Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

MASTRONI v. BOWEN

October 30, 1986

VINCENT MASTRONI, Plaintiff,
v.
OTIS R. BOWEN, M.D., SECRETARY OF HHS, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("the Secretary") decision denying plaintiff's claim for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). Upon review of the pleadings and the transcript of the record, the Court holds that the Secretary's decision is not supported by substantial evidence and is hereby reversed.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff was born on July 4, 1928, and is a high school graduate. From February 14, 1946, through June 30, 1966, plaintiff served in the United States Army. Since retiring on July 1, 1966, plaintiff has resided in West Germany. From November, 1966, until December, 1968, plaintiff worked as a cashier in the United States Army N.C.O. Club Lenggries Kaserne. In 1969, plaintiff packed and carried groceries at the United States Army Commissary at Flint Kaserne, Bad Toelz, West Germany. From 1969 until July, 1978, plaintiff did light factory work for several German companies.

 In June, 1969, plaintiff began to experience constant pain in his lower back and left leg, causing him to seek regular treatment at the United States Army Health Clinic in West Germany. Ultimately, plaintiff filed an application on January 5, 1979, for disability insurance benefits, alleging that rheumatoid arthritis of the lower spine with pain extending to the toes had disabled him since June 28, 1969. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration by the Social Security Administration ("SSA").

 Because he was no longer employable, plaintiff filed a second application on November 13, 1980, pursuant to the United States International Social Security Agreement between the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany. This application was also denied initially and on reconsideration by the SSA.

 On November 24, 1980, plaintiff filed a third application, this time alleging that he became disabled on July 16, 1978, due to degenerative disc disease of the entire spine, nerve root irritation extending into his feet and persistent pain in the lumbosacral area. Again, the SSA denied plaintiff's application. On appeal an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") considered plaintiff's claim de novo and determined in a decision dated May 8, 1984, that plaintiff met the disability insured status requirements from July 11, 1978, to September 30, 1983, but that he had the ability to perform his previous work as a cashier and, therefore, was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Act. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review and the decision became final on November 7, 1984.

 Plaintiff then filed this action. On January 6, 1986, the Court remanded the case to the Appeals Council, which issued a second decision on June 23, 1986, effectively affirming the May 8, 1984, decision. The Appeals Council found that plaintiff('s) (1) met the special earnings requirements for purposes of disability benefits through September 30, 1984, (2) suffers from a severe impairment caused by degenerative arthritis of the lumbar spine restricting him to "light work," (3) impairment does not meet or equal an impairment listed in Appendix 1 of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, (4) is capable of performing his last known occupation as a cashier, and (5) is not disabled based on the medical-vocational guidelines of Appendix 2 of 20 C.F.R. Part 404. The parties have moved the Court to affirm or reverse the decision of the Appeals Council.

 II. THE SECRETARY'S DECISION IS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

 A. The Scope of Review

 Judicial review of the Secretary's decision is limited to a determination of whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence, see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842, 91 S. Ct. 1420 (1971); Vance v. Heckler, 244 U.S. App. D.C. 329, 757 F.2d 1324, 1326 (D.C. Cir. 1985), "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 83 L. Ed. 126, 59 S. Ct. 206 (1938)); Department of Transportation v. ICC, 236 U.S. App. D.C. 13, 733 F.2d 105, 110 (D.C. Cir. 1984). The ALJ must weigh all the evidence and may not disregard evidence that suggests an opposite conclusion. See Whitney v. Schweiker, 695 F.2d 784, 788 (7th Cir. 1982); Diabo v. Secretary of HEW, 200 U.S. App. D.C. 225, 627 F.2d 278, 281-82 (D.C. Cir. 1980).

 B. Plaintiff Has Proven That He Is No Longer Capable of Performing His Previous Work

 The burden of proof in a Title II denial of insurance benefits case is split. Once plaintiff proves a disability that prevents him from performing his previous work, the burden shifts to the Secretary to prove that based on plaintiff's age, education, work experience and residual capacity, he can engage in some other kind of substantial gainful employment. See e.g., Goodson v. Railroad Retirement Board, 194 U.S. App. D.C. 74, 595 F.2d 881, 883 (D.C. Cir. 1979); Meneses v. Secretary of HEW, 143 U.S. App. D.C. 81, 442 F.2d 803, 806 (D.C. Cir. 1971); Fulwood v. Heckler, 594 F. Supp. 540, 543 (D.D.C. 1984). In this case, the Appeals Council found that plaintiff did not meet his burden of proof because he "is capable of performing his last know [sic] occupation as a cashier." Report to the Court and Notice of Filing (filed June 23, 1986). The Court holds, however, that the Appeals Council's finding is not supported by ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.