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Campbell v. Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services

decided: November 30, 1981.

CARMEN CAMPBELL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Mark A. Costantino, Judge, upholding a determination of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services denying appellant's application for disability insurance benefits. Remanded for further proceedings.

Before Lumbard and Van Graafeiland, Circuit Judges, and Bonsal, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Bonsal

Carmen Campbell appeals from a final judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Costantino, J.), entered on April 30, 1981. The District Court granted the motion of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services ("Secretary") for judgment on the pleadings and affirmed the Secretary's denial of insurance benefits to Ms. Campbell. We find that the record on which the Secretary's decision rests is inadequate in certain critical respects and accordingly we remand for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

On October 15, 1979 Carmen Campbell filed an application for disability insurance benefits with the Social Security Administration claiming total disability due to a back condition caused by a herniated disc and due to hypertension. On December 10, 1979 her application was denied. Ms. Campbell requested reconsideration which was again denied by notice dated March 21, 1980. On May 20, 1980 Ms. Campbell requested a de novo review of her application and on August 22, 1980 a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") at which Ms. Campbell appeared pro se. In a decision dated September 26, 1980 the ALJ found that Ms. Campbell retained the capacity to do "light work" and that she was therefore "not disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act.

On October 31, 1980 Ms. Campbell sought review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. She submitted new medical evidence-a report by her treating physician, Dr. Lowenthal, which she asserted warranted a finding of disability by the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council made the report part of the record and denied her request for review.

On January 19, 1981 Ms. Campbell filed a pro se complaint seeking review of denial of benefits in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g)).

A hearing before the District Court was held on April 20, 1981 at which Ms. Campbell was represented by counsel. The district judge stated at the hearing that he had reviewed the record and suggested that in his opinion the Secretary's decision was supported by substantial evidence. The Secretary then moved for summary judgment and by Order dated April 23, 1981 Ms. Campbell's complaint was dismissed, from which Order she appeals.

FACTS

Ms. Campbell, aged 51 at the time she filed her application, was born in Panama where she completed a sixth grade education. Spanish is her first language but she has a "fair" knowledge of English. Ms. Campbell was employed as a hotel maid. Her duties included making beds, dusting, vacuuming and pushing "trucks" which carried her equipment. Between 1971 and 1973 she also worked as a seamstress in the hotel, and in 1973 she injured her back while moving a large laundry truck. In 1975 her doctor informed her that she had a slipped disc. However, she continued working until December of 1978. In January of 1979 Ms. Campbell underwent a laminectomy to remove a herniated disc. She was discharged within two weeks.

The ALJ considered the medical and hospital records and the reports of Drs. Khatib and Lowenthal. Dr. Khatib diagnosed Ms. Campbell's herniated disc, performed the operation and saw her during several follow-up visits. In May of 1979 Dr. Khatib reported that she could return to work in June so long as she did not lift heavy objects or do "strenuous work." (App. at 98).*fn1 In July Dr. Khatib reported that she could return to "light duty work" and in November of 1980 reported that she "is disabled from doing her regular work and should avoid lifting heavy objects and strenuous work." (App. at 99, 127).

Ms. Campbell saw Dr. Lowenthal at the request of the State of New York Workers' Compensation Board from February of 1980 through the spring and summer. In August of 1980 Dr. Lowenthal filled out a questionnaire stating that she could continuously stand for 30 minutes, sit for 30 minutes, and alternately stand or sit at one time for one hour; that due to severe pain she must lie down during the day and that she could lift or carry weights of "up to ten pounds." (App. at 113-115).

The ALJ considered Ms. Campbell's age, education, past work experience and the medical evidence. He found that Ms. Campbell was no longer able to work as a hotel maid but that she could do "light work." He concluded that since she could do "light work," Ms. Campbell was ...


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