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Rousey v. Heckler

August 27, 1985


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana Indianapolis Division, No. 83 C 1824 James E. Noland, Judge.

Author: Bauer

Before BAUER and POSNER, Circuit Judges, SWYGERT, Senior Circuit Judge.

BAUER, Circuit Judge.

Betty F. Rousey brought this action in the district court under Section 205 (g), seeking judicial review of the Secretary's final decision denying her application for Social Security disability benefits. The district court affirmed the denial. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse.


Mrs. Rousey was born January 15, 1926. She worked as a teleprinter for Western Union from 1967 to 1972, when the office in which she worked closed, and as a surgery clerk from August 1973 to July 1981, when she quit because of breathing problems and disagreements with a supervisor.

Mrs. Rousey is five feet tall and weights 97 pounds. Mrs. Rousey testified at the hearing before the ALJ that she has a high school education, training at Western Union and a couple of courses at Ivy Tech. She lives in a two story house, in which she sleeps on the second floor and she climbs the stairs once a day, stopping on the landing to rest. Mrs. Rousey stated that she smokes one-half pack of cigarettes per day even though her doctor says that it is bad for her.

Mrs. Rousey testified that she can sit indefinitely if she is not using her arms or is not talking. If she does use her arms or is talking, she can sit one hour. She can stand for one hour and walk less than one block. Mrs. Rouse said that she can lift five pounds occasionally. She testified that her dexterity and fine finger movements were okay but that she could not reach over her head or perform pushing and pulling movements. Mrs. Rousey could bend and squat occasionally. She can drive a car ten to twenty miles at a time but stated that getting in and out of the car makes her short of breath.

Regarding her daily activities and hobbies, Mrs. Rousey stated that she gets up at 9:00 to 9:30 a.m., eats breakfast and gets dressed. She then tries to do the dishes but, if there are a lot of dishes, she has to rest between doing dishes. Mrs. Rousey then reads or watches television. She cooks occasionally. She puts clothes in the washer if someone carries it for her. Mrs. Rousey grocery shops with her husband but carries no groceries. She can dust a little bit and maker he bed on occasion. Mrs. Rousey testified that the worst time for her was in the morning but that if she stays home that she gets better as the day goes on.

Mrs. Rousey's daughter also testified at the hearing. She testified that her mother's condition has gone steadily downhill. She stated that walking across the room makes Mrs. Rousey short of breath, that her mother cannot pick up a small child and that hanging clothes or going to the bathroom makes Mrs. Rousey short of breath.

Extensive medical evidence was presented, all of which showed that Mrs. Rousey had a restrictive and obstructive pulmonary defect, although there was some medical disagreement as to the severity of the defect. Several diagnostic pulmonary function tests were administered with results close to the values listed in Appendix 1 of the disability regulations. 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App.1. There was also some medical evidence suggesting either arteriosclerotic heart disease or congestive heart failure.

Dennis Fast, M.D., Mrs. Rousey's treating physician, submitted a report dated January 8, 1982, in which he stated that Mrs. Rousey experienced shortness of breath walking across a room. He noted that Mrs. Rousey has dull, squeezing chest pain of cardiac origin which lasted a few minutes, which did not radiate, which was precipitated by exertion and which was relieved in one to two minutes by rest and nitroglycerin. Dr. Fast observed that Mrs. Rousey had experienced dyspnea, fatigue, and rhythm disturbances for more than three months. Dr. Fast reported that he had restricted Mrs. Rousey from smoking and that she could engage in activity "as tolerated."

Dr. Fast again reported on Mrs. Rousey's condition on January 11, 1982. Dr. Fast stated that he had first seen Mrs. Rousey on September 21, 1981, at which time she had an acute worsening of shortness of breath which began on September 20, 1981. Dr. Fast opined, based on a comparison of EKG reports from September 1981 shortness of breath was "probably" due to a "silent myocardial infraction." He noted that Mrs. Rousey had developed dull substernal chest pain which does not radiate and which is precipitated by exertion. Dr. Fast stated that Mrs. Rousey had been placed on long standing nitrates with a "marked" lessening of the occurrence of chest pain. Dr. Fast observed that Mrs. Rousey is short of breath on walking across the room and that she could perform housework slowly and with frequent rests. He stated that Mrs. Rousey could perform activity as tolerated. Finally, Dr. Fast opined that her pulmonary functions were consistent with a mild restrictive and severe obstructive defect.

Martin Fritzhand, M.D., submitted a report of a consultative examination which he had performed on Mrs. Rousey on September 18, 1982. Dr. Fritzhand noted that Mrs. Rousey reported a four to five year history of shortness of breath increasing in severity in the past 12 months. He stated that she could walk on level ground no more than 100 feet without shortness of breath, which increased on climbing stairs or walking up grades. Mrs. Rousey was able to do housework without dyspnea and did not awaken at night with shortness of breath. Mrs. Rousey experienced prolonged episodes of general aching pain throughout the anterior chest wall which ...

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