and found that Mr. Prak was not disabled. The Appeals Council subsequently denied Mr. Prak's request for review. On August 10, 1994, Mr. Prak brought this action to seek judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both parties now move for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth herein, the Commissioner's motion is denied, Mr. Prak's motion is granted, and the matter is remanded for a new hearing consistent with this opinion.
Mr. Prak was born in Cambodia on November 15, 1941. Tr. 27.
He has a two-year college degree and specialized vocational training. Tr. 108. Since he immigrated to the United States in 1975, Mr. Prak has worked as a community organizer, insurance broker, office manager, program specialist, and reconciliation clerk. Tr. 106-07. He last worked on February 15, 1988, when he left his job as a community organizer because of his alleged physical and mental impairments. Tr. 109-10.
On July 27, 1987, Mr. Prak visited the Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital with complaints of chest pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Tr. 134. Upon admission, his blood pressure was very high. Tr. 137. Mr. Prak had recently been diagnosed with hypertension. Tr. 134, 137. On July 29, 1987, Mr. Prak complained that he still felt dizzy and nauseous and that he had been experiencing frequent episodes of night sweats over the past few years. Tr. 142.
On August 5, 1987, Mr. Prak visited Northwestern Memorial Hospital, once again complaining of chest pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Tr. 165. Upon discharge from the hospital two days later, Dr. Bouldin diagnosed Mr. Prak with hypertension and panic attacks and prescribed Tenormin, an anti-hypertension medication, and Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication. Tr. 169. On February 8, 1988, Dr. Winter of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Institute of Psychiatry diagnosed Mr. Prak as suffering from hypertension and a panic disorder with agoraphobia. Tr. 194, 195. His report characterized the severity of Mr. Prak's psychosocial stressors as "mild" and rated his highest level of adaptive functioning last year as "good." Tr. 195. Dr. Winter recommended supportive psychotherapy and prescribed Xanax. Tr. 194.
Dr. Ky of the Indochina Medical Clinic is Mr. Prak's regular physician. Tr. 61. Dr. Ky claims to have seen Mr. Prak on a monthly basis since 1989. Tr. 223. On May 13, 1992, Dr. Ky stated that Mr. Prak has chronic arterial hypertension and a tremor and "is not able to work from time to time." Tr. 229. On June 30, 1992, Dr. Ky reported that Mr. Prak's complaints and symptoms were of dizziness and that his mental status was normal. Tr. 223-24. His diagnosis at that time was arterial hypertension. Tr. 225. He prescribed Tenormin and Xanax and reported that Mr. Prak should refrain from engaging in heavy work. Tr. 225. On August 6, 1992, Dr. Ky was asked to clarify Mr. Prak's allegations of panic attacks in light of his previous report. Tr. 228. Dr. Ky responded that Mr. Prak had never complained to him of panic attacks and reiterated his belief that Mr. Prak's mental status was normal. Tr. 228.
On August 5, 1992, Dr. Patey conducted a residual physical functional capacity assessment and found that Mr. Prak is capable of performing a wide range of exertionally medium work. Tr. 239-40; see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c). On December 1, 1992, Mr. Prak visited St. Francis Hospital complaining of headaches, dizziness, and high blood pressure. Tr. 260. The following day, a doctor at St. Francis Hospital reported that Mr. Prak's blood pressure and panic attacks were controlled by medication. Tr. 268.
On February 10, 1993, Dr. Rowe performed a consultative psychological exam at the request of Mr. Prak's attorney. Tr. 248. Dr. Rowe diagnosed moderately-severe panic attacks with moderate agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), a depressive illness, and a personality disorder. Tr. 253. Dr. Rowe stated that Mr. Prak appeared to meet Listings §§ 12.04, 12.06, and 12.08, which pertain to anxiety-related, mood, and personality disorders. Tr. 253. Dr. Rowe also conducted a residual functional capacity assessment of Mr. Prak. Tr. 308-15. Dr. Rowe rated Mr. Prak's degree of impairment in his ability to perform the requirements of work as moderate to extreme. Tr. 308-313. Dr. Rowe's conclusions were based on information provided by Mr. Prak.
On February 21, 1994, Dr. Lewis performed a psychiatric evaluation at the request of Mr. Prak's attorney. Tr. 287. He diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks and delayed onset PTSD. Tr. 288. Dr. Lewis reported that Mr. Prak's condition met Listing § 12.06 requirements and rated his degree of functional limitation as moderate to marked. Tr. 300. Dr. Rowe's residual functional capacity assessment and Dr. Lewis' evaluation were first submitted to the Appeals Council and therefore played no part in the ALJ's decision.
A. Standard of Review
The Social Security Act provides for limited judicial review of final decisions of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This court's role is limited to determining 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 [Commissioner]." 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, a claimant must be disabled. Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 477 (7th Cir. 1993). The term "disability" means the "inability 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 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 432(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505. 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. § 404.1505.
Social Security regulations require the factfinder to follow a five-step sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The Seventh Circuit has summarized the test as follows:
The [Commissioner] 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 [Commissioner]; (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 [Commissioner] to show that the claimant can perform some other job.