Lovelace v. Bowen, No. 86-4820

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore RUBIN, RANDALL, and HIGGINBOTHAM; ALVIN B. RUBIN
Citation813 F.2d 55
Decision Date26 March 1987
Docket NumberNo. 86-4820
Parties, Unempl.Ins.Rep. CCH 17,224 L.B. LOVELACE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Otis R. BOWEN, M.D., Secretary of Health and Human Services, Defendant-Appellee. Summary Calendar.

Page 55

813 F.2d 55
17 Soc.Sec.Rep.Ser. 26, Unempl.Ins.Rep. CCH 17,224
L.B. LOVELACE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Otis R. BOWEN, M.D., Secretary of Health and Human Services,
Defendant-Appellee.
No. 86-4820
Summary Calendar.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
March 26, 1987.

Page 56

Laurel G. Weir, Thomas L. Booker, Philadelphia, Miss., for plaintiff-appellant.

Daniel E. Lynn, Asst. U.S. Atty., Jackson, Miss., for defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Before RUBIN, RANDALL, and HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judges.

ALVIN B. RUBIN, Circuit Judge:

The Secretary of Health and Human Services, through his delegates, denied an application for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income on the basis of an Administrative Law Judge's finding that an applicant who was suffering from hypertension, arthritis, back trouble, and obesity was physically able to perform the kind of unskilled and semi-skilled work he had done in the past as a janitor, dishwasher, or assembly line worker. The ALJ, whose decision was affirmed without further reasons by the Appeals Review Council, based his decision in part on the opinion by examining physicians that the applicant's condition could be improved by medication and on the thesis that obesity is per se remediable. The decision was based on automatic adoption of these premises without considering the applicant's testimony that he was so poor he could not afford the prescribed medicines and without determining whether it was indeed within the power of this overweight applicant to lose enough weight to regain his ability to work. We, therefore, reverse the district court's summary judgment denying the applicant relief and remand the case for further proceedings.

I.

L.B. Lovelace was 47 years old at the time of the administrative hearing and is now 50. He has a ninth grade education. He is five feet eleven inches tall, and, at the time of the hearing, weighed 252 pounds, down from his earlier weight of 290 pounds. Most of his work experience was as a semi- or unskilled worker. He asserts that he is disabled because of back trouble, gout, hypertension, and obesity, as well as severe pain.

Lovelace testified that he hurt his back while moving a deep freeze at work. He has twice tried to work since then but was not able to do so. He has severe pain upon constant or severe movement of his back or when standing for periods longer than an hour or two. He has pain, stiffness, and swelling in his left knee. His neck and shoulders are sore, and his right elbow is painful and stiff. He has pain and soreness in his right big toe. He feels that his tailbone is stiff, causing him to become sore when he sits for an extended period of time.

He lives alone, 27 miles from town, and prepares his own meals. His spends his days sitting in the sun or walking in the yard, and, in good weather, walks about a half mile from home, using a stick to help him. He can no longer hunt, fish, cut wood for his fireplace, or tend his garden. A neighbor cuts wood for him. He owns a 1965-model truck, which he drives on occasion, but he could not drive to the hearing. He pays $80 a month to buy his home, which is financed by a government program. Sometimes he borrows money to make the payments. He receives $76 in food stamps but has no other income, so it is unclear from the record how he manages to make payments on his home and subsist. He cannot afford to buy the medicine the doctors have prescribed although he does buy and use aspirin.

Two physicians examined Lovelace. Dr. Prentiss F. Keyes had been treating him at

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the hypertensive clinic of the Kemper County Health Department in Mississippi for more than a year. He had prescribed Feldene, an anti-inflammatory medication, but Lovelace told him at a later visit that he had not been able to have the prescription filled because he did not have the money. In addition, he "was thought to have gout but the County Health Department was not able to furnish him with medication for gout."

On Dr. Keyes' recommendation, Lovelace was hospitalized at Matty Hersee Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi. Dr. Pat H. Gill examined Lovelace at the hospital. During the course of the examination, Lovelace reported that he "does not drive because he cannot use the left leg to operate the clutch." Dr. Gill diagnosed Lovelace as having hypertension, which was uncontrolled despite treatment and, by history, back and multiple joint pain and dizziness. After the hospitalization, Dr. Gill prescribed five medications: HCTZ 50 mg. once daily; Slow-K three times a day; Allopurinol 100 mg. once daily; Lopressor 100 mg. once daily; and Indocin SR/75 once daily.

