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HALSTED v. SHALALA

February 15, 1994

ZENA HALSTED, Plaintiff,
v.
DONNA E. SHALALA, Defendant.


Cohill, Jr.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MAURICE B. COHILL, JR.

COHILL, D.J.

 This case is before us on appeal from a final decision by the defendant, Secretary of Health and Human Services (the "Secretary"), denying Plaintiff Zena Halsted's claim for Supplemental Security Income ("551") benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383(c). The parties have submitted cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we will grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and deny the defendant's motion. We find the plaintiff is disabled and remand to the Secretary for the purpose of awarding benefits.

 Ms. Halsted brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), which incorporates by reference 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Secretary's decision denying her claim for SSI.

 Ms. Halsted applied for 551 on April 3, 1991, with a protective filing date of January 31, 1991, alleging that she was disabled since December 28, 1990 because of carpal tunnel syndrome. Tr. 68-71. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 94-97, 121-123. On December 11, 1991, plaintiff requested a hearing (Tr. 124-125), and an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a de novo hearing on May 11, 1992. Tr. 35-66. On June 26, 1992, the ALJ rendered a decision adverse to Mr. Halsted. Tr. 12-25.

 Ms. Halsted then requested review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council on June 30, 1992. (Tr. 9-11.), which affirmed the ALJ's decision and found that the plaintiff was not disabled in a decision dated January 29, 1993. Tr. 5-6. The ALJ's determination ("ALJ Decision"), therefore, is the final decision of the Secretary and may be reviewed by this Court.

 II. FACTS

 Ms. Halsted was born on September 21, 1970 and was twenty-one years old at the time of the administrative hearing. She graduated from high school, attending special education classes. Tr. 42, 53. Her abilities in reading, spelling and arithmetic are at a fourth grade level. Tr. 204. Ms. Halsted has a daughter who was six months old at the time of the administrative hearing. Tr. 44. She was receiving food stamps and public assistance at that time. Tr. 43. She does not have a driver's license. Tr. 43.

 Ms. Halsted initially received outpatient treatment in 1975 when she was four years old for a developmental impairment and secondary emotional problems. Tr. 218. She received further outpatient counseling in 1977-78 for treatment of behavioral problems. Tr. 235-244.

 P1aintiff was hospitalized for two weeks in February 1989 for major depression. Tr. 169-183. The record indicates that she was sexually abused by her father between the ages of nine and seventeen. Tr. 174, 184-185. She recently reported her father's abuse to the authorities, and he was convicted and sent to prison. Tr. 174, 184-185. She was experiencing suicidal thoughts at this time. Tr. 184-185.

 Ms. Halsted received outpatient counseling from March until July 1989. Tr. 188, 245-251. A diagnosis of adjustment disorder with mixed emotional features was made in April 1989. Tr. 192.

 Her past work experience consists of completely unsuccessful stints as a custodial worker-dishwasher at a restaurant in 1989 and 1990 and as a dishwasher in another restaurant in early 1991, for a total of approximately eight months' work experience. Tr. 39. Ms. Halsted testified that she stopped working because she suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome. Tr. 39, 68. However, it is clear from her testimony (Tr. 37-51) and the record that her impairments are mainly intellectual and emotional.

 On June 15, 1991, Charles H. Steinmeyer, Ph.D., a psychologist, evaluated Ms. Halsted at the request of the Disability Determination Service. Tr. 199. He reported that Halsted may over-react in crisis situations. Tr. 201. Through testing, Halsted achieved a full-scale I.Q. and verbal score of 74, and a performance I.Q. score of 76. Tr. 204. Dr. Steinmeyer found no evidence of an acute psychiatric disorder but reported Halsted may be vulnerable to adjustment disorders during times of crisis. This was probably due to her borderline level of intellectual functioning. Tr. 205.

 Dr. Steinmeyer found Ms. Halsted was able to understand, retain and follow simple oral instructions. Tr. 205. She was totally unable to follow written instructions accurately. Tr. 205. Her ability to sustain attention to perform simple repetitive tasks was very limited. Tr 205. He reported that she appeared to have a short-term memory deficit. Tr. 202. She became confused under pressure and reacted to conflict by walking away and withdrawing. Tr. 198.

 Subsequent to the examination by Dr. Steinmeyer, John Topalanchick, a certified rehabilitation and vocational evaluation specialist, (Tr. 206-211) reported that Ronald Refice, Ph.D., found, after a review of Ms. Halsted's Social Security file which contained Dr. Steinmeyer's findings and the findings of several other medical examiners, that she met the ...


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