consider the causalgia to have completely run its course. He concluded his letter to the Social Security Administration by stating: 'It is my opinion that Mr. Sobel is unable to work because of the residual effects of the causalgia.' (Emphasis supplied.) Mr. Sobel, under questioning by the Referee concerning the lumbar sympathectomy, indicated that his condition remained the same following the operation. While the plaintiff was not qualified to give a medical opinion, his subjective analysis of his own condition, together with Dr. Sterling's report, constitute the only evidence before the Referee on this point. It follows that the finding by the Referee was not supported by the record as a whole.
The major physical complaint asserted by the plaintiff at the hearing before the Referee was 'spasms' in the left leg. This condition was described symptomatically by the plaintiff: 'The leg stiffens up and just needles shooting back and fourth in your body * * *' (Record, page 69). In regard to this condition, the Referee found: 'The claimant experiences spasms in his leg but generally relatively mild medication promptly relieves the pain.' The Referee did not make specific findings as to the frequency, intensity, or effect of the spasms. While there is some confusion in the record as to the frequency of the spasms, it appears from the record as a whole that a spasm in the leg may occur at anytime. Plaintiff has had attacks both while standing and sitting. The intensity of pain experienced during a spasm appears to vary. However, the effect of a spasm appears to be constant. The plaintiff testified: 'I drop everything. If I do walk with crutches, and if a spasm takes hold of me, I go down.' (Record, page 69). This Court feels that the 'effect' of the spasm is an important factor in determining whether or not the plaintiff can engage in 'any substantial gainful activity.' Apparently however, the Referee did not consider this aspect significant.
In his decision, the Referee found that Mr. Sobel is 'no longer able to perform the type of work (painting interior and exterior of industrial plants) which he did for a number of years.' On the other hand, the Referee found that the plaintiff 'has been and would be able to do many kinds of light work, including operating a spray paint gun, or supervising paint work, if it did not require excessive standing or any climbing.' The determinative issue in this case is whether this conclusion by the Department is proper in light of the purposes and requirements of the Act.
In this regard, it is important to remember that 'the definition of disability cannot be considered in vacuo. The definition relates to the individual claimant. 'The act is concerned not with a standard man of ordinary and customary abilities, but with the particular person who may claim its benefits and the effect of the impairment upon that person, with whatever abilities or inabilities he has.' Dunn v. Folsom, D.C.W.D.Ark.1958, 166 F.Supp. 44, 48.' Klimaszewski v. Flemming, supra (176 F.Supp. 931).
The Referee gave great weight to the fact that Mr. Sobel had applied in May of 1956 for employment as a paint sprayer. At the hearing Mr. Sobel indicated that he felt he could handle such work in May 1956. His testimony indicates however, that starting sometime thereafter his physical impairment increased. In regard to the ability of the plaintiff to hold down a position of a supervisory nature, it is undisputed that plaintiff's only painting experience has been in the area of 'industrial painting' which encompasses painting operations on factories, schools, hospitals and the like. It is also undisputed that the supervision of industrial painting requires the ability to climb in order to inspect the work properly. Concededly, the plaintiff can not do this.
In concluding that there are 'many light occupations' which Mr. Sobel could perform, the Referee made specific reference to plaintiff's testimony in which the latter had indicated his ability to do various light chores about the home. In this connection, the Court feels that the Referee exacted too severe a test from the plaintiff. While it is true that the plaintiff indicated that he occasionally used public transportation, fixed a light cord, or helped dry the dishes at home, a demonstration of this nature does not indicate that plaintiff is able to engage in 'any substantial gainful activity' within the contemplation of the Social Security Act. Further, the Referee apparently felt that plaintiff's ability to paint the baseboards of two rooms in his home in 1957 was significant. In this regard the Referee pointed out that Mr. Sobel 'worked slowly a couple of hours a day for about six days.' Totally omitted from the Referee's report however, was plaintiff's testimony that before the accident in 1953, he would have completed the same task in 'less than an hour.' (Record, page 56).
The ability of a claimant to engage in 'any substantial gainful activity' is not to be predicated upon an ability to do 'any' activity. A person need not be 'bedridden,' or at 'death's door' to meet the requirements of the Act. Aaron v. Fleming, D.C.M.D.Ala.1958, 168 F.Supp. 291, 295. The capabilities of the individual must be viewed in context with his own physical, educational and vocational background. Further, the ability of the individual to perform the simplest of tasks does not disqualify him from benefits under the Act. The capability of the individual in relationship with the industrial complex in which he lives must also be considered. As noted by Chief Judge Biggs:
'The statute must be given a reasonable interpretation. It is a remedial statute and must be construed liberally. It was not the intention of Congress to impose a test so severe as that required by the Secretary and to exact as a condition precedent to the maintenance of a claim the elimination of every possibility of gainful employment.' Klimaszewski v. Flemming, supra. (176 F.Supp. at page 932).
Upon a review of the entire record in this case, the Court concludes that the Department erred in finding that the plaintiff was not disabled within the contemplation of §§ 216(i) and 223 of the Social Security Act.
For the foregoing reasons, it is ordered that the defendant's motion for summary judgment be and the same is hereby denied.
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