On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
Before: ALDISERT, Chief Judge, and BECKER, Circuit Judge and CAHN, District Judge.*fn*
BECKER, J., Circuit Judge
This is an appeal from an order of the district court granting judgment for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, thereby affirming the Secretary's order denying Social Security disability benefits and supplemental security income to appellant Edward L. Caffee.*fn1 For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand, directing an award of benefits.
Appellant is a 46 year-old former attendant in a New Jersey state mental hospital where he worked for over 20 years. Appellant's duties required him, inter alia, to perform physical work, including washing, positioning and sometimes lifting patients, occasionally violent ones. Appellant is a high school graduate with only a borderline I.Q.;*fn2 he has been unable to work since 1979 due to psychiatric and orthopedic problems.
The Secretary concedes that appellant cannot perform his former work, that he cannot engage in even moderate lifting, and that he cannot perform work involving stress or extensive contact with others. Therefore our inquiry focuses upon whether the Secretary has met her burden of proof, see Rossi v. Califano, 602 F.2d 55 (3d Cir. 1979), that appellant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work that is available in sufficient numbers in the national economy. Because the case-dispositive analysis lies in the area of the evidence pertaining to appellant's psychiatric condition and, more specifically, his ability to work in potentially competitive situations, we will confine our discussion to that evidence.*fn3
Appellant's mental problems first surfaced in 1975 when he was admitted to a Veteran's Hospital. He showed paranoid delusions and was released with a diagnosis of psychotic depressive reaction. For the next few years appellant was treated as an outpatient and was found consistently to be depressed and to have flat affect. He was found to be in contact with reality, but also to be paranoid, and often delusional. The diagnosis was post-psychotic depressive reaction.
Moving ahead to the period 1979 to 1982, the record reflects that appellant was treated and/or evaluated by a number of physicians. Because their reports form an important part of the record considered by the ALJ, we briefly summarize their salient conclusions.
Dr. Malcolm Hermele, a specialist in internal medicine, examined the appellant in June 1979. He concluded that appellant had chronic bronchitis and fibrosis from which he was thirty percent disabled but that he was probably totally disabled from the psychiatric standpoint.
Dr. Robert Latimer, a psychiatrist, examined appellant on September 25, 1979, concluding that he was still suffering a psychotic episode. Dr. Latimer was unable to tell on one examination whether appellant suffered from a psychotic depression or a schizophrenic process but concluded that he was seriously disabled and could not function. Dr. Latimer thought that appellant might have been hallucinating during the interview.
In May of 1980 appellant was seen at the Harrison S. Martland Hospital of the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey on an emergency basis as a result of an injury to his elbow. See supra note 3. While hospitalized, a psychiatric consultation was requested because of appellant's mood and abnormal behavior. The psychiatric evaluator ...