APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY D.C. Civil No. 80-1240
Before Hunter, Rosenn and Weis, Circuit Judges.
Robert Taybron appeals from an order of the district court affirming a final determination by the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("The Secretary"; "HHS") that he is ineligible for Social Security disability benefits under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 301 et seq. (1976). Taybron's claim was denied after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), who concluded that Taybron was not disabled within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 423(d) (1976).*fn1 The ALJ's decision became final after it was approved by the Secretary's Appeals Council.*fn2
Taybron then filed suit in district court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (1976), seeking review of the Secretary's decision. The Secretary moved for summary judgment; the district court granted the motion, ruling that the Secretary's denial of Taybron's claim was supported by substantial evidence. The issue before us is whether the Secretary's denial of plaintiff's disability claim is supported by substantial evidence on the record taken as a whole. For the reasons discussed below, we will vacate the decision of the district court and remand this case to the Secretary for entry of an order consistent with this opinion.
Taybron, presently 34 years old, worked for a moving company in Montclair, New Jersey. On March 10, 1977, he injured his back while trying to lift a 1500 pound piano onto a mover's dolly. Record at 106. After the accident, Taybron was examined by the company doctor, who advised Taybron that he could continue working. Record at 106-107. Taybron worked until August 11, 1977, when the severity of his pain forced him to quit. He has not worked since.
After he left his job, Taybron spent most of the next ten weeks in the hospital for treatment of his back injury. His back injury was initially diagnosed as lumbosacral sprain. Record at 162. A laminectomy was performed September 21, 1977. The post-operative diagnosis disclosed the existence of several herniated discs in Taybron's lower back. Record at 165.
The surgery did not eliminate Taybron's back pain. Shortly after the operation was performed, Taybron was readmitted to the hospital with complaints of pain and stiffness in his lower back. The diagnosis was post-laminectomy syndrome. Record at 168.
Taybron's subsequent medical history indicates that his back pain persists and is exacerbated by stomach pain, caused by the chronic ingestion of aspirin and other pain medications, and depression, apparently a reaction to his physical condition. Taybron's medical record also indicates that movement in his lower back and legs is restricted.
In the years after his injury Taybron was examined by numerous specialists. We note briefly the findings that are pertinent.
Taybron was examined by two orthopedic surgeons. Dr. I. Ahmad, who examined Taybron twice, noted that Taybron suffered from, inter alia, lumbosacral sprain, fibromyositis and radiculitis. Record at 171, 173. Dr. Ahmad concluded initially that Taybron's impairment amounted to 60% of a total disability; he later concluded that Taybron was totally disabled. Record at 173. Dr. A. Glushakow noted that Taybron suffered from post-laminectomy syndrome and concluded that Taybron was unable to perform manual labor. Record at 179-180.
Taybron was also examined by an internist, Dr. Catalino De La Cruz, Jr. Dr. De La Cruz noted that Taybron was suffering from chronic low back pain and sciatica, caused by his vertebral injury. Record at 184. Dr. De La Cruz observed that while there were no objective symptoms of pain, the subjective symptoms could be severe enough, in a case like Taybron's, to preclude gainful employment. He concluded that "(m)ore thorough neurological evaluation like nerve conduction studies may be in order." Id.
Taybron's stomach disorders were evaluated by a gastroenterologist, Dr. V. Groisser, and an internist, Dr. S. Friedman. Both doctors agreed that Taybron suffered from gastroduodenitis caused by the medication Taybron ingested to relieve his chronic low back pain. Record at 160-161; 181-182. Dr. Friedman estimated that ...