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Stokes v. Schweiker

decided: March 14, 1984.

ELLIS STOKES, APPELLANT,
v.
RICHARD SCHWEIKER, SECRETARY OF U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, APPELLEE



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Hunter and Weis, Circuit Judges, and Gerry, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Weis

Opinion OF THE COURT

WEIS, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiff was denied disability benefits on the basis that he could perform unskilled labor despite his mental illness. The Secretary later issued a departmental circular requiring that a more detailed assessment of a claimant's residual functional capacity be made in cases of mental disability. We will remand for reconsideration with particular attention to the admonitions in the circular.

The plaintiff's request for benefits under both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income was denied by an ALJ after a hearing. The Appeals Council denied review, and the district court entered summary judgment for the Secretary.

Plaintiff is a twenty-two year old, single male, who completed the ninth grade in high school. Two efforts at the tenth grade were unsuccessful. There is a report of alcohol and marijuana abuse beginning at age 14.

According to the medical history, plaintiff began to have hallucinations in 1978. In January 1979, he became acutely psychotic and attempted to strangle his mother when he heard voices saying that she was trying to poison him. He was hospitalized and two months later discharged with a diagnosis of acute schizophrenic episode.

Thereafter, plaintiff was treated on an outpatient basis and continued on medication. In October 1979, his attending physician, Dr. Emanuel Chat, diagnosed the plaintiff's condition as schizophrenia, catatonic type. Dr. Chat reported in November 1979 that the plaintiff had delusions of persecution and recurrent auditory hallucinations. The doctor prescribed a number of drugs and noted that the patient would require treatment for an extended period.

At about the same time, plaintiff was examined at the Secretary's request by Dr. Walter Dalsimer. His diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia in partial remission. In 1980, Dr. Dalsimer again examined the claimant and made the same diagnosis.

Dr. Chat continued the plaintiff's outpatient treatment, and on February 20, 1981 reported "no change." A clinic report of September 1981 stated that plaintiff's self-image, judgment and insight, as well as his prognosis, were all poor.

The plaintiff's work history after his hospitalization in 1979 was not impressive. Apparently he worked as a dishwasher in 1980 for a period not in excess of two months. According to his mother, with whom he continued to live, plaintiff also had ten or twelve other jobs for very short periods, in some instances for only one day. She believed that he was unaware of the need to be on time for work and had difficulty following directions on the job.

The ALJ concluded that the record did not establish that the plaintiff's mental impairment was severe enough to preclude work as a dishwasher. Although plaintiff was impaired by schizophrenia, he had the "residual functional capacity to perform work-related functions" except employment "involving high stress and significant interpersonal relations." The plaintiff's "past relevant work as a dishwasher" did not come within those exceptions, and therefore he was not entitled to benefits.

The record in this case is characterized by vagueness. None of the physicians who examined or treated plaintiff expressed any opinion about his ability to work. None of the plaintiff's employers submitted any reports or commented on the plaintiff's performance, or lack of it, in the workplace. The only evidence in the record on his ability to work is the testimony of his mother who ...


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