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GRIMES v. SECRETARY OF HEALTH

June 28, 1977

WILLIE MAE GRIMES
v.
SECRETARY OF HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WELFARE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK

 BRODERICK, J.

 This action is brought under Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review a final decision of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare denying the claimant widow's insurance benefits based on disability. The decision rendered by the Administrative Law Judge on July 14, 1975 became the final decision of the Secretary in this case when affirmed by the Appeals Council on December 22, 1975. This final decision holds that the claimant is not entitled to widow's insurance benefits based on disability under §§ 202(e) and 223, respectively, of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 402(e) and 423. This matter is before us on defendant's motion to dismiss or for summary judgment.

 Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) provides in pertinent part that:

 
The findings of the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.

 Thus, in reviewing the Secretary's decision the Court's role is narrowly circumscribed. The sole question is whether there was substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the finding of the Secretary that the claimant was not entitled to receive widow's insurance benefits based on disability. "Substantial evidence" has been defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842, 91 S. Ct. 1420 (1971); Ginsburg v. Richardson, 436 F.2d 1146, 1148 (3d Cir. 1971); Barats v. Weinberger, 383 F. Supp. 276, 279 (E.D. Pa. 1974). As our Third Circuit has cautioned, "'substantial' means just that and is not the equivalent of a 'scintilla.'" Hess v. Secretary of HEW, 497 F.2d 837 (3d Cir. 1974). After a careful review of the record and briefs, and for the reasons which shall appear hereinafter, this Court is of the opinion that the defendant's motion for summary judgment must be granted.

 Disabled widow's benefits are provided for under § 402(e) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 402(e). Benefits are provided to a widow of a fully insured individual if the widow has attained the age of 50 but not 60 years of age and is under a disability as defined in § 223(d) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423(d). The term "disability" is defined in Section 223 as:

 
(d)(1) . . .
 
(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 which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months; . . .

 Section 223(d)(2)(B) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(B) defines disability for purposes of widow's benefits as:

 
(B) A widow, surviving divorced wife, or widower shall not be determined to be under a disability (for purposes of section 402(e) or (f) of this title) unless his or her physical or mental impairment or impairments are of a level of severity which under regulations prescribed by the Secretary is deemed to be sufficient to preclude an individual from engaging in any gainful activity.

 Section 223(d)(3), 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3) provides:

 
(3) For purposes of this subsection, a 'physical or mental impairment' is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.

 Pursuant to the authority vested in him by § 205(a) and § 223(d)(2)(B) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(a) and 423(d)(2)(B), the Secretary has adopted Social Security Regulations No. 4 §§ 404.1504 through 404.1506, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1504 through 404.1506, which set forth criteria for evaluating widows and widowers as to disability. In addition, these regulations include an Appendix and Subpart P, Regulations No. 4; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1501 through 404.1539, which list specific impairments which are deemed preclusive of any gainful activity. Section 404.1505 of the Regulations provides that a widow may recover for any disability which is the equivalent in severity and duration of an impairment listed in the Appendix. Section 404.1505 also provides that any decision as to the medical equivalence of an impairment ". . . shall be based on medical evidence ...


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