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Curtis v. Sullivan

filed: January 27, 1993.

ALFRED CURTIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LOUIS W. SULLIVAN, M.D., SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court For the Southern District of California. D.C. No. 90-CV-1110-B(CM). Rudi M. Brewster, District Judge

Before: D. W. Nelson and Reinhardt, Circuit Judges, and Callister,*fn** District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

INTRODUCTION

Alfred Curtis appeals a denial of his request for Social Security disability insurance benefits, and argues that the decision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("Secretary") is not supported by substantial evidence. We agree and reverse.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The District Court granted summary judgment to the Secretary on the ground that the Secretary's decision was supported by substantial evidence. We review this decision de novo. Young v. Sullivan, 911 F.2d 180, 183 (9th Cir. 1990). In reviewing the denial of disability benefits, we review the findings to make sure the Secretary applied the correct legal standards, and review the entire record to insure that the findings are supported by substantial evidence. Id.

Substantial evidence means more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance. McAllister v. Sullivan, 888 F.2d 599, 601-02 (9th Cir. 1989). It means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a Conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1971).

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Alfred Curtis was born on April 11, 1962, making him twenty-seven at the time of his last hearing before the Secretary. He is married with four small children, and has completed high school and one year of college.

Curtis previously worked as a teacher in an adult basic education and GED program, and has been a counselor in a vocational rehabilitation program. His past employment also included agricultural field labor and dishwashing.

On October 6, 1987, Curtis filed an application for disability insurance benefits, stating that he had not worked since August 26, 1987, because of various ailments including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and kidney problems. His claim was denied by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on October 20, 1988. Thereafter, Curtis submitted neurological evidence raising the issue of a mental impairment that extended back to the date of his disablement, August 26, 1987.

On March 27, 1989, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded the case to the ALJ for further proceedings to take into account this neurological evidence. A second hearing was held before the ALJ on June 14, 1989. The ALJ again denied the claim, and this became the final decision of the Secretary when the Appeals Council denied a request for review by Curtis.

Curtis then filed a complaint with the District Court seeking review of the Secretary's decision. The District Court affirmed the Secretary's decision, and Curtis appealed. At oral argument before us on October 6, 1992, it was revealed for the first time that the Secretary had earlier reversed in part its decision denying benefits. In a letter dated December 4, 1991, the Secretary found that Curtis was disabled and that his period of disability began on September 15, 1990.

The Secretary's reconsideration did not, however, fully satisfy Curtis, and his counsel argued that the issue now was whether the period of disability began August ...


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