The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mihm, District Judge.
The Plaintiff Samuel H. Walton filed suit against the Secretary
of the United States Department of Health and Human Services
("the Secretary") seeking review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of a
final decision by the Secretary which denied Walton entitlement
to a disability period and disability insurance benefits.
In order to qualify for a period of disability insurance
benefits under the Social Security Act ("Act"), an individual
must meet the insured status requirements under the Act, be under
the age of sixty-five, file an application for disability
insurance benefits and a period of disability, and be under a
disability as defined in the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 416(i), 423;
Griffin v. Weinberger, 407 F. Supp. 1388, 1392 (N.D.Ill. 1975),
aff'd. 539 F.2d 712 (7th Cir. 1976). The determination of a
disability which entitles a claimant to benefits under the Act is
a two-step process: (1) there must be a medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to last for
a continuous period of not less than twelve months, and (2) there
must be a factual determination that the impairment renders the
plaintiff unable to engage in any substantial gainful employment.
McNeil v. Califano, 614 F.2d 142, 143 (7th Cir. 1980); Lieberman
v. Califano, 592 F.2d 986 (7th Cir. 1979);
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
The burden of proof is on the claimant to establish his or her
entitlement to disability insurance benefits. Jeralds v.
Richardson, 445 F.2d 36 (7th Cir. 1971). However, once a showing
has been made that the Plaintiff can no longer perform the kind
of work in which he or she was previously engaged, the burden
shifts to the Secretary to prove that there exists other
substantial gainful employment which the claimant could perform.
Stark v. Weinberger, 497 F.2d 1092 (7th Cir. 1974). Judicial
review of an Administrative Law Judge's findings pursuant to
these standards is limited to a determination of whether the
findings are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Lechelt v. Cohen, 428 F.2d 214 (7th Cir. 1970).
Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d
The district court must consider four elements of proof in
determining whether a claimant is disabled under the Act: (1)
objective medical facts or clinical findings; (2) diagnosis of
examining physicians; (3) subjective evidence of pain and
disability as testified to by the claimant and as observed by
others; and (4) the claimant's age, education, and work history.
Johnson v. Weinberger, 525 F.2d at 407.
Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits on April 21, 1982, alleging that he
became unable to work on October 6, 1981, at age 35. His
application was denied initially and on reconsideration after the
Illinois State Agency, upon evaluation of the evidence by a
physician and disability examiner, found that the Plaintiff was
not under a disability. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")
before whom Plaintiff and his attorney appeared considered the
case de novo and found that the Plaintiff was not under a
disability. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Secretary when the Appeals Council approved it.
Plaintiff was 36 years old at the time of the administrative
hearing. He has completed high school and has done some course
work beyond the high school level. He has worked primarily as a
truck driver and a machinist. He alleges disability due to back
The following facts are taken largely from the Administrative
Law Judge's opinion. They will be supplemented by statements and
arguments of the Defendant and the Plaintiff.
Plaintiff last worked on October 6, 1981, and claims that he
became disabled on that date due to injuries resulting in back
surgery, as well as bursitis of the left hip and back. He is 74
inches tall and at the time of the hearing weighed 212 pounds. On
October 6, 1981, he lifted a heavy object at work and developed
severe pain in his back with radiation down the left leg. He was
unable to straighten his leg without severe pain. He was
hospitalized for four weeks for evaluation. He was referred to
the University of Iowa where x-rays of the cervical and thoracic
spines were completely negative and films of the lumbar spine
revealed only minimal arthritis at L5. X-rays of the pelvis and
left hip revealed no positive findings and a lumbar myelogram
showed no abnormality. Physical examination revealed the absence
of an ankle jerk on the left with diminished pain perception on
the medical aspect of the left foot. At the time of his
discharge, a diagnosis was deferred.
The claimant underwent physical therapy on a outpatient basis
until early January of 1982 with some improvement and lessening
of pain. He was rehospitalized on January 14, 1982, and underwent
a laminectomy and removal of herniated disc at L5-S1. His leg
pain was gone almost immediately after surgery, but he developed
pain over the greater trochanter of the left extremity when
attempting to stand. This was relieved by an injection of the
extremely tender trochanteric bursa. The claimant recovered
except for a slight antalgic list to the left. By the time of
discharge, he was ambulatory with a walker and needed no
Examination in February of 1982 showed marked improvement and
the Plaintiff indicated that his back felt fine. During March and
April of 1982, however, Plaintiff presented himself on a number
of occasions at the emergency room of his local hospital for
treatment of post-laminectomy pain. On each occasion, he was
treated with demerol and vistaril. On a couple of occasions, it
was noted that malingering could be a problem. It was also noted
that functional overlay might be involved in the claimant's
symptoms. On April 29, 1982, the emergency room record states
that he had been seen on numerous occasions for recurrent back
pain and was "always seeking IM (intramuscular) narcotic
injection". The physicians otherwise noted no objective evidence
of Plaintiff's symptoms. On May 7,
1982, the claimant's treating physician anticipated further
On May 17, 1982, a state agency reviewing physician examined
the medical information in the file and projected that by October
of 1982 the claimant would have the ability to engage in a full
range of light work activities.
On May 27, 1982, Plaintiff was admitted to the Mayo Clinic for
evaluation. He complained of pain and weakness with intermittent
episodes of numbness in his left leg. Physical examination
revealed some reflex changes of L2-3. X-rays showed partial
laminectomies of the lower lumbar spine. Plaintiff was evaluated
in the department of psychiatry. There, a reactive depression
with no evidence of psychosis was noted. It was believed that
there was evidence of drug-induced behavioral changes from the
analgesics, and the psychiatrist recommended a reduction or
discontinuance of analgesic medication. At the time of his
discharge, Plaintiff had improved but still had some muscular
weakness and discomfort in his left hip. On July 1, 1982, Dr.
Charles Reed of the ...