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PADILLA v. HECKLER

September 9, 1986

DELMA PADILLA, Plaintiff,
v.
MARGARET M. HECKLER, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEISURE

LEISURE, District Judge :

This action is brought under sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). Plaintiff Delma Padilla ("Padilla" or "claimant") seeks a review of a final determination by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the "Secretary"), denying claimant's application Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits based on disability. The parties have cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c).

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 On March 7, 1984, Padilla filed for SSI benefits, claiming disability since April 23, 1982, due to hypertension, vaginal problems and a colostomy. See Transcript of Administrative Proceeding ("R.") 35, 58. Her application was denied initially, R. 47, and again upon reconsideration. R, 53. She was then granted a hearing before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Roy P. Liberman ("Liberman") that was held on March 12, 1985. Following that hearing, ALJ Liberman rendered a decision in which he found claimant ineligible for SSI benefits. See R. 12.

 Padilla is 41 years old and communicates mostly in Spanish. She is a high school graduate, with 3 years of nursing school in Puerto Rico, where she worked as a nurse until 1969. In her most recent employment, she performed home care for an elderly woman from 1977 to 1979. Padilla's duties in that job included bathing the woman, lifting her out of bed, pushing her around in a wheelchair, helping her to use the bathroom, and providing her meals. See R. 9, 19-25.

 At the hearing before the ALJ, claimant testified that she stopped working in 1979 because she hurt her back while lifting the woman she was caring for. See R. 22. As previously noted, she alleged disability since April 1982, due to hypertension, vaginal problems and a colostomy. She also claimed to be suffering from constant diarrhea, abdominal and chest pains, dizziness, and asthma. See R. 25-26. Padilla testified that she suffers from nerves, "sees things moving around the house," and hears voices which predict the future. R. 31. In addition, she testified that she currently requires the assistance a home care nurse, who is provided by welfare. See R. 29.

 Between May and August 1982, Padilla was hospitalized at St. Luke's Hospital. At the hospital, she was treated for carcinoma of the cervix and a rectal fistula, and underwent a small bowel resection, an ileostomy and a hysterectomy. See R. 10.

 In April 1984, claimant was examined by Dr. Edmond B. Balinberg. Dr. Balinberg found the claimant to have hypertension, no respiratory distress and a regular heartbeat with a slight murmer. He indicated that claimant's abdominal pain was of an unclear etiology. See R. 96-97.

 In September 1984, another physician, Dr. Gerald Leventhal, noted that claimant had a systolic murmer, a well-healed scar from a colostomy, and a distended abdomen. See R. 109-10. Dr. Leventhal also performed chest X-rays, an EKG and a pulmonary function test; these tests did not disclose any abnormality, except for "a mild, chronic obstructive pattern compatible with [the claimant's] chronic smoking." R. 110.

 Padilla was hospitalized in December 1984 for chest pains. She underwent cardiac catheterization, which demonstrated normal coronary arteries. See R. 157-58. The hospital's report noted that there is "no cardiac basis for this woman's symptoms." R. 158.

 In a note dated January 18, 1985, Padilla's treating physician, Dr. Jaime J. Portalatin, stated that he treats claimant for bronchial asthma, angina and gastroenteritis. See R. 124. Dr. Portalatin provided no clinical findings or treatment information.

 In his written decision denying claimant's application for benefits, the ALJ found that the claimant's testimony was not credible and that claimant's "subjective complaints" should accordingly be given "little weight." R. 11. In this regard, the ALJ noted the claimant's insincere demeanour, inconsistent statements as to medical history and false testimony regarding her smoking. See R. 11. The ALJ also pointed out that during her hearing, the claimant did not appear to be in pain. See R. 10. Ultimately, the ALJ found that the claimant was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Act, and had "no limitation on her ability to engage in any function of her past relevant work providing home care for an elderly woman." R. 11.

 DISCUSSION

 A claimant seeking SSI benefits is considered disabled under the Act if the claimant is unable "to engage in any substantial 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. ยง 423 (d)(1)(A). In assessing a claim of disability, the Secretary must consider objective and subjective factors, including: (1) objective medical facts; (2) diagnoses or medical opinions based on such facts; (3) subjective evidence of pain and disability testified to by the claimant or others and (4) the claimant's educational background, age and work experience. Parker v. Harris, 626 F.2d 225, 231 (2d Cir. 1980). The Secretary ...


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