The opinion of the court was delivered by: DEBEVOISE
This action is brought under § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended (hereinafter "Act") 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review the final determination of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (hereinafter "the Secretary") which denied plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits.
Plaintiff, John Wancevich, was found disabled within the meaning of the Act beginning December 25, 1979 (Tr. 10). On December 16, 1982, due to plaintiff's return to work, the Social Security Administration determined that he had completed a nine month trial work period in November 1981 and became able to do substantial gainful work in March 1982 (Tr. 58). Plaintiff filed a request for reconsideration on February 15, 1983. The determination was affirmed in May 1983 (Tr. 60-62). At plaintiff's request a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (hereinafter "ALJ") to redetermine the date on which his disability ceased (Tr. 18-20). On August 28, 1984 the ALJ found that plaintiff's disability ended as of November 1981 and his entitlement to Disability Insurance Benefits ended effective January 31, 1982 (Tr. 8-10). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision on October 22, 1984. On May 17, 1985 the Appeals Council modified the ALJ's decision, finding that plaintiff's disability ended in May 1982 and his entitlement to Disability Insurance Benefits ended effective July 31, 1982 (Tr. 3-5). The Appeals Council accepted plaintiff's position that his trial work period ended April 1982 (Tr. 4). However, it rejected plaintiff's argument that he was disabled during the summer months (Tr. 5). On July 19, 1985 plaintiff filed this action for review of the Secretary's decision.
Plaintiff, who was born in 1946, was a full-time high school English teacher from 1973 to 1979 (Tr. 43, 56). On December 25, 1979 plaintiff suffered injuries from a car accident which left him quadriplegic with no movement from the neck down (Tr. 49). Despite his severe physical limitations plaintiff returned to teaching on a part-time basis in February 1981. He worked part-time from February to June 1981, September 1981 to October 1981 and March 1982 to June 1982. During that period because of complications caused by his paraplegia plaintiff was unable to work on the following days in 1981: March 5 and 23, April 3 and 10, May 26 and 27, June 3, October 28-30, November 2-December 23; and plaintiff was unable to work on the following days in 1982: January 2- March 1 and March 29. He continues today to work part-time from September through June (Tr. 29-32).
Plaintiff testified at the hearing before the ALJ that his paralysis causes him to experience recurrent skin disorders resulting from prolonged sitting in one position. Plaintiff's skin condition periodically required confinement in bed during his first year of employment (Tr. 39). Plaintiff's treating physicians confirm the serious medical problems resulting from plaintiff's quadriplegia.
Dr. Sanders Davis, in a letter dated November 17, 1983, stated that plaintiff was under his care for rehabilitation following a spinal cord injury and resulting quadriplegia, sensory loss below C-5, neurogenic bowel and bladder incontinence, and automatic nervous system dysfunction. Dr. Davis described plaintiff as having lost the ability to perspire below the C-5 level, requiring him to avoid becoming overheated. Dr. Davis recommended that plaintiff confine his work to the fall, winter and spring months unless he can be assured of an air-conditioned work environment (Tr. 65). Dr. Claudio Petrillo confirmed the findings of Dr. Davis in his report dated August 2, 1982.
Plaintiff testified before the ALJ as to the assistance he needs to teach class. Teacher's aides and his students write on the blackboard, run errands, take attendance, distribute papers and perform all other classroom chores requiring movement (Tr. 32-33). Plaintiff's wife also assists him by marking his student's papers at his direction and by keeping his records (Tr. 33).
Under the provisions of the Act disability is defined as inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or last for a continuous period of twelve months. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). The Third Circuit has developed a two pronged test to determine an individual's eligibility for disability benefits: (1) determination of the extent of the impairment and (2) determination whether the impairment prevents an individual from engaging in substantial gainful activity. Rossi v. Califano, 602 F.2d 55 (3d Cir. 1979). Certain physical conditions, listed in Appendix I. Pt. 404, Subpt. P., are automatically considered impairments and thus meet the first prong of the test. Plaintiff's quadriplegia, resulting in his inability to move from the neck down, is a listed impairment meeting the first prong of the test. However, the second prong of the test must also be satisfied for benefits to be awarded. Plaintiff must therefore prove that his employment is not substantial gainful activity.
Substantial gainful activity is defined as work that involves significant and productive physical or mental activities for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1510. The work may be substantial even if it is done on a part-time basis or if the claimant does less, gets paid less, or has less responsibility than prior to his impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572. If an individual's duties require use of his experience, skills, supervision and responsibilities or contribute substantially to the operation of a business this tends to show that he has the ability to work at the substantial gainful activity level. 20 C.F.R. 404.1573(a). However, if an individual is unable, because of his impairments, to do ordinary or simple tasks satisfactorily without more supervision or assistance than is usually given other people doing similar work, this may show that the claimant is not working at the substantial gainful activity level. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1573(b).
In addition to the above criteria, the regulations also provide that earnings from work may demonstrate that an individual is able to perform substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1574(a)(1). As of 1980, if an individual's earnings averaged more than $ 300 per month a presumption is created that the ...