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TROUPE v. HECKLER

September 12, 1985

OSCAR TROUPE, Plaintiff, against MARGARET M. HECKLER, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Defendant


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONNER

CONNER, D. J.

Plaintiff Oscar Troupe ("Troupe" or "the Claimant") brought this action under Sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3) (1982), seeking review of a final determination of the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("the Secretary") that plaintiff is not disabled as defined by the Act, and therefore is not entitled to disability insurance or Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits.

The Secretary has moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("F.R.Civ.P."). I have reviewed the exhibits and testimony received by the Secretary, and I have concluded, for the reasons stated below, that the Secretary's determination is not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Secretary's motion is denied, the Secretary's decision denying plaintiff disability insurance and SSI benefits is reversed, and the case is remanded to the Secretary for a computation of benefits.

 Background

 Plaintiff is a 39-year-old man with an eighth-grade education (Tr. at 43). *fn1" He has worked as a machine operator, a construction worker, and a moving man (Tr. at 43-46). Plaintiff stopped working in 1973 when he injured his back while lifting a piano (Tr. at 63).

 Following the injury to his back, plaintiff escalated his use of drugs, which he had begun three years earlier (Tr. at 125), in order to relieve his leg and back pains (Tr. at 47). In October 1975, plaintiff entered Beth Israel Hospital for detoxification (Tr. at 126), and shortly thereafter he enrolled in a methadone treatment program at the Beth Israel Medical Center (Tr. at 148). When plaintiff's drug use ceased during his hospitalization, his leg and back pains increased (Tr. at 64), and he began receiving treatment for his injury. Plaintiff's condition has been variously described as "herniated disk" (Tr. at 159-60, 173-74), "L5, S1 radiculopathy" (Tr. at 176-77, 179), and "herniated nucleus pulposus" (Tr. at 186).

 On January 4, 1978, plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance and SSI benefits (Tr. at 84-87). Plaintiff's application was denied initially (Tr. at 88-89) and on reconsideration (Tr. at 93-94).

 Plaintiff requested a de novo hearing of his application, and such a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Howard Lawrence who concluded in a decision issued on November 7, 1979, that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act (Tr. at 24-30). The Appeals Council declined to review that decision (Tr. at 22).

 On April 14, 1980, plaintiff commenced an action in this Court for review of the administrative proceedings. The Social Security Administration was unable to provide a transcript of the proceedings below, and, accordingly, by Order dated March 13, 1981, I remanded the case to the Secretary for a new hearing (Tr. at 21).

 ALJ Lawrence conducted another hearing, and this time concluded that plaintiff was disabled from October 1, 1975 through July 30, 1980, and was entitled to disability benefits for the period commencing October 1, 1975 and ending September 30, 1980, and to SSI benefits for the period commencing January 4, 1978 *fn2" and ending September 30, 1980 (Tr. at 14-15). However, the Appeals Council, in a decision issued January 29, 1982, rejected the ALJ's conclusion that the plaintiff had been disabled for a limited period of time, and held that the plaintiff had not been disabled at any time through the date of its decision (Tr. at 168-70).

 Plaintiff again sought review in this Court. Both parties moved for judgment on the pleadings, and, in an Opinion and Order issued July 9, 1982, I again remanded the action to the Secretary for further proceedings, including the consideration of additional medical evidence.

 On remand, the Appeals Council affirmed its earlier decision (Tr. at 165-66A), which accordingly became the final decision of the Secretary. Plaintiff has once again sought review of the Secretary's decision. As noted above, the Secretary has now moved for judgment on the pleadings.

 Applicable Legal Standards and Scope of Review

 The legal principles that govern the Court's decision on the instant motion are well settled. A claimant is entitled to disability benefits under the Act 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 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) (1982). The mere presence of an ...


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