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WILSON v. RIBICOFF

August 4, 1961

Langford D. WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
Abraham A. RIBICOFF, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARSH

On July 30, 1957, plaintiff filed with the Social Security Administration, Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, an application to establish a period of disability under § 216(i) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C.A. § 416(i), and an application for disability insurance benefits under § 223 of the Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 423, alleging that he first became unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity on November 12, 1955. Plaintiff's claims were denied by the aforesaid Bureau, and at plaintiff's request a hearing was had before a hearing examiner of the Social Security Administration who also denied plaintiff's claims. On June 14, 1960, the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration advised plaintiff that his request for review by it of the hearing examiner's decision was denied; whereupon, pursuant to § 205(g) of the Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g), plaintiff commenced this action to obtain a judicial review of the decision of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare *fn1" denying plaintiff's claims. The defendant filed a certified copy of the transcript of the record of the proceedings before the Social Security authorities in compliance with § 205(g) of the Act, supra, and subsequently moved for summary judgment.

Section 205(g), supra, provides in its pertinent part as follows:

 'As part of its answer the Secretary shall file a certified copy of the transcript of the record including the evidence upon which the findings and decision complained of are based. The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Secretary, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing. The findings of the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive * * *.'

 Our jurisdiction and the scope of our review of administrative findings such as were made in this case are clear. Under § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, supra, and under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C.A. § 1001 et seq., we are limited to 'ascertaining whether on the record as a whole there is substantial evidence to support the Secretary's findings of fact.' Goldman v. Folsom, 3 Cir., 1957, 246 F.2d 776, 778; Ferenz v. Folsom, 3 Cir., 1956, 237 F.2d 46. And while 'in discharging that duty we must keep in mind * * * that 'courts must now assume more responsibility for the reasonableness and fairness' of decisions of federal agencies * * *', Goldman v. Folsom, supra, 246 F.2d at page 778, citing Universal Camera Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board, 340 U.S. 474, 71 S. Ct. 456, 95 L. Ed. 456, we 'may not substitute (our) inferences for those of the referee which are supported by substantial evidence.' Ferenz v. Folsom, supra, 237 F.2d at page 49, citing, inter alia, Livingstone v. Folsom, 3 Cir., 1956, 234 F.2d 75.

 After reviewing the evidence, the hearing examiner found 'that the claimant has not established by the evidence that his impairments have been of sufficient severity as to have precluded him from engaging in any substantial gainful activity at any time from the date of the alleged onset * * * to the date on which he filed disability application.'

 Section 216 of the Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 416(i)(1), provides that the term 'disability' means:

 '(A) inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or to be of long-continued and indefinite duration * * *.'

 The definition of 'disability' under § 223 of the Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 423(c)(2) is the same.

 The Supreme Court of the United States in the case of National Labor Relations Board v. Columbian etc. Co., 306 U.S. 292, at page 300, 59 S. Ct. 501, 505, 83 L. Ed. 660 stated:

 'Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, and must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be established. 'It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion,' * * * and it must be enough to justify, if the trial were to a jury, a refusal to direct a verdict when the conclusion sought to be drawn from it is one of fact for the jury.'

 We have reviewed the record upon which the hearing examiner based his decision, and we must conclude that on the record as a whole there is not substantial evidence, as that term is defined in National Labor Relations Board v. Columbian etc. Co., supra, to support the Secretary's decision that the claimant is not precluded from engaging in any substantial gainful activity.

 The hearing examiner found that:

 'The claimant was born on June 30, 1897 * * *. He completed eight years of formal elementary education. His entire employment career has been in the food business, starting with the Continental Can Company as a picker and as a meat cutter in a food store owned by his brother. From 1933 until November, 1955, he was a partner with his brother in the operation of a food store in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

 'In his application to establish a period of disability, the claimant described his condition as 'Back and head injury from accident', and his daily activities as 'Lie around, watch TV, try to help with dishes, dusting and light household chores.' In his request for hearing, filed August 24, 1959, he stated: 'This condition has a tendency to become progressively worse and many patients are known to succumb after a period of five years during which symptoms have intermittently but progressively grown worse."

 The hearing examiner takes the position that although the claimant has some medically determinable physical and psychological impairment, it is not of sufficient severity to meet the requirements of the Act. At page 10 of the record filed by the Secretary, the hearing examiner states:

 'While the evidence shows that the claimant has a definite physical and psychological disorder, the medical evidence does not show that it is of the degree of severity as required by the Act.'

 He further states on the same page:

 'The medical evidence also indicates the possibility of ...


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