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STARVIS v. FINCH

August 6, 1970

Andrew F. STARVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
Robert H. FINCH, Secretary, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Defendant


Gourley, Senior District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY

This is an action filed pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g), wherein plaintiff seeks judicial review of the decision of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare denying his claim filed on September 4, 1967 for disability insurance benefits and for a period of disability under §§ 223 and 216(i) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 423 and 416(i).

 Plaintiff's application was denied by initial decision of the Bureau of Disability Insurance and upon reconsideration. A request for hearing was granted, and a hearing conducted on April 22, 1969. The Hearing Examiner held that plaintiff was not entitled to a period of disability or disability insurance benefits. Plaintiff filed a request for review of the Hearing Examiner's decision on June 12, 1969, and, on October 14, 1969, said request for review was denied by the Appeals Council. The denial by the Appeals Council became the final decision of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

 A Complaint was timely filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania pursuant to § 205(g), supra. In response, defendant filed an Answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. Subsequently, defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Counsel for the respective parties have filed written briefs in support of their positions on the Motion and agreed to waive oral argument. Upon review of the administrative record, the pleadings, and the briefs of counsel, the Court is compelled to grant the Motion for Summary Judgment.

 Pertaining to the scope of judicial review, § 205(g), supra, provides as follows:

 
"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. * * *"

 Under this section and § 10(e) of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C.A. § 706, the Court is 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, 246 F.2d 776, 778 (3d Cir. 1957).

 In denying the claim, the Hearing Examiner made the essential finding that plaintiff, at the time of the hearing, when he continued to meet the special earnings requirements of the Act, was suffering from the following medically determinable conditions: mild to moderate essential hypertension, mild to moderate pneumoconiosis, and mild to moderate osteoarthritis affecting principally the lumbar spine and both knees. He further found that the cumulative effects of each of these conditions, while sufficiently impairing so as to preclude the plaintiff from returning to his former work in the coal mines, nevertheless, did not preclude his ability to engage in substantial gainful activity which would not require more than light to moderate physical exertion and would not involve considerable kneeling, bending, stooping or squatting in a damp, cold atmosphere. Upon review of the administrative record, the Court finds that there was substantial evidence from which the Hearing Examiner could make these findings.

 The term "disability," as applicable to claims for benefits under both §§ 216(i) and 223, supra, is defined in § 223(d), as amended by § 158(b), Public Law 90-248, which provides in part:

 
"(d) (1) the term 'disability' means --
 
"(1) 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 12 months;
 
"* * *
 
"(2) For purposes of Paragraph (1) (A) --
 
"(A) an individual * * * 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 ...

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