resulting in an inability to carry a coffee cup and a one gallon milk container. Mr. Jabczynski reported pain at the seven level before starting the tests and at the nine level after completion (on a scale of one to ten), which was higher than Mr. Gamet anticipated.
ALJ Miller called upon Thomas Grzesik, a vocational expert, to testify at the hearing. Mr. Grzesik described Mr. Jabczynski's past work as a journeyman mechanic as skilled. The ALJ asked Mr. Grzesik to assume a hypothetical individual required to have a sit/stand option, who can occasionally bend, stoop or crouch but cannot climb and who can occasionally lift twenty pounds and frequently lift ten pounds. Mr. Grzesik testified that such an individual would be able to perform jobs available in the Chicago metropolitan area including hand packager (6,500 jobs in the region), electronic assembler (4,000 jobs in the region), mechanical assembler (3,500 jobs in the region) and cashier (4,000 jobs in the region).
ALJ Miller concluded that Mr. Jabczynski was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act. He acknowledged that the medical evidence established that Mr. Jabczynski has severe status post lumbar laminectomy and reactive depression. But he also determined that Mr. Jabczynski's subjective complaints were not credible to the extent alleged and that Mr. Jabczynski does not have an impairment or combination of impairments as defined by Social Security regulations. ALJ Miller concluded that although Mr. Jabczynski is incapable of performing his past work as a mechanic, he has the capacity to perform light, unskilled, sedentary work involving occasional stooping, crouching and/or climbing, and there are a significant number of jobs in the Chicago metropolitan region which Mr. Jabczynski could perform.
A. Standard of Review
The Social Security Act ("the Act") provides for limited judicial review of final decisions of the Secretary. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). The role of this Court is only to determine whether the decision of the ALJ is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Wolfe v. Shalala, 997 F.2d 321, 322 (7th Cir. 1993) (citations omitted); Steward v. Bowen, 858 F.2d 1295, 1297 (7th Cir. 1988) (citation omitted).
In making this determination, the district court may not "reevaluate the facts, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] own judgment for that of the Secretary." Luna v. Shalala, 22 F.3d 687, 689 (7th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). Rather, the court must affirm a decision supported by substantial evidence in the absence of an error of law. Herr v. Sullivan, 912 F.2d 178, 180 (7th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted); Edwards v. Sullivan, 985 F.2d 334, 336-37 (7th Cir. 1993).
B. Sequential Evaluation
In order to qualify for DIB or SSI, a claimant must be disabled. Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 477 (7th Cir. 1993). The Act defines a "disabled" individual as one who 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); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905. To satisfy this definition, an individual must have a severe impairment which makes him or her unable to perform his or her previous work or any other substantial gainful activity which exists in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 416.905.
Social Security regulations require the factfinder to follow a five-step sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)-(f). The Seventh Circuit has summarized the test as follows:
The Secretary must determine in sequence: (1) whether the claimant is currently employed; (2) whether she has a severe impairment; (3) whether her impairment meets or equals one listed by the Secretary; (4) whether the claimant can perform her past work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in the national economy. Once the claimant has satisfied Steps One and Two, she will automatically be found disabled if she suffers from a listed impairment. If the claimant does not have a listed impairment but cannot perform her past work, the burden shifts to the Secretary to show that the claimant can perform some other job.
Pope v. Shalala, supra, 998 F.2d at 477-78 (citing Schroeter v. Sullivan, 977 F.2d 391, 393 (7th Cir. 1992); Rhoderick v. Heckler, 737 F.2d 714, 715 (7th Cir. 1984)).
In the present case, ALJ Miller applied the sequential evaluation and decided the case at Step Five. He found that Mr. Jabczynski has not worked at substantial activity since September 10, 1987; that the medical evidence established that Mr. Jabczynski has been diagnosed with severe status post lumbar laminectomy and reactive depression; that Mr. Jabczynski does not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in or medically equal to one listed in the applicable regulations; and that Mr. Jabczynski was unable to perform his past work as a mechanic. He then found that Mr. Jabczynski has the residual functional capacity to perform light work and that there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy which Mr. Jabczynski could perform. Consequently, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Jabczynski was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Act and the applicable regulations.
Mr. Jabczynski argues that ALJ Miller erred in not finding that he is "disabled." Mr. Jabczynski contends in part that the ALJ did not accord proper weight to the opinions of Dr. Levin, his treating physician, and Dr. Frank, a clinical psychologist.
C. Dr. Levin's and Dr. Frank's Opinions
ALJ Miller discredited the opinion of Dr. Levin, Mr. Jabczynski's treating physician, that Mr. Jabczynski is physically incapable of performing any substantial gainful activity including a sedentary vocation. "A blanket rule that the opinion of the treating physician is entitled to greater weight than that of a consulting physician is arbitrary." Peabody Coal Company v. Helms, 901 F.2d 571, 573 (7th Cir. 1990). The ALJ may decide whether to believe the treating physician with experience and knowledge of the case but with possible bias for the patient or the consulting physician with expertise and knowledge of similar cases but with possible bias against the patient. Micus v. Bowen, 979 F.2d 602, 608 (7th Cir. 1992); DeFrancesco v. Bowen, 867 F.2d 1040, 1043 (7th Cir. 1989) (each may have bias). Of course, resolution of such evidentiary conflicts is within the "exclusive domain of" the ALJ, but the ALJ's decision must be supported by substantial evidence. Dray v. Railroad Retirement Board, 10 F.3d 1306, 1311 (7th Cir. 1993); Micus v. Bowen, supra, 979 F.2d at 608.
ALJ Miller discounted Dr. Levin's opinion that sitting, standing or walking aggravates Mr. Jabczynski's low back pain and right leg pain; that he is unable to sit, stand or walk for more than one hour; and that he is physically incapable of performing substantial gainful activity including a sedentary vocation requiring sitting or remaining stationary. The only reason the ALJ provided for discrediting Dr. Levin was that the doctor's opinion was "essentially based on and can only be deduced from the claimant's assertions" which the ALJ decided were not credible. There is nothing in Dr. Levin's letter indicating that his conclusions were primarily based on Mr. Jabczynski's complaints of pain. In fact, Dr. Levin specifically stated that Mr. Jabczynski's functional limitations are the result of his herniated disc disease. The ALJ did not articulate his reasons for ignoring Dr. Levin's conclusion that for an organic reason, Mr. Jabczynski feels pain and has specific impairments.
In addition, following his psychological examination of Mr. Jabczynski in March, 1992, Dr. Frank concluded that Mr. Jabczynski suffers from Chronic Pain Syndrome and that he is "totally and permanently disabled within the meaning of the [Worker's Compensation] Act." The ALJ does not even mention the Chronic Pain Syndrome diagnosis in his opinion.
The ALJ was required to explain with particularity the basis for his decision to discredit Dr. Levin's and Dr. Frank's opinions in apparent favor of the positions of consulting physicians Dr. Villaflor, Dr. Uidyaradala and Dr. Murthy. Dray v. Railroad Retirement Board, supra, 10 F.3d at 1311. Because the ALJ did not adequately do so, this Court has no indication that the ALJ sufficiently reviewed the evidence in the record. Accordingly, this case is remanded pursuant to sentence four of Section 405(g) for the ALJ to review the record in full and articulate the basis for his decision in detail. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); O'Connor v. Shalala, 23 F.3d 1232, 1233 (7th Cir. 1994).
For the reasons set forth above, Mr. Jabczynski's and the Secretary's motions for summary judgment are denied. This case is remanded to the Secretary for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
ELAINE E. BUCKLO
United States District Judge
Dated: March 31, 1995.