20 CFR 404.615

SSR 64-33c

WATTS v. CELEBREZZE, U.S.D.C., S. D. Ind., Indianapolis Div., Civ. No. 62-C-29 (6/26/63) (CCH U.I.R. Fed. Par. 14,983)

Where Administration granted claimant's request for withdrawal of his application for benefits and, later, after he filed his second application, it is determined he was mentally incompetent at the time he requested his earlier application be withdrawn and that, but for its withdrawal, he would have been entitled to benefits on such application, held, withdrawal of the first application, being to claimant's disadvantage and occurring while he was mentally incompetent, should be considered to have no effect on his right to benefits and claimant is, therefore, entitled to benefits based on his first application.

DILLIN, Judge:

The plaintiff brought this action to review a final decision of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, denying the plaintiff's application for a period of disability and disability benefits, as authorized by the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C.A. § 416(i), § 423.

This Court has jurisdiction of the action pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, U.S.C.A. § 405(g). It has been submitted upon the transcript of the record, plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and defendant's motion for summary judgment.

The record discloses that plaintiff filed his application for disability benefits on April 2, 1957. On April 11, 1957, he filed what the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance considered to be a withdrawal of such application, but what plaintiff contends was merely a request that the Bureau withhold consideration of the application until further notice from him.

On May 18, 1959, plaintiff filed a second application for benefits. Benefits were denied by the Bureau. He requested a hearing, which was granted, and the hearing examiner, in an opinion dated June 23, 1960, allowed the application. The Bureau accordingly issued its award for benefits retroactive to May 1958.

On February 7, 1961, plaintiff requested reconsideration by the Bureau of its award, on the sole ground that the award should have been based on his original application of April 2, 1957, with benefits to commence as of July 1957,[1] as per § 223(c)(3) of the Act. The Bureau reconsidered the claim, but held that the determination of June 23, 1960, was correct. On March 28, 1961, plaintiff requested a hearing, which was granted, and on July 26, 1961, the hearing examiner held that the previous determinations as to date of entitlement were correct. The Appeals Council declined to review such determination, which thereupon became final.

* * * * * *

Plaintiff's own characterization of his disabling illness was asthma, stomach trouble, and nervousness. However, the hearing examiner's decision of June 23, 1960, upon which the Bureau's award is based, finds that plaintiff has a severe mental impairment which precluded him from substantial gainful activity after January 28, 1956. Psychiatric examination of April 1960, gave a diagnosis of chronic paranoid schizophrenia, probably active for many years, characterized by severely disturbed thought processes and an elaborate paranoid delusional system. The prognosis was thought to be poor.

Thus we have a plaintiff who was at all stages of the various proceedings before the Bureau a person suffering from a mental illness, and who is still suffering from such illness. the proceedings must be viewed in this light.

As to the alleged withdrawal of plaintiff's application for benefits on April 11, 1957, it is true that the language of such instrument would justify the hearing examiner in holding that a complete withdrawal was intended, if such instrument had been executed by a rational person. However, the Bureau's own finding demonstrates conclusively that plaintiff was not rational on such date. Further study of the record indicates that he was at that time laboring under the delusion that various individuals were following him, spying upon him, and conspiring to send him to prison for misstating the date of his birth in his application, and that such delusion motivated the "withdrawal."

The courts are bound to protect the rights of persons suffering from mental illness, and should, in proper cases, relieve them from mistakes in judgment committed while in such condition. We know of no good reason why the same rule should not apply to boards, bureaus, and commissions of the executive branch of the government, while acting in a quasi judicial capacity.

It is apparent that plaintiff would have been entitled to benefits from July 1957, pursuant to his original application, but for its purported withdrawal. We hold that the purported withdrawal, having been made by a person of unsound mind to his detriment, should have been disregarded by the Bureau and his * * * entitlement to benefits fixed to commence as of July 1957. The decision of the Secretary is therefore not based upon substantial evidence and is contrary to law.

Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is therefore GRANTED, and the defendant's motion for summary judgment is DENIED.

[1] The earliest month for which a disability insurance benefit was payable, under § 223(c) of the Social Security Act, was July 1957. [Ed.]

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