FACTS AND BACKGROUND
Freddie Alford made his initial application for disability benefits on January 16, 1991. (Stip. of Facts, P 1). The application asserts that a back problem which allegedly occurred on the same date of the filing created a disability. (Id.) Mr. Alford's application was denied upon its initial submission and when it was submitted for reconsideration. (Id., P 2).
Subsequently, on February 20, 1992 and March 27, 1992, ALJ John M. Farley conducted hearings to address the denial of benefits. (Id., P 3). On June 17, 1992, ALJ Farley issued an opinion stating that Mr. Alford was not under a disability that would warrant Social Security benefits. (Id., P 4). On February 9, 1993, the Social Security Appeals Council declined to review Mr. Alford's petition. (Id.) An appeal to this Court followed.
Freddie Alford is over 50 years old. (Id., P 8). He was born in South Carolina and completed eleven grades of high school. At present, the plaintiff is single and has no children. (Id., PP 8-10).
Mr. Alford is a truck driver, although his truck driving license was suspended at the time of this petition because of traffic violations. (Id., P 11). In the course of making his deliveries, the plaintiff states that he loaded and unloaded his truck by hand and/or with a loader (Id., P 12). The plaintiff asserts that, as a result of his back injury he has not been able to work since 1988 or 1989. (Id., P 14). Prior to being a truck driver, Mr. Alford worked as a welder. (Id., P 15).
At his hearing before ALJ Farley, the plaintiff testified that he has constant pain in his lower back. (Id., P 19). Because of the injury, he cannot stand for an extended period of time and suffers from occasional pain up his back or down his leg. (Id.). The plaintiff further testified that the pain is exasperated when he attempts to lift objects and that his doctor had instructed him not to lift any object that weighed over 20 pounds. (Id.).
Apart from his back problems, plaintiff gets occasional leg cramps and aches in his chest. (Id., P 16). While he "smokes and drinks once in a while," he has never had an abuse problem. (Id., P 18). Mr. Alford has full range of motion in his shoulders, arms and legs. (Id., P 21). Plaintiff does get headaches in the center of his head. He treats them with Advil or Anacin and lays down to relieve the pain. (Id.)
The ALJ's Findings
The ALJ postponed the initial hearing in this matter in order to allow Mr. Alford to seek counsel. Five weeks later, on March 27, 1992, Mr. Alford acknowledged that the attorney he thought was going to represent him declined to do so. After being given the option to adjourn the proceedings again, the plaintiff decided to go forward with the hearing. As a result of the hearing, the ALJ pronounced the following findings on June 17, 1993:
a. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 16, 1991;