Petition for Review from a Decision of the Benefits Review Board No. 92-BLA-2470.
Before POSNER, Chief Judge, CUMMINGS and BAUER, Circuit Judges.
Consolidation Coal Company (Consolidation or Employer) petitions this court for review of a final decision of the Benefits Review Board (Board) granting benefits to Leroy Sisson under the Black Lung Benefits Act (the Act), 30 U.S.C. secs. 901 et seq. We grant the petition for review and remand.
Leroy Sisson worked as a coal miner for over 27 years, until 1984. From April of 1987 until October of 1989, when he was laid off, Sisson worked full-time for Public Service Indiana measuring ash levels at a power plant. Sisson filed for benefits under the Act in November of 1989. The Director denied benefits and the claim was heard before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ granted benefits. The ALJ found that Sisson suffered from pneumoconiosis, that his condition arose out of his coal mine employment, and that he was totally disabled by the condition. The ALJ found that the evidence was evenly balanced and credited the medical opinion of Sisson's treating physician in making his conclusions. The Board affirmed, applying the true doubt rule to conclude that the ALJ did not err in granting benefits.
The ALJ considered the results of Sisson's x-rays, blood gas studies, pulmonary function tests and three medical opinions. Reports were submitted by Dr. Combs, an internist and Sisson's treating physician, Dr. Wilhemus, the Department of Labor appointed physician, and Dr. Selby, a pulmonologist.
Eighteen x-ray interpretations of three x-rays were submitted to the ALJ. Five B-readers interpreted the first x-ray as negative for pneumoconiosis. Similarly, the second x-ray was interpreted as negative by five B-readers. However, one B-reader interpreted the x-ray as positive. The final x-ray was interpreted as negative by five B-readers, with two B-readers finding the presence of pneumoconiosis. *fn1 The pulmonary function tests performed by Dr. Wilhemus, Dr. Combs and Dr. Selby produced non-qualifying results. The blood gas studies similarly produced non-qualifying results.
Dr. Combs, an internist specializing in rheumatology and the medical director of the Coal Worker's Respiratory Clinic in Vincennes, Illinois since 1981, examined Sisson and concluded that he suffered from pneumoconiosis and was totally disabled by his condition. Dr. Wilhemus concluded that Sisson did not suffer from pneumoconiosis and suggested that Sisson should lose weight. Dr. Selby, a pulmonologist, concluded that Sisson did not have a pulmonary impairment and found no disability due to Sisson's coal mine employment.
This case is before us on appeal from a decision of the Board, but we review the decision of the ALJ, not of the Board. Old Ben Coal Co. v. Battram, 7 F.3d 1273, 1275 (7th Cir. 1993); Dotson v. Peabody Coal Co., 846 F.2d 1134, 1137 (7th Cir. 1988). We must determine whether the ALJ's decision is rational, supported by substantial evidence and consistent with the governing law. Battram, 7 F.3d at 1275; Old Ben Coal Co. v. Luker, 826 F.2d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 1987); see Freeman United Coal Mining Co. v. Benefits Review Board, 919 F.2d 451, 452 (7th Cir. 1990) (Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion"). While we may not reweigh the evidence or substitute our own judgment for that of the ALJ, Battram, 7 F.3d at 1275, we must carefully review the record and the ALJ's findings. The "ALJ must consider all relevant medical evidence, cannot substitute his expertise for that of a qualified physician, and ...