The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baker, Chief Judge.
The plaintiff, Robert Moody, submitted this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) seeking judicial review of the final
decision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services
(Secretary) denying his application for Supplemental Security
Income benefits. The Secretary has filed a cross motion for an
order affirming her final decision.
The plaintiff submitted an application for Supplemental
Security Income benefits on April 12, 1982, in which he alleged
"mental problems" as his disabling impairment. (Transcript
144-153.) His initial application was denied on July 8, 1982.
(Tr. 164-66.) The plaintiff's request for reconsideration (tr.
167) was denied on October 15, 1982. (Tr. 168-169.) The plaintiff
then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ). (Tr. 226.) A hearing was held on July 29, 1983 (tr.
89-143), and the ALJ subsequently ruled on November 7, 1983, that
the plaintiff was not under a disability within the scope of the
Social Security Act. (Tr. 75-82.) On April 23, 1984, the Appeals
Council denied the plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 66-67.) The plaintiff then filed a request to
reopen the decision for the consideration of further evidence.
(Tr. 5-65.) Upon consideration of the additional evidence, the
Appeals Council again affirmed the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 4.) The
plaintiff subsequently filed this action on August 15, 1984,
seeking judicial review of the Secretary's final decision.
The plaintiff raises three grounds in support of his motion for
reversal of the Secretary's final decision. First, the plaintiff
claims that the Secretary's use of 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c), the
"severity step", was improper because it increases the initial
burden on disability claimants in a manner inconsistent with the
Social Security Act (the Act). Second, the plaintiff claims that
the Secretary's use of 20 C.F.R. § 416.922 conflicted with the
Act's requirement that the combined effects of all of a
claimant's impairments be considered in a disability
determination. Third, the plaintiff claims that the Secretary's
conclusion that the plaintiff is not disabled is not supported by
The regulations in Part 416 of Title 20 of the Code of Federal
Regulations govern disability claims by uninsured applicants and
are very similar to the regulations in Part 404 governing
disability claims by applicants insured under the Social Security
system. The statutory requirements for establishing disability
are similar in both Title II (insured applicants) and Title XVI
(uninsured applicants) of the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d) and
1382c(a)(3). The defendant Secretary administers the Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) program and promulgates regulations and
rulings interpreting the Social Security Act.
Prior to full consideration of the plaintiff's claims, a trip
into the "byzantine labyrinth" of the Social Security Act and
regulations is warranted. See Wallschlaeger v. Schweiker,
705 F.2d 191, 194 (7th Cir. 1983). Under the SSI program, a claimant
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 twelve
months. . . .
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act further 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. § 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 regulatory authority, the Secretary
established a five-step sequential test for determining whether
a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. A finding that a
claimant is disabled or not disabled at any point of the review
process is conclusive and terminates the analysis.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a). First, an applicant who is currently working is
presumptively not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b). Second, the
Secretary determines, solely on the basis of medical factors,
whether the claimant has a "severe" impairment which
significantly limits his or her physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c). Subsection (c),
the "severity step," specifically provides that the Secretary
will not consider age, education, or work experience at this
second step. The plaintiff's first ground for reversal concerns
an alleged increase in the burden of proof on disability
claimants in this second step which is inconsistent with the Act.
Third, if an applicant is found to have a "severe" impairment
within the scope of the second step, the Secretary considers
whether the impairment is one which is listed in Appendix 1 of
the Regulations or is equal to a specific listing.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). If a claimant satisfies this third
step, he or she is presumptively disabled. The fourth step is
considered if a claimant's impairment, though deemed "severe"
under the second step, is not a "listed" impairment. A claimant
is not disabled under the fourth step if his or her "residual
functional capacity" permits the performance of his or her past
work. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). Fifth, a claimant with a "severe"
but not a "listed" impairment who is unable to do his or her
past work is disabled if he or she cannot do other work in light
of his or her age, education, and past
work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(f)(1). See also Cannon v.
Harris, 651 F.2d 513, 517 (7th Cir. 1981). To calculate a
claimant's ability to do past work, the Secretary generally uses
a system of medical-vocational guidelines set forth in Subpart P,
Appendix 2 of the Regulations.
The plaintiff was found to be not disabled at the second step
of the sequential process when the ALJ found that he does not
suffer from a "severe" impairment which would impair his ability
to perform "basic work activity." (Tr. 77, 82.) The Regulations
explicitly define what the Secretary means by a non-severe
(a) Non-Severe Impairment. An impairment is not
severe if it does not significantly limit your
physical or mental abilities to do basic work
(b) Basic Work Activities. When we talk about basic
work activities, we mean the abilities and aptitude
necessary to do most jobs. Examples of these
(1) physical functions such as walking, standing,
sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching,
carrying, or handling;
(2) capacities for seeing, hearing, and speaking;
(3) understanding, carrying out, and remembering