On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
Before: GARTH and SLOVITER, Circuit Judges, and LORD, District Judge*fn*
Before us is the appeal of Hector Oscar Coria from the order of the district court granting summary judgment for the Secretary on Coria's appeal from the decision of the Secretary that he was not entitled to disability benefits.
Coria filed an application for disability benefits on September 18, 1981, alleging disability since January 5, 1977 due to internal, neurological, orthopedic, and neuropsychiatric impairments. Following administrative denial of his claim, the case was heard by an Administrative Law Judge who found that Coria has chronic low back syndrome and anxiety, that his complaints of pain were "exaggerated and not credible", and that he does not have a severe impairment because he has no impairment or impairments which significantly limit his ability to perform basic work-related functions. In making his determination, the ALJ decided to accord "little weight" to the medical evidence presented by appellant as it had been gathered originally for an earlier worker's compensation hearing. Tr. at 13. The ALJ's decision was approved by the Appeals Council.
Coria contends that the decision of the Secretary is not supported by substantial evidence, and that the medical evidence he presented supports his assertions of disabling pain and the existence of impairments that significantly limit his ability to perform basic work-related functions.
The record shows that Coria had a history of industrial accidents. In 1974, he was injured in an explosion at the chemical plant where he worked; in 1976, he was injured when a broken hatch cover fell on him and injured his leg, necessitating subsequent hospitalization. He resigned from that plant, and took a part-time job the following year which he quit, allegedly due to pain and discomfort.
Coria claims to have pain in his legs, back and head and to suffer from a loss of sensation in his right leg. He has been diagnosed by various physicians as having right sciatic neuritis, a 40% hearing loss in both ears, chronic conjunctivitis of both eyes, chronic bronchitis, difficulty in certain movements, chemical dermatitis, and various psychological problems.
In support of his disability claim, Coria submitted his hospital records, as well as medical reports from numerous doctors. Among those reports were:
(1) the report of Dr. I. Ahmad, a diplomate American Board of Orthopedic Surgery who reported that his examination disclosed swollen knees, local tenderness, paravertebral muscle guarding in the cervical spine, restricted movements in flexion, spastic trapezius muscles, tenderness in the region of the lumbosacral spine, restricted extension, painful lateral bending, difficulty in squatting, and standing on the toes and heels, and back pain when straight leg raising was performed. Dr. Ahmad diagnosed Coria as having cervical and lumbosacral sprain and fibromyositis, and concluded he had orthopedic disability of 25% of total.
(2) The report of Dr. Atif Z. Ghander who found a 40% hearing loss in both ears, which he diagnosed as bilateral hearing impairment and rhinosinusitis. He also estimated a "permanent disability of 7 1/2% of partial total" [sic]. Tr. at 97.
(3) The report from the office of Warren M. Klein (signed by Dr. Saveran Scannapiego) diagnosing chronic conjunctivitis of both eyes, and opining that the irritants at work have resulted in total disability of 8%.
(4) The report of Dr. Sidney E. Friedman finding Coria had some difficulty getting from a supine to an erect position, and that his pulmonary function testing was 27% of predicted normal, which he stated "points to both severe restrictive and obstructive pulmonary disease." Dr. Friedman concluded that Coria was ...