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The Zombie Stage: sleeping, watching TV, playing with mother’s cat

June 4, 2012

ALBERT SANTIAGO, Plaintiff, -against- MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
11 Civ. 6873 (BSJ) (AJP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72731
Decided – May 24, 2012

Judge Andrew Peck writing the Opinion of the Court describes the plaintiff [footnotes and citations removed]:

zombie judge andrew peck

Santiago was born on July 27, 1961, and was forty-seven years old when he filed for SSI. Santiago lived in an apartment with his mother, and spent his time sleeping, watching television and listening to music, as well as playing with his mother’s cat.

Santiago alleges that he was disabled since the age of twenty-eight, beginning March 1, 1990. Santiago dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. During the 1980s, Santiago worked for a security guard company, a health and beauty aids store and a shoe store. In 1997, he worked at a theater concession stand for approximately eight months. Santiago has not worked in the past fifteen years. In 2008, Santiago tried to find a job placement with special accommodations through Federation Employment and Guidance Service, Inc. (“FEGS”) but was unsuccessful.

Santiago claimed that he was unable to work because of depression, an inability to sleep, anxiety attacks, paranoia, irritability, and knee and back pain. Santiago also claimed that he experienced impulsive behavior, lacked desire and easily lost interest in things that he used to like. Santiago began suffering from depression, which interfered with his ability to work, after his girlfriend died in 2001, but he did not receive treatment until 2008 due to a lack of money. Santiago explained that he stopped working “[b]ecause of [his] condition and other reasons [d]ue to personal reasons.”

Describing his work limitations, Santiago stated that he often felt overwhelmed and experienced anxiety attacks, sometimes for “no apparent reason.” Santiago was “constantly hearing” his deceased girlfriend’s voice and always felt “as if she [was] following” him everywhere he went. Santiago could not take the train or bus by himself due to his paranoia; his current girlfriend escorted him everywhere he went and when she was unavailable, he would “rather walk.” Santiago sometimes walked down the stairs from his fourth-floor apartment because he found it terrifying to be in an elevator with people. Santiago experienced mood swings and socialized only with his family and girlfriend. The only person Santiago felt he could trust was his mother; he often became scared of other people, and he “[s]ometimes [did not] want anyone near” him. Santiago did not do house or yard work because “[t]here are times that I cannot bear with myself/I need help.” Further describing his paranoia, Santiago stated that he felt “something’s going to happen” to him when people were around, and claimed that he got very paranoid and had anxiety attacks because he was stabbed as a teenager. Santiago avoided crowds and had trouble getting along with others due to anxiety.

Santiago was “extremely forgetful,” and his mind wandered off easily. Santiago’s depression and medications made it difficult for him to pay attention. As a result, Santiago could not complete tasks, forgot “simple things such as medical appointments and dates,” and was “easily distracted by any noise.” While Santiago could count change and use a checkbook or money order, he would “never pay a bill” because he would lose the bill or forget about it. Additionally, Santiago needed his mother to remind him to take his medications, and he could not prepare his own meals because his mind would “wander[] off” when he got “near the stove.”

Santiago had difficulty falling asleep, was constantly sleepy during the daytime and had difficulty focusing due in part to a diagnosed sleep disorder. Santiago usually had difficulty sleeping through the night and slept more during the daytime than at night.

Santiago’s medication helped him deal with depression and stress and prevented hallucinations but also “puts [him] in a zombie stage” While Santiago is better able to deal with stress when on his medication, he cannot deal with a “simple job” because he “get[s] paranoid” and he “can’t be around people.”

Santiago could “hardly walk” due to an accidental fall a few years earlier, used a cane due to knee pain and took non-prescription pain medication. Santiago’s knee hurt when walking, using stairs or sitting/standing for longer than twenty minutes.

The Court decides to remand the case because the Administrative Law Judge failed to properly develop the record to establish the findings that plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ did not properly evaluate the evidence of the treating physician. The Court remands the case for further investigation.

I really need someone to tell me how I can find out what percentage of Federal Court opinions regarding appeals from denial of disability result in written opinions and of those what percentage result in remand. Because it seems to me like 50% of the cases I see with “zombie” in them result in remand. I have no idea if that is above or below average because not every appeal results in written opinion and I can’t possibly read and count all those that are published.

See prior zombielaw posts: feel zombie-like and zombified .

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