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LUNDQUIST v. HECKLER
September 4, 1985
ROBERT LUNDQUIST, PLAINTIFF,
MARGARET HECKLER, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Robert Lundquist ("Lundquist") seeks judicial review of a final
decision of Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret
Heckler ("Secretary") denying Lundquist's claim for
supplemental security income ("SSI") disability benefits.
Lundquist initially applied for benefits under Social Security
Act ("Act") Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. § 1381a. After the February
22, 1984 hearing, Administrative Law Judge Thomas H. Ploss
("ALJ Ploss" or simply the "ALJ") denied Lundquist's
application on June 27, 1984. Lundquist then exhausted his
administrative law remedies (a process that resulted in the
ALJ's decision becoming Secretary's) and brought this action
against Secretary pursuant to Act § 1631(c)(3),
42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).
As always in these cases, the parties have filed cross-motions
for summary judgment. For the reasons stated in this memorandum
opinion and order, each party's motion is denied. Instead
Lundquist's application is remanded to Secretary for
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
ALJ Ploss' decision (which became Secretary's) rested on his
conclusions (R. 8) that:
1. Lundquist "does not have a severe impairment" and
therefore is not "disabled" within the meaning of the Act.
2. Lundquist failed to follow a "prescribed" treatment
(weight loss) that could have diminished his symptoms.
Lundquist disputes the decision as not supported by the
substantial weight of the evidence and also ascribes the
following errors to the ALJ:
1. He applied an improper "severity" standard at step two of
the five-step sequential evaluation process.
2. He wrongly discredited Lundquist's testimony as to pain.
3. He failed to give proper weight to the medical reports of
Lundquist's treating physician.
4. He misconstrued a mere recommendation to lose weight as a
"prescribed" treatment for Lundquist's pain.
Lundquist was 52 at the time of the hearing. He has an eleventh
grade education (R. 38) and can read and write (R. 39). Most
recently he has held various jobs through the CETA program and
at the post office, but he has not worked since 1978 (R.
Lundquist complains chiefly (though not solely) of extreme pain
in his legs and lower back. His medical problems have led him
repeatedly to seek treatment and have resulted in several
periods of hospitalization. Several expert opinions as to the
nature of Lundquist's ailments appear in the record:
1. On May 12, 1980 consultative physician Dr. Shroff examined
Lundquist and diagnosed the presence of osteoarthritis,
pulmonary disease, hypertension, obesity and varicose veins
in both legs (R. 108).
2. In November 1980 Lundquist entered Bethany Methodist
Hospital, complaining of weakness and numbness in his legs
and constant back pain. Dr. Hatfield, Lundquist's treating
physician, diagnosed Lundquist as suffering from lumbosacral
spine arthritis, essential hypertension, obesity and
emphysema (R. 124). Dr. Hatfield also noted Lundquist was
receiving medication pursuant to a previous diagnosis of
3. In March 1981 a CAT scan by a Dr. Melamed revealed a
bulging disc and degenerative disc changes and suggested a
herniated disc (R. 148).
4. Lundquist entered Ravenswood Hospital for two days in June
1982, again complaining of back pain. Dr. Hatfield concluded
Lundquist suffered from refractive back pain, obesity and
hypertension (R. 259). Dr. Hatfield's discharge
recommendations included "disability" (id.).
5. In October 1982 Dr. Hatfield referred Lundquist to Dr.
Lazar, a neurologist. Dr. Lazar concluded Lundquist suffered
from possible severe spinal stenosis or meralgia paresthetica
(R. 261). On November 8, 1982*fn2 Lundquist had a
myelogram (recommended by Dr. Lazar), which revealed
indentations on both sides of the spinal canal. Dr.
Poteshman, who read the x-rays, ...
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