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Daring v. Heckler

decided: February 2, 1984.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Aldisert, Higginbotham, and Sloviter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sloviter


SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.


This is an appeal brought under 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) from a decision by the Secretary of Health and Human Services denying the appellant's claim for disability benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff Susan Daring filed applications for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income on October 11, 1978, which were granted on October 31, 1978. On March 4, 1981 the Office of Disability Operations of the Social Security Administration found that Daring's disability had ceased in February 1981 and that her entitlement to benefits ceased in April 1981.

The case was then considered de novo by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who concluded, following a hearing, that Daring had the ability to perform her past work, and therefore was no longer disabled. After the Appeals Council denied Daring's request for review, and the Secretary's decision became final, Daring filed this action. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment; the magistrate recommended that the defendant's motion be granted; and the district court, adopting the magistrate's recommendation, found that the Secretary's decision was supported by substantial evidence and granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment.


Susan Daring was born on January 23, 1934 and completed school up to the tenth grade. She has held jobs as a gas station attendant, a cab driver, and a knitting mill examiner. She was last employed as a waitress for approximately three weeks in April 1981. Daring contends that she suffers continued disability as a result of a long history of mental illness, diagnosed as a schizophrenia, paranoid type and that, consequently, she is unable to engage in substantial gainful work.

The record confirms that Daring has a long history of mental illness diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia and alcoholism. She was first admitted to the Jamestown State Hospital in North Dakota in August 1962 at the age of 28 and diagnosed as suffering from "schizophrenic reaction, paranoid type . . . . prognosis is poor." Tr. at 162-63.*fn1 In August 1963 she was admitted to Yankton State Hospital for several months; the diagnosis was "schizophrenic reaction, acute catatonic type." Tr. at 156, 161. In May 1968 Daring was first admitted to Allentown State Hospital (ASH) with "paranoid ideation, threatening behavior and impaired judgment." Tr. at 141. She was described as "in an acutely disturbed condition . . . very catatonic and depressed" and again diagnosed as schizophrenic, acute catatonic type. Tr. at 141, 142. She was released in July 1968 but readmitted in October 1969. She was noted to be "hallucinated, belligerent, and abusive," Tr. at 142, and "[for] a long period . . . remained rather hostile, confused and had some paranoid ideations." Tr. at 146. The diagnosis was "schizophrenic reaction, chronic undifferentiated type." Tr. at 140. Daring was released in January of 1970, with a recommendation of regular outpatient follow-up. Tr. at 138, 146. In May 1973 Daring was again admitted to ASH, with auditory hallucinations; she was diagnosed as suffering from "schizophrenia, paranoid." Tr. at 137. She was discharged in June 1973 and "followed up by the local [Mental Health Center] for after care." Tr. at 134. Daring's next admission to ASH was in May 1976, with a diagnosis of acute psychosis and residual schizophrenia. Tr. at 128. In September 1978 Daring was once again admitted to ASH, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Tr. at 135; she was released in December 1978.

Undoubtedly in consideration of this record, plaintiff's 1978 application for disability benefits was promptly granted, and the Secretary determined that Daring had been disabled since January 10, 1978 because of "schizophrenia, paranoid type."

Plaintiff's multiple hospitalizations did not cease thereafter. She was admitted to Muhlenberg Medical Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in October 1979; the admission history stated, "She is depressed, anorexic, sleepless, upset, fearful and having premonitions. Her schizophrenic process is pre-psychotic at this time." Tr. at 123. She was diagnosed as suffering from "depression with agitation" and "chronic paranoid schizophrenia." Id. Plaintiff was hospitalized at Muhlenberg again in December 1979 and discharged several days later, with follow-up care at the Lehigh County MH/MR. Tr. at 120. The admission history noted that she was "distraught, homicidal, suicidal and depressed," with "a long history of schizophrenia." Id. In January, February and again in June 1980, she was admitted to Muhlenberg with diagnoses of homicidal ideation, agitated depression, and chronic paranoid schizophrenia. Tr. at 77, 79, 88-90. She was admitted to Muhlenberg again in November 1980; the admission history noted that she was "depressed . . . and unable to cope. . . . She has been drinking again. She has a history of reactive depression, schizophrenia, paranoid type, chronic which is in remission with medication at this time, and alcoholism." Tr. at 96. In July 1981, Daring was once again hospitalized for several days, with a diagnosis of "adult situational reaction" and "schizophrenia in remission on medication." Tr. at 119.

Notwithstanding the continuation of these hospitalizations, plaintiff was notified by the Secretary on March 20, 1981 that her medical condition was not disabling, that she became able to do substantial gainful work in February 1981, and that her benefits would be discontinued after April 1981. Tr. at 66-69.

At the hearing on October 28, 1981 plaintiff testified as to her sporadic work record, continued alcoholism and psychiatric problems. She testified that in recent years she had been involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals, Tr. at 33, and at other times she had voluntarily committed herself. Tr. at 34.*fn2 She also testified that contrary to the Social Security Administration ...

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