The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Tommy Blackburn ("Blackburn") seeks judicial review of a final decision
by the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("Secretary") denying
Blackburn disability insurance and supplemental security income
benefits, initially applied for under Social Security Act ("Act") §§
216(i), 223 and 1602, 42 U.S.C. § 416(i), 423 and 1381a. After a
March 12, 1984 evidentiary hearing (the "Hearing"), on May 18, 1984
Administrative Law Judge Irving Stillerman ("ALJ Stillerman" or simply
the "ALJ") denied Blackburn's application. Blackburn then exhausted his
administrative remedies in proper sequence (a process that resulted in
the ALJ's decision becoming Secretary's) and brought this action against
Secretary pursuant to Act § 205(g), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Because this action stands in a different posture from the mine run
social security case brought to this Court, Blackburn has not followed
the typical course of filing a motion for summary judgment. Rather
— for reasons this opinion will explore in due course — the
has moved for a remand to the ALJ for further consideration. Secretary,
however, seeks summary judgment affirming the ALJ's decision. For the
reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, each litigant's
motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Blackburn, who was 56 years old at the time of the hearing before ALJ
Stillerman and who has completed eight years of schooling, was born in
Kentucky, where he worked for a number of years as a coal miner. Since
moving to Chicago some 15 years ago, he has worked primarily as a gas
station attendant and as a machine operator for several manufacturing
concerns. Most recently he worked as a laundromat attendant, a job that
ended in 1978 when ownership of the laundromat changed.
Blackburn has suffered a number of injuries (some work-related) over
the course of his life. Among them were amputation, of the top portion of
his left thumb, a broken jaw as a result of which he can open his mouth
no wider than an inch, and broken ribs. In addition he suffers "mild
respiratory impairment" (R. 224) deriving in part from his work in the
coal mines and as a result of which he receives black lung benefits.
Those impairments, which Blackburn has suffered for some time, are not
the principal basis for his application for disability benefits. Rather
Blackburn focuses on a series of hospitalizations beginning in 1978 for
1. In July 1978 Blackburn was admitted to Swedish
Covenant Hospital ("Swedish Covenant"), suffering from
black vomiting, black stools and abdominal pain. Tests
revealed no ulcer or other course of bleeding. Two
days after admission Blackburn was discharged at his
own insistence. His discharge summary (R. 109)
reflects a diagnosis of upper gastrointestinal
bleeding of unknown etiology and describes Blackburn
as a "moderate alcohol abuser." Elsewhere in the
hospital records he is described as a "known
2. In September 1981 Blackburn was again admitted to
Swedish Covenant, this time complaining of shortness
of breath and abdominal pain. He was diagnosed as a
habitual alcoholic suffering from acute ethanol
intoxication (R. 179). While in the hospital he
suffered delirium tremens episodes, and tests gave
some evidence of myocardial injury, perhaps induced by
alcohol. Against medical advice Blackburn signed
himself out of the hospital two days after he had been
admitted (R. 180).
3. In December 1982 Blackburn was admitted to
Swedish Covenant, again with gastrointestinal
bleeding. He was released after five days with a
diagnosis of possible peptic ulcer disease (R. 197).
4. In October 1983 Blackburn was admitted to Swedish
Covenant once again, this time with a diagnosis of
chronic alcoholism, duodenal ulcer, iron deficiency
anemia and chronic obstructive lung disease (R. 202).
He was released ten days later.
Other evidence on the administrative record includes:
1. a January 19, 1979 report by consulting physician
Dr. S. Patel, stating Blackburn suffered from possible
peptic ulcer syndrome in addition to the impairments
deriving from his earlier work-related injuries;
2. a January 1, 1984 report by Dr. Iraj Delfani, who
has treated Blackburn since October 1983, reflecting
Blackburn suffers from chronic alcoholism that has
resulted in brain damage, a duodenal ulcer and iron
deficiency anemia (Dr. Delfani considered Blackburn
disabled, primarily on account of the alcohol-induced
brain damage); and
3. a March 6, 1984 psychological/occupational
evaluation of Blackburn by psychologist William
Fischer, finding Blackburn's IQ in the mid-70s and
describing Blackburn as "a psychologically, if not
physically, impotent individual who carries the
diagnosis of alcoholism, organic brain dysfunction
with psychosis, and is not capable of participating in
any kind of substantial gainful activity" (R. 221).
In support of his current motion Blackburn has offered additional
medical evidence discovered after the administrative record was closed.
It reflects three hospitalizations in December 1979 and January 1980:
1. On December 16, 1979 Blackburn was admitted to
Ravenswood Hospital ("Ravenswood"), complaining he had
been coughing and vomiting blood. His discharge
summary (Ex. C 44-45) reflects a history of heavy beer
consumption and a diagnosis of possible gastric
cancer. Blackburn discharged himself against medical
3. On January 22, 1980 Blackburn was once more
admitted to Ravenswood. This time the contemplated
tests were performed, revealing no tumor cells.
Blackburn was discharged with a diagnosis of gastric
ulcer, to be followed on an outpatient basis.*fn1
Blackburn's Claims History
Blackburn's claims posture is complicated both by eligibility
regulations and by his prior history of filing disability claims. To
begin with the regulations, a claimant is ineligible for either
disability insurance or supplemental security income benefits if he or
she does not satisfy the special earnings requirements set out in 20
C.F.R. § 404.130.*fn2 Under Section 130(b), which states the
applicable rule for present purposes, Blackburn must have acquired 20
"quarters of coverage" in the 40-calendar-quarter (ten-year) period
ending with the calendar quarter in which he seeks the commencement of
benefits. Because each quarter of coverage is credited on the basis of
the claimant's covered earnings in that quarter (Sections 140 to 146),
and because Blackburn has had no covered earnings since 1977, he
satisfied the special earnings requirement only through June 30, 1979
(R. 97). That termination of Blackburn's insured status under the Act
means he could be entitled to benefits only for a period of disability
that began no later than June 30, 1979.
Blackburn first applied for disability benefits in July 1978, claiming
he had been unable to work since July 1977. That application was
initially denied. Pursuing his administrative remedies, Blackburn
requested an evidentiary hearing, which took place sometime in 1979.
Blackburn represented himself at that hearing. On June 8, ...