The opinion of the court was delivered by: Curtin, District Judge.
Plaintiff William Golden brought this action under the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) ("Act"), challenging the
final determination of the Secretary of Health and Human Services
that he was disabled under the Act as of November, 1985. The
plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Act on
March 31, 1982. Currently pending before the court are the
Secretary's motion for judgment on the pleadings and the
plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff claims that he became disabled as of November, 1980,
due to the combination of back problems and severe Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder ("PTSD") resulting from his service in Vietnam.
He filed two previous applications for disability and
supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits on December 3,
1982, and February 16, 1984. Both applications were rejected
without appeal to this court. The current application was filed
on April 23, 1987. Its initial rejection was reviewed at a
hearing held on September 19, 1988. The Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") reopened the application of February 16, 1984, and found
that plaintiff was under a disability commencing in November,
1985, due to the combination of exertional limits related to his
back problems and nonexertional limits related to his PTSD.
Accordingly, the ALJ declared plaintiff eligible for SSI benefits
as of April 23, 1987, the date of his last application. He also
found plaintiff ineligible for disability benefits because his
disability began after March 31, 1982, the date of his last
insured status (T. at 21-32).
Mr. Golden has intrusive recollections of combat
whenever he is faced with a stressful situation. . .
. [F]or a few seconds at a time (but repeatedly
during the same episode of stress) he does think he
is in Viet Nam. . . . He has nightmares of Viet Nam
twice a week. . . . He feels he doesn't belong here,
he should be back with his unit, which was wiped out
a few weeks after he left Viet Nam. . . . Without
medication he sleeps 2-3 hours. . . . His prognosis
is for no or little improvement. He is not
In a Social Security Administration medical report dated June
20, 1988, Dr. Szymanski stated that plaintiff suffered from PTSD
since leaving Vietnam. His symptoms included hypervigilance,
social withdrawal, irritability, and an inability to carry out
goal-directed activities (T. at 318). He "has no friends, no
activities except gardening." (T. at 322.) "He is subject to
intense depression, lack of energy, inability to sleep. Social
situations cause irritability, so he avoids them." (T. at 323.)
Dr. Szymanski reviewed the plaintiff's medical history and
treated him over a sustained period of time. In a letter dated
September 12, 1988, he gave his opinion that the plaintiff had
been totally disabled since November, 1980, due to his PTSD (T.
at 324). He wrote in a progress report dated August 12, 1988,
that plaintiff's experiences in Vietnam were
almost the maximally stressfull [sic] imaginable. . .
. Mr. Golden is a classic case of severe PTSD with
severe job impairment. He is irritable, he is
continually driven by memories of Viet Nam; it is
difficult at times to keep this severely ill
individual from killing himself in some indirect way
(e.g. last year, by making a bomb in his home,
resulting in severe burns to his fingers). My
treatment goal at this point with Mr. Golden is to
keep him alive, keep him from hurting someone, and
keep him growing his house plants. At this point, and
for the entire future (unless a miracle drug is
invented), that's all that can be accomplished.
Dr. Szymanski's opinion is supported by Barbara Wolfrum, a
social worker who has known the plaintiff since 1981. She was his
case coordinator when he was an impatient in 1981 at the Veterans
Administration Alcohol Rehabilitation Unit. She was his social
worker on psychiatric units in 1986 and 1987, and has spoken with
him occasionally between 1981 and 1986. She states that he has
exhibited severe symptoms of PTSD since 1981. In 1981 he was
"hyperalert, sensitive, suspicious of authority and he only felt
comfortable in the Viet Nam Veterans' Psychotherapy Group. . . ."
(T. at 345.) In her judgment, he could not have held a job at
that time due to his difficulty relating to people, general
emotional distress, physical discomfort, and the requirement of
outpatient treatment (T. at 345, 346). Ms. Wolfrum stated that
the indication in the file during plaintiff's hospitalization in
1981 (T. at 347, 424) that plaintiff was employable could not be
corrected because plaintiff was not medically stabilized and did
not complete the program (T. at 345, 346).
Sharon McGrath, R.N., director of C.O.P.I.N. House, a halfway
home for veterans, reported that she has known the plaintiff
since 1983. He was a resident at C.O.P.I.N. House for three
months in 1985 and 1986 (T. at 315). Ms. McGrath states that the
plaintiff has experienced "numerous periods of decompensation and
suicidal ideation and major depression." (T. at 312.) In a report
dated May 5, 1987, she states that since she has known him, the
plaintiff has not been able to function in a work setting due to
fits of anger and inability to complete tasks (T. at 243).
Plaintiff has not worked since November of 1980. Before that he
worked for approximately five years as an electrician, moving
from job to job before quitting due to back pain. Previously, he
has worked as a counselor, laborer, and mechanic in Buffalo and
Johnstown, Pennsylvania (T. at 75-81).
Upon his initial return from Vietnam, plaintiff began a course
of study in sociology and psychology at Buffalo State College. He
continued in school for about three years without finishing a
degree (T. at 72-73). While in school, he worked as a counselor
at Erie Community College. That job ended when he and his wife
were shot by his supervisor (T. at 73). In the period prior to
the shooting, he had become "more and more aware of his violent
tendencies and begun to stockpile weapons at home and was armed
most of the time." (Narrative report prepared by a Veterans
Administration social worker during plaintiff's psychiatric
hospitalization in 1985, T. at 220.) After the shooting, his
troubles increased. His wife and son left him, and he began to
have troubles with the police. He had difficulty sleeping and
eating and felt threatened by everyone (T. at 220). Plaintiff
testified that he has been arrested over twelve times since 1968
and that he served a three-day jail sentence for menacing in 1987
(T. at 81, 94).
The medical record is extensive. Plaintiff was treated at the
Veterans Administration Hospital ("VAMC") at Buffalo in October
and November of 1972. He was observed for passive-aggressive
personality. He was described as tense, anxious, and angry but
was given no medication for his psychiatric complaints. The staff
felt that he was no danger to himself or others and referred him
to Monsignor Carr Institute for follow-up psychological
treatment. (Monsignor Carr Institute records have been lost.) The
plaintiff's prognosis was guarded, but he was considered
employable (T. at 194).
A termination summary from Buffalo General Hospital Community
Mental Health Center indicates that plaintiff was seen on July
13, 1974, with complaints of head pain. He was diagnosed as
having an adjustment reaction to adult life, but ...