occupations for which he considers the claimant fit exist in the vicinity or area in which the claimant resides.
There is, perhaps, room for different degrees of geographic specificity in the proof of availability of employment opportunities, depending upon the work background of the particular claimant. The wider the range of work the claimant can perform, the less pinpointed the showing of availability may have to be. Thus, my Brother Wood has recently up-held an administrative determination that substantial gainful employment was available to a claimant whose education and experience qualified him for a wide range of jobs which, the evidence showed, were available "within a 75 mile radius of the geographic area in which claimant lives."
Where, however, a claimant has a rather restricted capacity, due to some combination of background and impairment, better proof of opportunity availability might be required than in the case of a claimant with a capacity only slightly hindered. This claimant's limited education and work history, when considered with his physical impairment, obviously lower his employment horizons, and if there is work he could do within a reasonable distance from his home, the Secretary is obliged to demonstrate it. As the Court of Appeal has recently reiterated, "'Mere theoretical ability to engage in substantial gainful activity is not enough if no reasonable opportunity for this is available.'"
To say that jobs which the claimant could do exist in Pennsylvania is, in light of the reasonableness standard, to say nothing more significant than that those jobs simply exist, and that kind of showing has repeatedly been rejected as inadequate. Denials of benefits have been set aside where there was only a "bare suggestion in a medical report that the claimant might be able to operate an elevator;"
where there were "less specific allusions" to "'a sedentary job,' 'some standing job,' and 'one in which walking is at a minimum;'"
and where there was reference to a list of occupations for which the claimant was thought capable.
Here a few very specific jobs have been named. They were, from what appears in the record, selected from the same list that has previously been held insufficient, standing alone. There is no showing as to where in the state they exist or in what numbers. They may, for all the record shows, exist only at the very opposite end of the state from where the claimant lives. A statute which was enacted to alleviate the hardships attendant upon disability
and which has consistently been interpreted with an eye to the reasonableness of the burdens to be imposed on claimants does not demand that a claimant move across the state or into a wholly new environment to find work.
The requirement of specificity in geography is not just a formality. It is, of course, common knowledge, of which this court might even be able to take judicial notice, that there are light and sedentary occupations in most areas of most states. But the statute has been construed to require a more specific finding than merely that a claimant can do light work. Since the issue is what light work he can do, his employment opportunities in any given area will be limited to less than every type of light work. And in a specialized economic area, which Bugdnewicz's assuredly is, the range of occupations is far more limited than it is generally, thus raising an especially serious factual question whether a claimant from such an area who could otherwise perform several types of light work has a reasonable employment opportunity.
At this point, however, a caveat must be entered. There are horns of a dilemma which must be avoided by the Secretary with equal agility. On the one hand, emphasizing the need for specific proof, this court has said that:
"* * * The rule of this circuit is the rule of realism. It is not enough to suggest that a man might sell candy in a candy store or operate an elevator or become a watchman or perform any one of the almost infinite number of light jobs that can be conjured up. There must be a realistic showing not only that the plaintiff could do these jobs but also that there existed a reasonable opportunity for the plaintiff to engage in substantial gainful employment. * * *"
On the other hand, the Social Security Administration is not an employment agency, and Sections 216(i) and 223 are not unemployment insurance statutes but disability benefit provisions.
The Secretary need not find the claimant a job or even a vacancy. The inquiry, as has recently been decided, is "whether or not claimant is incapable of performing in any positions on a reasonably continuous basis in the economy in or near the area in which he resides."
To demonstrate that a job for which the claimant is fit is "available" for the purpose of proving that the claimant was not precluded from engaging in substantial gainful employment, the Secretary must make a bona fide showing that a reasonable number of jobs for which the claimant was qualified in view of his capacities and impairments were extant in or near his community. Anything less partakes of "conjecture and theory when applied to the facts before us."
Anything more flies in the face of the statutory purpose. It bears emphasis that "jobs" in this context does not mean "openings" and that " extant " does not mean "vacant."
Judged by these standards, the Secretary's determination in the instant case is impaled on the first horn: there is no evidence, much less substantial evidence, that occupations for which he was suited existed in or near his community. If the principles of the Third Circuit decisions beginning with Hodgson are to be implemented, such proof must be required of the Secretary, at least where the claimant is not obviously equipped for a wide variety of occupations despite his impairment.
For that reason, the denial of benefits cannot be sustained. But here, unlike the situation in Stancavage v. Celebrezze, it is not to be "presumed that the best available proof on this has been presented,"
and unlike the situation in Farley v. Celebrezze,
it cannot be said definitively that there is no reasonable possibility of employment for the claimant. It would, therefore, be perverse to enter summary judgment at this juncture. Both motions for summary judgment are denied, the decision of the Secretary is reversed, and the cause is remanded to the examiner for a new hearing on the question of "whether the plaintiff is able to engage in substantial gainful activity or is entitled to disability insurance benefits * * *"
in conformity with the principles set forth in this opinion.
And now, January 13, 1966 it is ordered as follows:
1. Plaintiff's and defendant's motions for summary judgment are denied.
2. The decision of the Secretary is reversed and the cause is remanded to the examiner for a further hearing in conformity with the principles set forth in this opinion.