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SANTIAGO v. SCHWEIKER

September 21, 1982

RAFAEL SANTIAGO, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD S. SCHWEIKER, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Defendant


Haight, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HAIGHT

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HAIGHT, District Judge:

 This is an action under Sections 1631(c)(3) and 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c)(3) and 405(g), to review the decision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("the Secretary") denying claimant, Rafael Santiago, Supplemental Security Income for disability. Both parties have moved pursuant to Rule 12(c), F.R.Civ.P., for summary judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons set forth below, the case is remanded to the Secretary for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

 I.

 A. Factual Background

 Claimant Rafael Santiago was born in 1919 in Puerto Rico, where he attended four years of school. He does not speak English. Santiago held several jobs as a house and building painter before coming to New York in about 1967. At that time, he became employed by the Sherman Pressure Castings Corporation, where his work consisted of welding metal pieces to make parts for guns and bombs. (Tr. 50). *fn1" Claimant has not been employed since he stopped working for Sherman in 1972 or 1973. (Tr. 26, 49).

 From September to November of 1974, claimant was hospitalized for gastrointestinal pain and bleeding diagnosed as gastric ulcer. (Tr. 64-69). As a result of his ulcer, Santiago was hospitalized again in July and August of 1977, when he underwent an operation in which a portion of his stomach was removed. (Tr. 78).

 Early in 1977, claimant came under the care of Dr. N. M. Tejaratchi, who saw claimant "once or twice a month," throughout the period in question, to administer treatment for ulcer, arthritis and inguinal hernia. (Tr. 84). The record contains two sets of medical reports completed by Dr. Tejaratchi in June and September of 1979. (Tr. 78-81, 84-87). These reports list Santiago's symptoms as chronic gastric pain and bleeding, chronic joint pain ("arthralgia"), low back pain and limitation of spine motion, and tremor of the hands. (Tr. 78, 84). Dr. Tejaratchi found claimant unable to perform any grasping, pushing, pulling, or fine manipulations of the hands, and able to sit or stand for a maximum of two hours. (Tr. 79, 80, 87). He reported in addition that Santiago suffered from "anxiety neurosis" and recommended that he undergo a psychiatric examination. Dr. Tejaratchi's most recent medical evaluation on record is a letter dated July 8, 1980, which states that claimant "has been suffering from peptic ulcer, chronic arthritis, chronic bronchitis and anxiety neurosis. [He] is presently disabled." (Tr. 93, 94).

 Pursuant to Dr. Tejaratchi's recommendations, claimant consulted a psychiatrist, Dr. J. M. Herrera, in July of 1979. In a letter to the Bureau of Disability Determinations (Tr. 82-3), Dr. Herrera reported that Santiago evidenced no "abnormal pathology"; he did, however, diagnose Santiago as suffering from "alcohol addiction" and "inadequate personality." Dr. Herrera's letter stated in addition that Santiago "takes complete care of his personal needs and partial care of his living quarters. He listens to the radio, music, watches television, goes shopping, for walks, to the park, socializes and visits his doctor. His present life style is inconsistent with his allegations."

 B. Procedural History

 Claimant first applied for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits on May 23, 1979, alleging that he was unable to work because of constant and extreme shakiness of the hands, pain from ulcers and in the joints of the arms and legs from arthritis, and frequent dizziness, blackouts and weakness. (Tr. 41). SSI benefits were denied, as was claimant's subsequent application for reconsideration. Santiago requested a hearing, which was granted and held on May 30, 1980 before an Administrative Law Judge of the Secretary's Bureau of Hearings and Appeals.

 Claimant appeared pro se at his hearing, which was seventeen minutes long, including the time for translation of the ALJ's questions into Spanish and of the claimant's answers into English. Santiago himself was the only witness. The hearing transcript contains approximately two pages of questions and testimony regarding claimant's alleged disabling symptoms. In response to the ALJ's examination, Santiago testified that he couldn't work because of his ulcer and hernia operations, that he was "almost crazy from the pain," and that he had to lie down almost all the time.

 About a month later, on July 7, 1980, the ALJ issued his decision that claimant was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act, Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-85. Although the ALJ's opinion did not mention the reports of claimant's treating physician, Dr. Tejaratchi, the ALJ did place considerable emphasis on the report of Dr. Herrera, the psychiatrist, who examined claimant only once. In particular, the ALJ relied on Dr. Herrera's statements to the effect that "claimant's lifestyle is inconsistent with his allegations and that he can take care of all his personal needs." (Tr. 13). On the basis of this evidence, the ALJ concluded that, "in view of the lack of any recent medical evidence to the contrary . . . the claimant does not have any impairment or impairments which significantly limit the ability to perform basic work-related functions." (Tr. 13).

 Claimant subsequently filed a request that the ALJ's decision be reviewed by the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration. He submitted as supplemental evidence the July 8, 1980 letter from Dr. Tejaratchi, quoted above, describing him as "presently disabled." On August 25, 1980, the Appeals Council denied review of Santiago's ...


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