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BARATS v. WEINBERGER

October 18, 1974

THELMA L. BARATS
v.
CASPAR WEINBERGER, SECRETARY OF HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WELFARE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BECKER

 BECKER, J.

 I. Preliminary Statement

 This is an action under § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g), to review a final decision of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (the Secretary). The Secretary's decision held that, due to an improvement in plaintiff's medical condition in May 1970 ending a previously compensable period of total disability, plaintiff was only entitled to payment of disability benefits from March 1968 until July 1970, and not thereafter. *fn1" This determination by the Administrative Law Judge, rendered on July 25, 1972, became the final decision of the Secretary when affirmed by the Appeals Council on April 2, 1973. The matter is before us on cross motions of the parties for summary judgment.

 The plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and for disability insurance benefits on January 25, 1971, alleging that she became unable to work in March 1968, at age 42, due to a back injury. In 1966, while working for R.D. Can Company in Philadelphia, plaintiff had slipped and fallen on icy ground during performance of her duties in loading a trailer. Due to the ensuing injuries, she was not able to return to her job in the can factory although she was able, in the fall of 1967, to take a part time job as a receptionist. After a short time at this job plaintiff experienced frequent back pain and poor circulation in her legs. These symptoms grew progressively worse so that by March 1968 she had almost no feeling in her legs and had to stop working. In the fall of 1968 this disability was apparently under control, and Mrs. Barats was ready to try returning to work, when she was involved in an auto accident and re-injured her back. She continued having trouble with her back and on November 6, 1969, surgery was performed during which two discs were removed and a spinal fusion was done. *fn2" The Secretary determined that the plaintiff was totally disabled in March 1968 and remained so until May 1970. Benefits for this period are not at issue herein. However, the plaintiff contends that she did not recover sufficiently to be able to engage in substantial gainful activity by May 12, 1970, as was determined by the Secretary.

 In reviewing the Secretary's decision, the court's role is narrowly circumscribed. The sole question is whether there was substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the finding of the Secretary that the claimant was not entitled to receive disability insurance benefits after July 1970. "Substantial evidence" has been defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842, 91 S. Ct. 1420 (1971); Ginsburg v. Richardson, 436 F.2d 1146, 1148 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 402 U.S. 976, 29 L. Ed. 2d 142, 91 S. Ct. 1680 (1971). A careful review of the record and briefs leads us to conclude that, due to the inadequacy of the record before the Administrative Law Judge, the Secretary's determination was not based on substantial evidence; therefore, the case will be remanded for further hearing.

 II. Applicable Statutory Definitions

 To qualify for disability insurance benefits and for a period of disability under sections 223 and 216(i) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 423 and 416(i), an individual must meet the insured status requirements of these sections, be under age 65, file an application for disability insurance benefits and for a period of disability, and be under a "disability" as defined in the Act.

 
(d)(1) . . .
 
(A) inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months; . . .
 
(B) . . ..
 
(2) For purposes of paragraph (1)(A) --
 
(A) an individual . . . shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work. For purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any individual), "work which exists in the national economy" means work which exists in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.
 
(B) . . ..
 
(3) For purposes of this subsection, a "physical or mental impairment" is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically ...

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