is "disabled." Although counsel for plaintiff conceded this at the hearing before the ALJ (R. 21-22), in his motion seeking to reverse the Secretary's decision, he points to no evidence in the record which undermines the determination that, as of that date, Cowan was not incapable of performing the functions of her prior position.
The Secretary's assessment of Cowan's status on the date her eligibility expired has ample support in the record. Dr. Sabloff's reports from February and July of 1981 indicate that Cowan's condition precluded only those sorts of jobs that involved heavy labor or required her to "be on her feet full time in a working capacity." (R. 117; see also R. 118.) More importantly, on August 27, 1981, at Cowan's last visit during her eligibility period, Dr. Sabloff found her condition "much better" and pronounced her fit for "some type of work that does not involve heavy labor." (R. 120.) Moreover, he expressly found her fit to return to the cashier job that she held prior to her ankle injury, if such a position was available (R. 120). These assessments are consistent with the objective medical evidence, as the Secretary so found. That Cowan's condition may have worsened between the date that her eligibility for benefits ended and the date that she applied for benefits is not relevant to the disability determination. Milam v. Bowen, 782 F.2d 1284, 1286 (5th Cir. 1986); Owens, 770 F.2d at 1280; Dunlap v. Harris, 649 F.2d 637, 639 (8th Cir. 1981); Reading, 542 F.2d at 997.
Plaintiff's sole challenge to the Secretary's denial of benefits rests on the ALJ's decision not to request a vocational evaluation. The argument fails on several grounds. First, such an evaluation -- designed to identify what jobs, if any, could be performed by a claimant unable to perform his or her previous work -- is wholly unnecessary when, as here, the ALJ determines that the claimant was capable of returning to her previous job. Second, even if the ALJ had determined that Cowan was unable to perform her previous work, use of a vocational expert remains within the discretion of the ALJ. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1566(e). Plaintiff's "Vocational Potential Report," prepared for and considered by the Appeals Council, amply demonstrates the minimal usefulness of such a report in a case like this. While the report includes findings applicable to Cowan's ability, as of August 20, 1985, to engage in gainful activity, the report provides nothing relevant to assessing Cowan's skills on September 30, 1981. In the absence of such information, the report is of no use. Parsons v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1334, 1340 (8th Cir. 1984). Thus, the Court finds no error in the ALJ's decision not to request a vocational evaluation.
The Court finds substantial evidence in the record to support the Secretary's determination that, as of September 30, 1981, the plaintiff was capable of performing the duties of her previous position, and therefore not disabled within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 423. Consequently, the Court grants the Secretary's motion for affirmance, and denies the plaintiff's motion for reversal. For the reasons stated in this Memorandum Opinion, the Court finds no merit in any of the claims raised in the complaint. Accordingly, the complaint is dismissed with prejudice. An appropriate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
This matter is before the Court on plaintiff's motion to reverse the final decision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the Secretary) denying her request for disability benefits. For the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum Opinion, upon consideration of the motions, the Secretary's opposition pleading, and the entire record, the Court concludes that the Secretary's decision is supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, it hereby is
ORDERED, that the plaintiff's motion is denied. It hereby further is
ORDERED, that the defendant's motion is granted. The decision of the Secretary is affirmed. It hereby further is
ORDERED, that the complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
STANLEY S. HARRIS, United States District Judge.