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MARTELL v. HECKLER

August 11, 1983

Gertrude MARTELL
v.
Margaret HECKLER, Secretary of Health and Human Services



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINER

 WEINER, District Judge.

 Mrs. Martell worked for A & P Markets for over twenty years. On July 30, 1980 she was admitted to Abington Hospital as the result of a mental breakdown which she believed was caused by pressures exerted on her at work. While in the hospital she was treated for a major depressive disorder with daily psychotherapy and medication. (Tr. 86 and 91). She was released on August 19, 1980 and continued in the care of Dr. Donner, the psychiatrist who originally treated her in Abington Hospital. This treatment was continuing at least up until December 17, 1980, the date on which Dr. Donner submitted an evaluation to the Disability Determination Division describing Martell's condition and listing her prognosis as "guarded." (Tr. 95). The Disability Determination Division also received an evaluation from Martell's family physician, Dr. Pathroff, who last saw her on November 16, 1980. Dr. Pathroff listed Martell's psychological problems and gave her prognosis as "good." (Tr. 98). Martell also suffered from a cancerous condition (lichen sclerosis atrophicus) which was, according to the plaintiff, "dormant" at the time of the hearing before the ALJ on September 9, 1981. (Tr. 29). Martell, however, based her claim of disability on her psychological problems, not her physical ones.

 In May, 1981 Martell returned to work with her former employer as a meat wrapper, a position she thought would be less stressful than her previous position as a meat cutter. (Tr. 35). She intended to continue working so that she would become eligible for her pension. (Tr. 39). As of the time of her hearing before the ALJ in September, 1981 she was still working.

 The Appeals Council, in denying a period of disability to Martell, found that she returned to substantial gainful activity in May, 1981 and thus did not meet the 12 month durational requirement set out in 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). *fn1" (Tr. 13).

 The scope of review by this court is a narrow one. Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) provides that the findings of the Secretary as to any fact shall be conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 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, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S. Ct. 206, 216, 83 L. Ed. 126 (1938)); Smith v. Califano, 637 F.2d 968, 970 (3d Cir.1981). Accordingly, the sole purpose of this court's review is limited to determining whether, upon consideration of the record as a whole, there is substantial evidence to support the Secretary's findings of fact. Goldman v. Folsom, 246 F.2d 776, 778 (3d Cir.1957). However, while the reviewing court may not try the case de novo, it is similarly prohibited from abdicating its "conventional judicial function" of assuring that administrative conclusions are rational. Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 490, 71 S. Ct. 456, 465, 95 L. Ed. 456 (1951); Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 705 (3d Cir.1981); Smith v. Califano, 637 F.2d 968 (3d Cir.1981).

 There appears to be little dispute as to whether or not Martell was engaged in substantial gainful activity in the twelfth month of her alleged disability. What the Appeals Council makes no finding on and the question raised by the plaintiff is whether that activity was a "period of trial work." *fn2" In its "Evaluation of the Evidence" the Appeals Council does conclude that "there is nothing in the record that would suggest that the claimant's inability to work was expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months." This was supported by substantial evidence. It would appear that sub silentio the Appeals Council determined that the plaintiff was not entitled to a trial work period because she was not entitled to disability benefits. Therefore, on the basis of their ...


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