Lovelace later told Dr. Keyes that he was financially unable to buy these medicines. Dr. Keyes thought there was a "good possibility" that Lovelace's condition "could be benefitted a great deal if he were able to buy his medication and take it properly." He found that, in an eight-hour workday, Lovelace could sit two hours, stand one hour, and walk one hour. Presumably, this means that Lovelace could work for only four hours out of an eight-hour day, but the doctor's report does not make this clear. Elsewhere in the same report, Dr. Keyes indicated that Lovelace could lift or carry weights up to five pounds frequently, weights up to twenty-five pounds occasionally, but heavier weights never. He thought Lovelace could tolerate "some" pushing or pulling, but evaluated Lovelace as being unable to use either foot for repetitive movements and "not at all" able to squat, crawl, or climb although he could bend and reach "occasionally." Neither doctor expressed an opinion that Lovelace was (or was not) disabled.

The Secretary, through his delegates, concluded that the medical evidence and the testimony showed that Lovelace had the ability to do the work he had done in the past. A person who can do the work he has done in the past cannot, of course, be considered disabled. 1

II.

We review administrative findings under the Social Security Act only to determine whether they are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether the Secretary applied the proper legal standards in reaching his decision. 2 An individual who claims disability insurance benefits has the burden of proving his "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which ... has lasted ... for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 3 If the claimant shows that he is no longer capable of performing his past work, the burden shifts to the Secretary to show that he can engage in some other type of substantial gainful employment. 4 Disability for Supplemental Security Income is defined in the same terms as disability for social security disability insurance: inability to engage in substantial gainful activity. 5 The...

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920 practice notes
  • Weatherspoon v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 1:20-00075-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • September 14, 2021
    ...a medicine that he cannot afford to buy does not exist[.]' ” Dawkins, 848 F.2d at 1213 (alteration added) (quoting Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 59 (5th Cir. 1987)). Thus, “when an ALJ relies on noncompliance as the sole ground for the denial of disability benefits, and the record contain......
  • Acosta v. Astrue, No. EP–10–CV–00471–DCG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • March 2, 2012
    ...If, at any step, the Commissioner can determine that the claimant is disabled or not disabled, that ends the analysis. Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 58 (5th Cir.1987). If, however, the Commissioner cannot make such a finding, the analysis proceeds to the next step. Perez, 415 F.3d at 461.......
  • Washington v. Barnhart, No. CIV.A. H-05-453.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • March 23, 2006
    ...demeanor at the hearing if it is clear that the ALT, as here, considered other factors to deny disability benefits. See Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 59 (5th Cir.1987); see also Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1024 (5th Cir.1990); Burnside v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 587, 592 (5th Cir.1988), abr......
  • Ferguson v. Secretary of HHS, No. 9:94-CV-205.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • February 2, 1996
    ...Cir.1992); Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir.1990); Tamez v. Sullivan, 888 F.2d 334, 335 (5th Cir. 1989); Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 57 (5th Cir.1987). Substantial evidence is evidence which amounts to more than a scintilla but which can be less than a preponderance; it i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
920 cases
  • Weatherspoon v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 1:20-00075-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • September 14, 2021
    ...a medicine that he cannot afford to buy does not exist[.]' ” Dawkins, 848 F.2d at 1213 (alteration added) (quoting Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 59 (5th Cir. 1987)). Thus, “when an ALJ relies on noncompliance as the sole ground for the denial of disability benefits, and the record contain......
  • Acosta v. Astrue, No. EP–10–CV–00471–DCG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • March 2, 2012
    ...If, at any step, the Commissioner can determine that the claimant is disabled or not disabled, that ends the analysis. Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 58 (5th Cir.1987). If, however, the Commissioner cannot make such a finding, the analysis proceeds to the next step. Perez, 415 F.3d at 461.......
  • Washington v. Barnhart, No. CIV.A. H-05-453.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • March 23, 2006
    ...demeanor at the hearing if it is clear that the ALT, as here, considered other factors to deny disability benefits. See Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 59 (5th Cir.1987); see also Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1024 (5th Cir.1990); Burnside v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 587, 592 (5th Cir.1988), abr......
  • Ferguson v. Secretary of HHS, No. 9:94-CV-205.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • February 2, 1996
    ...Cir.1992); Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir.1990); Tamez v. Sullivan, 888 F.2d 334, 335 (5th Cir. 1989); Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 57 (5th Cir.1987). Substantial evidence is evidence which amounts to more than a scintilla but which can be less than a preponderance; it i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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