pulmonary condition is "grossly abnormal," revealing a "significant pulmonic obstructive disease." (Id.) Although Dr. Brigio's interpretation of this data may in fact be accurate, the fact that he qualifies his opinion by referring to the requisite interpretation of another physician demonstrates that his opinion may be open to some doubt. Upon remand, an appropriate interpretation of this important evidence ought to be secured, as these facts are purportedly demonstrative of Mr. Baeder's most troublesome health problem. Again, the ALJ failed to discuss this issue, and this court finds that the ALJ's decision cannot be reasonably supported without such supplementary clarification.
The ALJ is directed, therefore, not only to provide specific reasons for his rejection of any probative evidence (including the plaintiff's testimony), but to make the additional findings necessary to clear up the doubts about plaintiff's case which might be raised by the two items just discussed. The ALJ should be aware that these directives only result from a restatement of the obligations imposed by the law and, as such, should have been recognized and respected by the ALJ in the first place. See, e.g., Dobrowolsky, supra.
It appears to this court that the plaintiff has, indeed, met his burden of showing a prima facie case of disability. Rossi, supra, at 57. However, it is not the function of this court to consider the question of plaintiff's disability de novo. See, e.g., Rivera v. Harris, 623 F.2d 212, 216(2d Cir. 1980). Such a consideration, subject to the specific directions outlined in this opinion, is left to the Secretary on remand. Alternatively, the responsibility of this court to review rulings by the Secretary on disability matters does not end here. The regulations that have been used by the Secretary in the present case, and which will probably be used by the Secretary on remand, are also subject to this court's review. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The issue of the validity of one of the Secretary's regulations concerning the evaluation of disability claims will therefore be addressed.
4. Analysis of the Secretary's Procedural Regulations.
The plaintiff has not only challenged the Secretary's factual determinations in this case but argues that the Secretary has also committed legal error by promulgating (and applying in the present case) a regulation that is fundamentally inconsistent with the Act. It is the plaintiff's position that 20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c), which allows the Secretary to deny an application for benefits without any detailed examination of the claimant's vocational characteristics, exceeds the authority granted to the Secretary by the Act. Thus, plaintiff contends that 1520(c) is an invalid regulation under the applicable law. In response to this contention, the defendant in this case argues that 1520(c) is consistent with the Act and is therefore a valid procedural regulation.
The regulation at issue here was the instrument utilized by the ALJ to deny disability benefits to Mr. Baeder. It is possible, on the remand of this case to the Secretary, that the same regulation could be used to reach exactly the same result (although that result would have to be much more forcefully and clearly supported, as the discussion above has pointed out). Plaintiff therefore has a personal stake in the outcome of a judicial consideration of the validity of this regulation. A favorable decision on this issue by this court would effectively remove one of the barriers which plaintiff must overcome in order to obtain disability benefits. In light of such facts, then, it is clear that Mr. Baeder has the requisite standing to raise this particular legal claim. See, e.g., Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471-6, 70 L. Ed. 2d 700, 102 S. Ct. 752 (1982) (for standing to be recognized in federal court, party must show that s/he personally has suffered some actual or threatened injury as a result of the putatively illegal conduct of the defendant, which is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision).
This court also takes notice of the fact that there has currently been considerable judicial attention given to the question of the validity of 1520(c). See, e.g., Gist v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 736 F.2d 352 (6th Cir. 1984) (validity of 1520(c) upheld); Smith v. Heckler, Civ. No. S-83-1609 (E.D. Ca. June 6, 1984) (preliminary injunction granted restraining Secretary from applying all rulings and regulations which deny benefits on the basis of "non-severe" impairments); Hundrieser v. Heckler, 582 F. Supp. 1231 (E.D. Ill 1984) (Secretary's requirement of "severity" under 1520(c) places burden on Secretary to show that claimant's impairment is presumptively non-disabling). Because of the importance of this challenge, and because of the plaintiff's direct interest in this particular question upon the remand of his case, this court has chosen to address this issue. For the reasons hereinafter to be outlined, this court finds that 20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) has no rational relation to the purposes of the Act, that it exceeds the statutory authority delegated by Congress to the Secretary, and so, that it is invalid. See 42 U.S.C. 405(a); Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 28 L. Ed. 2d 136, 91 S. Ct. 814 (1971) (judicial review of administrative regulations must determine whether Secretary exceeded authority, whether regulations were arbitrary, capricious, abusive of discretion or illegal, and whether necessary procedural requirements were followed). Further, since there has been ample evidence at the court's disposal for a careful and complete consideration of this issue, including several rounds of reply briefing by the parties, there is no need for this court to hear oral arguments from the parties; plaintiff's request for oral argument on this issue is therefore denied.
As mentioned above, in the evaluation of disability claims, the Secretary now follows a sequential, five-step procedure, described in 20 C.F.R. 404.1520(a) to (f) as follows:
§ 404.1520 Evaluation of disability in general.
(a) Steps in evaluating disability. We consider all material facts to determine whether you are disabled. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will determine that you are not disabled. If you are not doing substantial gainful activity, we will first consider your physical or mental (impairments). Your impairment must be severe and meet the duration requirement before we can find you to be disabled. We follow a set order to determine whether you are disabled. We review any current work activity, the severity of your (impairments), your residual functional capacity and your age, education, and work experience. If we can find that you are disabled or not disabled at any point in the review, we do not review further.