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HALL v. SCHWEIKER

June 28, 1983

CHRISTINE HALL
v.
RICHARD S. SCHWEIKER, Secretary of Health and Human Services



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK

 BRODERICK, J.

 In this action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), which incorporates 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), claimant Christine Hall seeks review of the final decision of the defendant, Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary), denying her claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits under 42 U.S.C. § 1381a. This matter is before the Court on cross-motions of the parties for summary judgment.

 Claimant was born June 4, 1940 in South Carolina (T. 27). She is a high school graduate, and has work experience as a salesclerk and office worker (T. 29-30). Claimant alleges that she is disabled due to her involvement in three car accidents which occurred between 1968 and 1970, a gunshot wound to the right hand in 1974, and a thirty-five foot fall during the same year after which she remained in a coma for fifteen hours (T. 32-37). As a result of these accidents, Mrs. Hall alleges that she is unable to work due to injuries to her back, spine, right arm and leg, and head pain. Mrs. Hall testified at the hearing that she experiences pain while standing more than one-half hour, or sitting longer than one hour, becomes fatigued and suffers pain throughout the entire right side of her body if she walks further than three blocks (T. 43-45).

 Mrs. Hall's daily routine includes caring for her three teenage children, performing light housework, reading and viewing television (T. 39-40). Claimant occasionally attends social activities and is able to use public transportation when necessary (T. 29).

 The medical evidence in the record includes reports from four doctors. Exhibit 10 is a report from Dr. Frederick Solomon covering the period from December 13, 1974 to June 6, 1976. It shows treatment of claimant for a gunshot wound, tiredness, allergies and anxiety. Mrs. Hall's wound was redressed, and chlortrimeton, vitamins, and valium were prescribed. Exhibit 11 dated May 28, 1976 is a report of Dr. Jerry Ginsberg. It states that there was no weakness of grasp in her right hand, no limitation of motion when plaintiff was placed through a series of range of motion exercises, and that her lower back was tender to palpitation. The diagnosis was chronic low back syndrome and a fair prognosis was noted. Exhibit 12 dated August 24, 1976 is a report from Mark S. Kauffman, M.D. After listing plaintiff's complaints of pain in her neck, back, right leg, right shoulder and right side of head, Dr. Kauffman found Mrs. Hall to be in no acute distress, capable of a full range of motion of the cervical and lumbar spine, and of normal stance and gait. The neurological examination and straight leg raising tests were normal and her deep tendon reflexes, motion and sensory examinations were intact. No atrophy or weakness of the arms or legs was found. Despite patient's complaints concerning her hand, examination revealed no loss of any motion, no neurological deficit, atrophy, or sensory loss. Claimant was able to bend forward and touch her toes. No tenderness of the spine was noted. Dr. Kauffman stated that although his examination revealed no physical disability, the claimant was in need of psychiatric care. Exhibit 13 dated October 4, 1976 is a report of the psychiatric evaluation performed by Jack Kleiner, M.D. He diagnosed the plaintiff as having an hysterical personality, concluding that Mrs. Hall tends to dramatize herself and her symptoms. Additionally, the report stated that her emotional life was superficial and immature. Dr. Kleiner doubted but noted the possibility that Mrs. Hall's head pains represented a conversion phenomenon. Dr. Kleiner stated that the prognosis did not appear to be good in view of the long duration of symptoms and Mrs. Hall's immature personality. However, the psychiatrist opined that the claimant is able to manage her financial affairs.

 Any findings of fact by the Secretary must be accepted as conclusive by a reviewing court if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence has been defined to mean "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1971). Therefore, the only issue before the Court in this action is whether there was substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's finding that the plaintiff was not entitled to receive SSI disability benefits.

 The term "disabled individual" is defined in 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a) as:

 
(3)(A) An individual shall be considered to be disabled for purposes of this subchapter if he is unable 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 twelve months. . . .
 
(B) For purposes of subparagraph (A), an individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments 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 another kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, . . .
 
(C) For purposes of this paragraph, a physical or mental impairment is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.

 A claimant has the burden of establishing disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Hess v. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, 497 F.2d 837 (3d Cir. 1974). The claimant must carry the initial burden of demonstrating by medical evidence that she is unable to return to her former occupation. Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403, 406 (3d Cir. 1979). "Once she has made such a demonstration, the burden then shifts to the Secretary to show that the claimant, given her age, education and work experience, has the capacity to perform specific jobs that exist in the national economy." Rossi v. Califano, 602 F.2d 55, 57 (3d Cir. 1979). The two-pronged test for disability under the Social Security Act requires: (1) determination of the nature and extent of physical or ...


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