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KLAPATCH v. FINCH

March 31, 1969

Peter KLAPATCH, Plaintiff,
v.
Robert H. FINCH, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEALON

 NEALON, District Judge.

 Before the Court is a motion by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare for summary judgment in an action brought by plaintiff, Peter Klapatch, under Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review a final decision of the Secretary that plaintiff is not entitled to disability insurance benefits and establishment of a period of disability by reason of a disability as defined in 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i) and 423.

 Plaintiff was born in 1912 and completed seven years of elementary school. He was employed for two years in a silk mill, four years in a bobbin manufacturing plant, and twenty-six years in a coal mine. Thereafter, he worked as a berry picker, a junk yard laborer and a garbage collector. He ceased work on September 29, 1966.

 Claimant filed his application for benefits on November 1, 1966, alleging anthracosilicosis as his disabling condition. He was notified on May 18, 1967, of the denial of his claim. Reconsideration was sought, but notice of denial was sent to claimant on August 18, 1967. A hearing was ultimately held on December 4, 1967, pursuant to claimant's request.

 The Hearing Examiner, finding that claimant met the special earnings requirements through September 30, 1968, found that the medical evidence did not support a finding of disability. This was affirmed by the Appeals Council on February 21, 1968. It is noteworthy that the Hearing Examiner arrived at his decision pursuant to the 1968 Amendments to the Social Security Act.

 The history of Social Security disability cases in this Court reveals that there has been a steady stream of reversals of the Secretary because we concluded that he was applying too stringent a test in determining a claimant's "inability to engage in substantial gainful activity." Our attitude and action in this regard was substantially similar to most Federal Courts throughout the country. Because of this conflict, Congress amended the Social Security Act, effective January 2, 1968, Public Law 90-248, and the effect of these amendments is now before us for the first time. The amendments that are pertinent here relate to the term "disability" and may be summarized as follows:

 Prior to the amendments, the Act defined disability as the 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 which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. It was the interpretation and application of this definition that caused the conflict between this Court and the Secretary; we concluding, as hereinbefore mentioned, that the Secretary was applying too stringent a test. When the 1968 Amendments were being considered, it is obvious from the legislative history that Congress was concerned about the manner in which the disability definition was being interpreted by the Courts and indicated that these interpretations were factors contributing to the rising cost of the disability insurance program. See The Senate Report (Financial Committee) No. 744, November 14, 1967, 2 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin. News, 90th Congress, 1st Session, 1967, pp. 2280-2283. Furthermore, the Report noted: "(the) committee has also learned that there is a growing body of court interpretations of the statute which, if followed in the administration of the disability provisions, could result in substantial further increases in costs in the future." The Committee therefore proposed "* * * more precise guidelines that are to be used in determining the degree of disability which must exist in order to qualify for disability insurance benefits." Among the guidelines finally included in the 1968 Amendments and contained in Title 42 U.S.C.A. § 423, were the following:

 
"(d) (2) For purposes of paragraph (1)(A) --
 
(A) an individual (except a widow, surviving divorced wife, or widower for purposes of section 402(e) or (f) of this title) shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work. For purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any individual), 'work which exists in the national economy' means work which exists in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country."
 
* * *
 
"(3) For purposes of this subsection, a 'physical or mental impairment's' is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.
 
"(4) The Secretary shall by regulations prescribe the criteria for determining when services performed or earnings derived from services demonstrate an individual's ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (2), an individual whose services or earnings meet such criteria shall, except for purposes of section 422(c) of this title, be found not to be disabled.
 
"(5) An individual shall not be considered to be under a disability unless he furnishes such medical and other evidence of the existence ...

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