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Anderson v. Bowen

decided: February 14, 1989.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 87 C 2201 -- Frank J. McGarr, Judge.

Coffey, Flaum, and Manion, Circuit Judges.

Author: Coffey

COFFEY, Circuit Judge.

Willie Anderson seeks review of a final decision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the "Secretary") denying his applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 423 and 416(i). We affirm the district court's approval of the Secretary's decision.


Anderson filed applications for SSI and disability insurance benefits on October 9, 1985. The applications alleged that as of September 1980 he became incapable to pursue his usual line of employment resulting from a heart condition, diabetes, swelling of the legs, headaches, nosebleeds and poor vision.*fn1 The Secretary denied the applications initially and on reconsideration. Counsel was appointed for Anderson and a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on June 16, 1986. Anderson testified at the hearing that he was physically unable to return to his former work as a laundry sorter because it required too much walking, standing and lifting of heavy weights. He also complained of sore hands and constant pain in his legs and chest. Regarding his functional capacity, he claimed an inability to stand for more than five or six minutes, to sit for more than five minutes, to lift more than four pounds and to walk more than half a block.

Anderson was born July 15, 1937, and has an eighth grade education.*fn2 He is five feet eleven inches tall and weighs approximately 275 pounds. Anderson was most recently employed from approximately 1979 through 1983 as a laundry sorter, a job that required him to stand all day and lift bundles of clothes weighing over 100 pounds. Anderson has not worked since late 1983, when the laundry went out of business.

The medical record reveals that Anderson had regular check-ups from January 1982 to May 1986 at the Fantus Health Center, located in Cook County Hospital, Chicago, Illinois ("Fantus"). Medical progress notes prepared by examining physicians after each check-up reflect that Anderson was consistently treated for hypertension, diabetes and obesity during this period. Some of the medical notes made after examination and/or treatment refer to but do not specifically diagnose congestive heart failure and edema, and also suggest that Anderson was suffering from cardiomegaly and tachycardia on several isolated occasions.*fn3 Anderson contends that these references provide substantial evidence that he is disabled.

On June 24, 1985, Anderson was examined by Dr. U. Gowda, a physician retained for consultation by the State of Illinois.*fn4 Anderson complained to Dr. Gowda of a six month history of sharp chest pain with an onset after physicial exertion. Upon examination Dr. Gowda specifically noted a "massively obese" man "in no acute distress." Further, Dr. Gowda noted his uncorrected visual acuity in both eyes at 20/25. Examination of the chest and heart sounds were normal, although Dr. Gowda did observe a grade I/VI ejection systolic heart murmur. There was no enlargement of the abdominal organs and no edema (fluid build-up) in the lower extremities. The musculoskeletal system was entirely normal with no complaints of pain with movement. Dr. Gowda's "final impression" states that Anderson's hypertension was uncontrolled by his prescribed medication "but there are no clinical features suggestive of congestive heart failure."

At the request of the Illinois Bureau of Disability Adjudication Services, Dr. Mila Bacalla, an internist, performed another consultative examination of Anderson on December 9, 1985. At that time Plaintiff-appellant Anderson complained of constant leg pain and sharp chest pain for the previous five years, generally brought on by exertion. Examination showed uncorrected visual acuity of 20/40 on the right and 20/30 on the left, with retinopathy (a noninflammatory disease of the retina).*fn5 There were no deformities or edema in the upper and lower extremities, and Anderson displayed full range of motion in those joints. Dr. Bacalla found "no evidence of any congestive heart failure at this time," and a "murmur suggestive of aortic stenosis" (a narrowing of the trunk of the arterial system).*fn6

Anderson also underwent a stress test in January 1986. The test revealed coronary artery disease and sinus tachycardia but was negative for ischemia (deficiency of blood in a part due to obstruction of a blood vessel).*fn7

After reviewing the medical evidence and Anderson's hearing testimony, the ALJ found that Anderson could not return to his former work as a laundry sorter because he could no longer perform the heavy lifting required in that job. However, he went on to state that Anderson did retain the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of light work. The ALJ then applied the Secretary's Medical-Vocational Guidelines (the "Grid"), 20 C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 2, Rule 202.17, which mandated a finding that Anderson was not disabled in light of his age (forty-eight), education (eighth grade), previous work experience (unskilled) and residual functional capacity (light work).*fn8 The Appeals Council denied Anderson's request for review of the ALJ's decision. The district court affirmed.

Our task is to determine whether the Secretary's findings are supported in the record with substantial evidence, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, taking into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842, 91 S. Ct. 1420 (1971).

Anderson raises two issues on appeal. Initially, he claims that the ALJ failed to discuss significant evidence in his medical records that he suffers from congestive heart failure, which requires a finding that he is disabled at Step 3 of the five-step sequential procedure for evaluation of disability claims.*fn9 Further, he argues that because of his physical and medical problems he is unable to perform a ...

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