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ALMONTE v. CALIFANO

March 31, 1980

JUAN ALMONTE, Plaintiff, against JOSEPH A. CALIFANO, JR., Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUFFY

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff, Juan F. Almonte, is a 46 year old native of the Dominican Republic. Since his arrival in the United States in 1955, he has worked continuously through June, 1977 as a dishwasher and as a maintenance man in a multiple dwelling. Plaintiff presently resides with his wife and five children in the Bronx.

Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on October 14, 1977. The application recites that plaintiff became unable to work as of June 30, 1977, due to heart disease. This application was denied originally and again upon reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested, and received, a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge of the Bureau of Hearing and Appeals. Plaintiff appeared without counsel. He did, however, require the services of an interpreter since he speaks only Spanish.

 On July 12, 1978, the Administrative Law Judge found plaintiff not to be under a disability and therefore not entitled to the benefits claimed. That became the final decision of the Secretary when the Appeals Council declined to review the decision on October 20, 1978. Thereafter, plaintiff commenced the instant suit seeking review of the Secretary's final determination.

 The Secretary has now moved, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), for judgment on the pleadings. Plaintiff has cross-moved for the same relief.

 The Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382c provides in pertinent part:

 
(a) (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 any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work. For purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any individual), "work which exists in the national economy" means work which exists in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.
 
(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.

 Under this statutory framework, proving the existence of one or more impairments does not, without more, establish disability within the meaning of the Act. Rather, these impairments must be of such severity to preclude gainful employment.

 In order to affirm the Secretary's determination that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act, that decision must be supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383. Stated differently, there must be sufficient relevant evidence in the record that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the decision. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1971).

 Within these guidelines, the assessment of a possible disability requires consideration of a number of factors. These include: the objective medical facts; diagnosis or medical opinion based upon such facts; subjective evidence of pain or disability testified to by the claimant or others; and, the claimant's educational background, age, and work experience. Bastien v. Califano, 572 F.2d 908 (2d Cir. 1978); Gold v. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, 463 F.2d 38 (2d Cir. 1972).

 The relevant medical evidence which was before the Administrative Law Judge consisted of the following.

 In June of 1976, plaintiff was first treated for chest pains and palpitations at Jewish Memorial Hospital as an outpatient. On June 16, 1977, he was admitted to Jewish Memorial for observation after experiencing a ...


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