority, the Secretary established a
five-step sequential procedure for determining whether a
claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (1983).
Under the existing regulations, if the claimant is found not to
be disabled under any one of the sequential tests, the analysis
ends and the remaining steps of the analysis are not completed.
See §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). As the first step, the
Secretary ascertains whether the claimant is working; if so, a
finding of "not disabled" follows. In the second step, the
Secretary determines, solely on the basis of medical factors,
whether the claimant has a "severe" impairment which
"significantly limits [his] physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities." §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). The
regulation specifically provides that at this second step the
Secretary "will not consider your age, education, and work
experience." Plaintiff's first ground relates to this refusal
to consider vocational factors in the second step and the
resulting possibility that vocational factors will be
foreclosed if the inquiry stops after the second step.
If the claimant is determined to have a "severe" impairment
under this definition, the Secretary next considers (Step 3)
whether the impairment is one which is listed in Appendix 1 of
the regulations; if so, the claimant is found to be disabled
without requirement of further proof that the impairment
prevents him from working. The fourth step comes into play if
the claimant's impairment, though deemed "severe" under the
second step, is not a "listed" impairment under the third
step. In cases, the Secretary determines (Step 5) whether,
considering the claimant's age, education, and work
experience, his impairment
prevents him from doing any other work available in the
national economy. If the claimant cannot, he is found to be
disabled and his claim is approved. See Canon v. Harris,
651 F.2d 513, 517 (7th Cir. 1981).
The Secretary acknowledges that the effect of the sequential
procedure is that denials of claims at the second step occur
"on the basis of medical considerations alone." SSR 82-56
(cum. ed. 1982). To implement this policy, SSR 82-55 lists 20
impairments which are nonsevere per se on the basis of medical
evidence alone. SSR 82-55 is binding on all SSA personnel,
including administrative law judges and the Appeals Council.
The challenged regulations, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1522 and 416.922
(1983) provide: "We will consider the combined effects of
unrelated impairments only if all are severe." In addition to
these regulations, SSR 82-55 instructs Social Security
administrators not to consider the combined effects of
nonsevere impairments because inasmuch "as a nonsevere
impairment is one which does not significantly limit basic
work-related functions, neither will a ...