Plaintiff appeals from the decision of the Secretary denying her Social Security Disability benefits. The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment and there are no disputed issues of material fact. For the reasons stated below, we reverse.
Plaintiff is now 55 years old. She is a high school graduate and has worked as a retail sales clerk and a receiving clerk, most recently in 1975.
Plaintiff previously applied for disability benefits in 1975 but the claim was denied and plaintiff did not pursue administrative or judicial review. The present claim was made in July, 1984.
Plaintiff has suffered from asthma since childhood, and is prescribed prednisone to control it. Plaintiff also suffers from hypertension, glaucoma, diabetes and severe coronary artery disease which necessitated double by-pass surgery in October, 1983. Finally, plaintiff has experienced periodic ulcerous skin lesions on her legs, apparently due to the long term steroid treatment for asthma.
Plaintiff enjoyed insured status under the Act until December 31, 1980. Therefore, in order to be eligible for benefits, plaintiff must establish disability which began prior to December 31, 1980.
Although plaintiff suffered from asthma, hypertension, diabetes and glaucoma prior to December 31, 1980, all of these conditions appear to have been controlled by medication at that time. Plaintiff bases her claim principally on the recurrent ulcerous lesions which occurred prior to December 31, 1980.
In September, 1978 plaintiff was hospitalized for several ulcerous skin lesions on her legs. She was released after 2 weeks with instructions to elevate the leg. Subsequently, plaintiff fell, cutting her leg creating a new lesion which required hospitalization from 1/15/79 to 1/26/79 and a skin graft. Plaintiff's physician then followed her condition in office visits, indicating further problems in 1979, but proclaiming her fully healed in August, 1979. In November, 1979 plaintiff was again hospitalized for an ulceration on her left leg. This lesion was healed by late January, 1980. In July of that year plaintiff suffered another lesion which persisted until November, 1980.
Plaintiff's treating physician, Allen Merzi, M.D., describes this condition and its treatment in a report dated 1/17/85:
The patient suffers from 2 problems involving the skin of her lower extremities. The first is chronic steroid treatment which thins out the skin and causes it to be tissue like in structure which allows it to tear and ulcerate with the slightest excoriative contacts. She also has venous insufficiency which causes scarring and reduced vascularization to the skin which does not allow it to heal in a normal fashion. When Mrs. Riggle's legs become ulcerated we have required her to be off her feet for prolonged periods of time with feet elevation to help treat the venous insufficiency component of this problem.