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CARROLL v. SECRETARY OF THE HHS OF THE UNITED STAT

January 20, 1995

MERTYLIN CARROLL, Plaintiff, against SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES OF THE UNITED STATES, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: EUGENE H. NICKERSON

 NICKERSON, District Judge:

 Plaintiff brought this pro se action to challenge the final decision of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (the "Secretary") denying her application for disability benefits under the Social Security Act (the "Act").

 Both parties move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).

 I

 Plaintiff, born on February 13, 1932, attended 12 years of school in Jamaica and is literate in English. She completed a nurse's aide training course in 1968 and worked as a nurse's aide from 1956 to 1975. She says that she has been disabled since August 18, 1975 due to an injury to her left knee.

 Plaintiff filed separate applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on March 26, 1990. In a decision dated February 7, 1991, an administrative law judge (an "ALJ") granted her request for supplemental security benefits as of March 26, 1990, but declined her request for disability benefits as of August 18, 1975. The Appeals Council (the "Council") denied plaintiff's request for review on November 29, 1991.

 Plaintiff also filed at least one action with the New York State Workmen's Compensation Board (the "Board"). In a decision filed on August 10, 1976, a panel of the Board found that plaintiff was not entitled to workmen's compensation benefits.

 On February 20, 1992 plaintiff sought review by this court of the denial of disability benefits. In early December 1992, the parties agreed by signed stipulation to remand this case to the Secretary, pursuant to Stieberger v. Sullivan, 792 F. Supp. 1376 (S.D.N.Y. 1992), for further proceedings. The court "so ordered" the stipulation on December 17, 1992. Thereafter, the Council remanded the case to an ALJ for de novo proceedings.

 The ALJ held a hearing on June 8, 1993. Because he found that plaintiff did not meet the disability insured status requirements of the Act after June 30, 1980, he restricted his inquiry to whether plaintiff was disabled on or before that date.

 He determined that the following documents were "the only medical evidence in the file subsequent to August 18, 1975 and prior to the date last insured":

 
1. Reports dated April 26, March 19, May 6, September 13, and December 1, 1976 from Dr. Stanley Soren.
 
2. A report dated June 14, 1976 from Dr. Patricia Harrow.
 
4. Reports dated September 10 and October 21, 1976 from Dr. Aubrey Griffith.

 The ALJ noted that having reviewed the record, a medical expert found "no evidence of any impairment for the period prior to June 1980." The ALJ also stated that although plaintiff testified that she was treated by Dr. Griffith from 1976 until 1986, she acknowledged that there was no record of that treatment subsequent to 1976. Finally, the ALJ observed that Dr. Griffith did not respond to a subpoena for production of his office records.

 The ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled on or before June 30, 1980. He made the following formal findings:

 
1. Plaintiff met the disability insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 1980.
 
2. The evidence does not establish that plaintiff has engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 1975.
 
3. Plaintiff has an injured left knee.
 
4. Plaintiff's allegations of pain and functional limitations prior to her date last insured appear exaggerated and are not credible given the paucity of ...

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