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GLOVER v. HECKLER

June 4, 1984

JESSE GLOVER, Plaintiff, against MARGARET M. HECKLER, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KNAPP

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

WHITMAN KNAPP, D.J.

 Plaintiff and defendant cross move for judgment on the pleadings in this action brought under §§ 1631(c)(3) and 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) and 405(g) (the "Act"), to review a final determination of the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (the "Secretary") terminating plaintiff's Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. For the reasons which follow we grant plaintiff's motion and deny defendant's, thus reversing the Secretary's decision.

 BACKGROUND

 In September 1979 plaintiff was found to be disabled due to osteoarthritis and glaucoma and received SSI benefits for his disability starting September 31 [sic] 1979 (Transcript ("Tr.") 11). On review the Secretary determined that such disability ended as of July 1982 and terminated plaintiff's benefits effective September 30, 1982 (Tr. 36). Plaintiff requested a hearing which was held on September 13, 1982 (Tr. 15-34). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Irwin Bernstein, before whom plaintiff appeared, considered the case de novo and on December 30, 1982 found that plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 9-13). The decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Secretary when it was approved by the Appeals Council on March 18, 1983 (Tr. 3-4).

 Plaintiff, a 62 year old woman, was raised on a farm in Alabama and attended school through the fourth grade. She married at age fourteen and had four children. In 1958 when she and her husband separated she secured her first and only job. From 1958 through 1969 plaintiff worked five days a week as a "shaker" in a laundry. She described her job as:

 [a] shaker's like I pull out very wet clothes and pull them and put them on a table and we need 2 girls, shake them out and then they take them to the iron for to press them.

 (Tr. 21). The uncontradicted evidence established that this work required plaintiff to stand all day, for nine hours, to bend constantly, and to lift wet clothes weighing about 15 pounds (Tr. 21, 41). She stopped working in 1969 because, as she testified, she developed arthritis, swollen ankles, and calluses on the bottoms of her feet (Tr. 22, 91). Plaintiff never worked again.

 At the hearing before the ALJ three reports from consulting physicians were presented. Although the physicians differed in their characterization of the severity of plaintiff's condition, their objective findings were uniform: plaintiff has degenerative arthritis and cannot stand or walk for prolonged periods, bend frequently, or lift more than twenty pounds. Dr. Herbert Cohen, while characterizing plaintiff's arthritis as "mild," stated that plaintiff's full capacity in an eight hour work day was to "sit for about a half hour; rest and repeat this in an 8 hour working day." (Tr. 75). Moreover, plaintiff could walk "about 3 to 4 blocks," and her bending, stooping and kneeling were "mildly restricted." (Tr. 75).

 Dr. Peter Strassberg in his report noted "a decreased range of motion in the dorsal spine secondary to pain" as well as a "decreased range of motion of both knees and both ankles secondary to pain," (Tr. 100). He found full range of motion of all other joints. In a residual functional capacity evaluation Dr. Strassberg found that plaintiff could sit for up to eight hours, could stand for 2 hours, walk for two hours, and bend occasionally. (Tr. 103).

 Dr. M. Srinivassan reported that flexing of plaintiff's lumbosacral spine was limited to ninety degrees, extension to twenty-five degrees and side bending to twenty degrees (Tr. 83). He noted that plaintiff was "suffering from early degenerative osteoarthritis of both knee joints, slightly more marked in the left knee." (Tr. 83). An x-ray report attached to his findings described a narrowing of both knee joints approachig 50% and bone spurs on the patallae and tibiae. Dr. Srinivassan stated that plaintiff's capacity was to walk 3/4 of a mile, sit two hours, stand one hour, and lift up to twenty pounds (Tr. 83).

 The record also includes several reports from Metropolitan Hospital's Orthopedic Clinic where plaintiff was examined every three months from February 1981 to May 1982. The first of these reports stated:

 DJA [degenerative joint disease] of both knees X-Rays reveal marked arthritis of the pattelofemoral joints [the joint between patella (the knee cap) and the femur (the thigh bone)].

 (Tr. 70). A radiologist's report noted degenerative changes in the form of osteophtes (bone spurs) projecting from the surfaces of the bones ...


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