(D.N.J. 1995). Thus, Brando could not secure additional quarters of disability insurance coverage with the amended tax returns. Consequently, ALJ Harap properly determined that Brando's insured status expired on December 31, 1990.
III. Procedure for Determining Whether a Claimant is Disabled
Brando is entitled to disability benefits only if he became disabled, within the meaning of the Act, prior to December 31, 1990. The regulations promulgated under the Act establish a five-step sequential evaluation procedure to determine whether a disability claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (1996). In the first two steps, the plaintiff must establish (1) that he has not engaged in "substantial gainful activity" since the onset of his alleged disability and (2) that he suffers from a "severe impairment" or "combination of impairments." See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)-(c) (1996). If the plaintiff is unable to meet these burdens, benefits are denied.
If the plaintiff carries these burdens, the ALJ proceeds to step three and decides whether the plaintiff's impairment is equal to or exceeds one listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations (the "Listing of Impairments"). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d) (1996). If it does, a presumption of disability applies, and the plaintiff is automatically entitled to disability benefits. See id. If it does not, the ALJ proceeds to step four.
In step four, the ALJ considers whether the plaintiff's residual functional capacity is sufficient to allow him to perform his prior line of work. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e) (1996). If so, the plaintiff is "not disabled" and will be denied disability benefits. See id. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step five, under which the plaintiff is entitled to disability benefits unless the ALJ can demonstrate that the plaintiff can perform other "substantial gainful work." See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f) (1996).
IV. Review of the ALJ's Decision
ALJ Harap complied with the five-step procedure established by the regulations. First, the ALJ determined that Brando had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 7, 1989, the alleged onset date of his disability. See Tr. at 21. Next, pursuant to step two, the ALJ determined that Brando suffered from an impairment -- severe unstable angina. See id. In step three, the ALJ found that Brando did not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in, or medically equivalent to one listed in, Appendix 1 of the regulations. See id. In addition, ALJ Harap concluded that Brando's complaints of subjective pain were not entirely credible or supported by the medical evidence. See id.
Proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ evaluated Brando's residual functional capacity. The ALJ found that Brando's medical condition prevented him from lifting and carrying more than twenty to twenty-five pounds. See id. at 22. Because Brando's former job as a barber did not require the performance of work related activities precluded by the above limitations, the ALJ determined that Brando could return to his prior position. See id. ALJ Harap, therefore, did not reach step five.
In his brief, Brando claims ALJ Harap erred by not eliciting testimony from him. See Pl.'s Br. at 4. Brando complains that he did not testify because it was his understanding that he would be allowed to have a new hearing if the amended tax returns did not extend coverage. See id. To the contrary, however, Brando chose to present no testimony and did not dispute any of the ALJ's findings at the hearing. See Tr. at 31-38. Specifically, Brando agreed that his insured status expired on December 31, 1990 and that there was no history of a disability prior to July 8, 1992. See id. at 35.
The record illustrates that ALJ Harap carefully reviewed the medical evidence, or more precisely the lack of medical evidence furnished by Brando. Indeed, Brando's medical file is essentially devoid of medical evidence prior to his hospitalization on July 8, 1992, for a heart attack. The only medical evidence Brando submitted to ALJ Harap of any disabling condition prior to July 8, 1992, was the results of two cardiac tests, one in 1984 and the other in 1986. See id. at 173-77. The doctor who reviewed the 1984 test noted that Brando was in "good physical condition" with no evidence of stress induced ischemia, no ventricular ectopy,
and no symptoms. See id. at 174. Furthermore, the doctor noted on the 1986 cardiac stress evaluation test that there were no arrhythmias (disturbances in the rhythm of the heartbeat) and "no changes of significance." See id. at 176. Accordingly, while ALJ Harap found that Brando became disabled after the 1992 heart attack, he concluded that Brando was not disabled prior to December 31, 1990 -- the expiration date of his insured status. See id. at 32.
Brando chose to submit additional medical evidence from what appears to be his personal physician, Dr. Balsamo, to the Appeals Council. See id. at 327-34. Dr. Balsamo's records, dated November 9, 1982 through February 3, 1989, indicate that Brando was treated for an assortment of minor complaints, such as excessive gas and dizziness. See id. at 328-34. Dr. Balsamo's notes, however, reveal normal test results and no significant abnormal findings. Moreover, Brando worked through April 7, 1989, making any analysis of disability prior to that date academic. As provided in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b) (1996), if a claimant is working and the work is a substantial gainful activity, the ALJ will find that the claimant is not disabled regardless of the claimant's medical condition. Furthermore, from April 7, 1989, the time he stopped working, to December 31, 1990, the expiration date of his insured status, Brando proffers no evidence that he had any medical condition which required treatment.
Substantial evidence is defined as such relevant evidence as a "reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (quotation omitted). The record demonstrates that ALJ Harap properly considered all the relevant evidence provided by Brando before reaching his conclusion.
Accordingly, because the Court finds that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's decision, the Court will affirm.
For the reasons set forth herein, this Court concludes that the ALJ's decision to deny Brando disability benefits was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's final decision denying Brando disability benefits.
An appropriate Order is attached.
Dated: May 23, 1997
ALFRED M. WOLIN, U.S.D.J.
In accordance with the Court's Memorandum Opinion filed herewith,
It is on this 23d day of May, 1997,
ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff benefits is affirmed.
ALFRED M. WOLIN, U.S.D.J.