in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 23(d)(1)(A) (emphasis added). If Congress had not intended that the twelve-month requirement could be met prospectively, the language "or can be expected to last" would not have been used. Thus, we may affirm the ALJ's finding so long as there is substantial evidence that Plaintiff's weight either met the threshold for twelve months or is expected to meet the threshold for at least twelve months.
There is ample evidence in the record from which the ALJ reasonably could conclude that Plaintiff's obesity could be expected to last for a continuous period of twelve months.
Of the eighteen recorded weights noted by her oncologist Dr. Bonomi between April 1984 and June 1987, nine of them were greater than 258 pounds. According to the record, those weights were recorded while Plaintiff was undergoing chemotherapy and frequently complaining of nausea and vomiting. On October 19, 1991, Dr. Long recorded Plaintiff's weight as 255 pounds, three pounds short of the weight required by listing 10.10 for her height. On February 19, 1992, however, Plaintiff weighed 264 pounds. At the hearing, Plaintiff testified that she weighed 289 pounds and that five months previously she weighed 264 pounds. The ALJ apparently found Plaintiff's testimony about her weight to be credible, a finding we will not disturb because we see nothing in the record to suggest that it is patently wrong.
We conclude that there is substantial evidence in the record supporting the ALJ's determination. Almost all the below-threshold weights were prior to June 1987, i.e., over four years prior to the alleged onset of her disability. The evidence shows that Plaintiff met the weight criteria from February 1992 until the date of the hearing, a period of nine months. Her weight trended upward substantially during that period. The ALJ could reasonably conclude that her obesity would continue for at least twelve months.
The fact that Plaintiff's weight did not exceed the threshold at all times does not render the ALJ's determination invalid. Nothing in the regulations indicates that a claimant's weight must exceed the threshold on every occasion. Furthermore, although we have not been able to locate any case law on this point involving obesity-related disability, courts addressing the continuity issue with respect to blood pressure-based disability and mental illness-based disability have concluded that not all measurements during the requisite period must exceed the threshold. Honeysucker v. Bowen, 649 F. Supp. 1155 (N.D. Ill. 1986); Johnson v. Califano, 572 F.2d 186 (8th Cir. 1978); Dennis v. Heckler, 756 F.2d 971 (3rd Cir. 1985). Plaintiff's weight, even while undergoing chemotherapy, exceeded the threshold half the time. On those occasions where it did not, it tended to be close to the threshold. Plaintiff's weight is tending upward significantly. This is enough under the applicable regulations given the limited scope of our review.
For the reasons stated above, we conclude that the ALJ's finding with respect to the first, weight-based, criteria of Listing 10.10 is supported by substantial evidence. Consequently, Defendant Secretary's motion for summary judgment is denied. We also conclude that the ALJ's finding that the second criteria of Listing 10.10 is not met is not supported by substantial evidence. We conclude as well that the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff is not disabled is not adequately supported and Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is granted.
The question remains whether we should reverse the Secretary's decision and remand for an award of benefits or simply remand for further administrative proceedings. Section 405(g) gives us the authority to affirm, modify, or reverse the Secretary's decision "with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 402(g) (1993). We need not remand "'when no useful purpose would be served by further administrative proceedings, or when the record has been fully developed and there is not sufficient evidence to support the ALJ's conclusion.'" Rodriguez v. Bowen, 876 F.2d 759, 763 (9th Cir. 1989) (citations omitted) (quoted in Grindle v. Sullivan, 774 F. Supp. 1501, 1514 (N.D. Ill. 1991)). Compare Campbell v. Shalala, 988 F.2d 741, 744 (7th Cir. 1993) (holding that remand was necessary because "the ALJ failed to evaluate Campbell's RFC and to make the determinations required . . ." and "the record is not so clear that we can award or deny benefits on appeal"). Benefits should also be awarded when "'the ALJ fails to point to clear and convincing reasons for rejecting the conclusions of the treating physician, or provide specific, legitimate reasons based on evidence for disregarding that conclusion . . . .'" Boyes v. Sullivan, 901 F.2d 717, 722-23 (9th Cir. 1989) (citations omitted) (quoted in Grindle, 774 F. Supp. at 1513-1514).
There is no reason to remand this matter for further proceedings. The record is fully developed, containing as it does x-rays of Plaintiff's weight-bearing joints and spine, objective medical evidence addressing Plaintiff's motion limitations and history of pain in her weight-bearing joints and/or spine, and evidence of Plaintiff's weight. The ALJ's finding that Plaintiff met the weight requirement is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Thus, there would be no useful purpose in remanding to consider this portion of the disability test.
There is no purpose in remanding for an evaluation of the 10.10(A) requirements, either. The uncontroverted evidence in the record provides no basis on which the ALJ on remand could find that Plaintiff's condition does not meet the requirements of subsection 10.10(A). As discussed above, the x-rays show evidence of arthritic degeneration in Plaintiff's knee and spine. The record also contains reports of two different physicians on four different occasions that indicate variously that Plaintiff has limitation of motion in one of her knees and in her lumbosacral spine, and experiences pain in her knees and spine. The ALJ did not point to specific evidence or provide any reasons why the reports of Drs. Long and Diaz regarding Plaintiff's pain and motion limitations should be disregarded. In fact, the ALJ specifically gave controlling weight to Dr. Diaz's residual functional analysis. Furthermore, the reports are consistent with each other and at the very least not inconsistent with the x-ray results. A remand would serve no useful purpose as the evidence permits of only one result. See Grindle, 774 F. Supp. at 1514 (finding that no substantial evidence contradicted the conclusions of two treating physicians that plaintiff was disabled, and concluding that there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding plaintiff's disability and that no useful purpose would be served by a remand to reach an "inevitable result").
The decision of the Secretary is hereby reversed. The matter is remanded for the sole purpose of determining the period of disability and the payment of benefits.
Paul E. Plunkett
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
DATED: March 3, 1994