The opinion of the court was delivered by: Heckman, United States Magistrate Judge.
In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the
parties have consented to have the undersigned conduct any and
all further proceedings in the above captioned matter (Item 24).
Plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) in
order to challenge the determination of the Social Security
Appeals Council. Both plaintiff and defendant move for judgment
on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure (Items 12, 15, 18). Defendant also moves to amend
the prior motion for judgment on the pleadings, seeking to remand
the proceedings to the Commissioner of Social Security for
further administrative proceedings pursuant to the sixth sentence
of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (Item 21).
Plaintiff is a 45 year old Hispanic male who spent most of his
life in Puerto Rico. While the record is unclear as to the amount
of school plaintiff actually completed, it is clear that
plaintiff did not complete a basic elementary education.*fn1 In
Puerto Rico, plaintiff was employed as a farm laborer, cutting
sugar cane and picking tobacco (R. at 178, 195). Plaintiff has
not held a job since leaving Puerto Rico. He does not drive, and
is unable to take the bus by himself. Plaintiff speaks Spanish,
and his English speaking abilities are limited to a small number
Plaintiff alleges that he is disabled due to chronic back
problems, recurring migraine headaches, alcoholism, and a nervous
disorder (R. at 174, 191). In further support of his appeal of
the ALJ's decision, plaintiff's representative points out that
plaintiff is mentally retarded (R. at 5). In consideration of
plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
plaintiff's physical, mental, and psychological health was
evaluated by several physicians and psychologists.
Dr. Salvatore Galante's medical evaluation of plaintiff found
no significant medical findings related to plaintiff's back (R.
at 236-39). Plaintiff had "full range of motion in
extension/flexion and side bending and twisting. [He][w]alks on
both heels and toes without any discomfort. Straight leg raising
sign is negative" (R. at 237). The x-rays showed a degenerative
fact joint arthropathy at L5-S1 (R. at 238). However, the
radiologist concluded that it was otherwise a normal examination
(R. at 238). Dr. Galante noted that plaintiff was also being
treated for cluster headaches (R. at 237).
Dr. Paul Akman examined the plaintiff on April 23, 1994 (See
R. at 241-45). Plaintiff told Dr. Akman about his alcoholism,
sleeplessness, and hallucinations, as well as being on medication
for cluster headaches (R. at 241-42). Dr. Akman indicated that
the findings of plaintiff's physical examination were compatible
with degenerative arthritis of the lumbar spine (R. at 244). He
also concluded that plaintiff "is obviously an alcoholic" (R. at
244). However, Dr. Akman found no limitation on employability (R.
On June 23, 1994, plaintiff was examined by Dr. Won Hoon Park
(See R. at 246-48). Dr. Park, who is a member of the American
Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, found plaintiff in need of a
comprehensive treatment program, including detoxification and
rehabilitation (R. at 247). Plaintiff was diagnosed as being
alcohol dependent, and having possible borderline intellectual
functioning (R. at 247).
The record further indicates that, in another mental health
examination, plaintiff had been diagnosed a paranoid
schizophrenic, and it was noted that he suffers from alcohol
abuse (R. at 249). Plaintiff was prescribed thorazine, and was
referred to a Spanish speaking agency to get plaintiff into a
detoxification program and a day treatment program for Spanish
Following a second psychological examination, Dr. Mitchell
Parker concluded that he was unable to assess plaintiff's
intellectual potential (R. at 256). Because of plaintiff's
inability to complete the tests due to fear and anxiety, Dr.
Parker concluded that his assessment could not be seen as a
"valid estimate" (R. at 256). However, Dr. Parker was left with
the impression that plaintiff was a man with extremely limited
abilities (R. at 257).
Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) on February 11, 1993 (R. at 125-28). Plaintiff's request
for SSI was based on complaints of migraine headaches and back
problems. The Social Security Administration denied plaintiff's
request on July 8, 1993 (R. at 129-37). It was explained that
plaintiff's condition was not severe enough to keep him from
working based on his age, education, training, and work
experience (R. at 137).
Rather than appeal the July 8, 1993, decision, plaintiff filed
a new application for SSI on February 22, 1994 (R. at 147-53).
Plaintiff's second application was denied on March 4, 1995 (R. at
154-57). On May 3, 1995, plaintiff filed a request for
reconsideration, arguing that the Social Security
Administration's determination was "contrary to the law and
facts" (R. at 158-59). On June 28, 1995, the Social Security
Administration affirmed the prior finding that plaintiff was not
disabled (R. at 170-73).
Plaintiff requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") on September 6, 1995, and a hearing was held on December
4, 1995 (See R. at 68-124). On March 26, 1996, the ALJ, Bruce
R. Mazzarella, issued a decision holding that plaintiff was not
entitled to SSI on March 26, 1996 (R. at 34-60). The ALJ found
that plaintiff's allegations of migraine headaches and back pain
were out of proportion to the clinical and laboratory findings.
In addition, the ALJ found that plaintiff's "alleged complaints
and functional limitations are grossly exaggerated, inconsistent
over time and with his physical appearance, and unsupported by
medical evidence" (R. at 59). Based on plaintiff's "functional
capacity, age, education, and work experience," the ALJ concluded
that plaintiff is not disabled (R. at 59).
Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision (R. at 29-31).
Plaintiff's request was denied by the Social Security Appeals
Council on October 4, 1996 (R. at 26-27). Additional
correspondence and evidence was then sent to the Appeals Council
on plaintiff's behalf (R. at 5-25). On December 17, 1996, the