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Jones v. Sullivan

filed: December 16, 1991.

JAMES H. JONES, APPELLANT
v.
LOUIS W. SULLIVAN, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civil No. 90-06732)

Before: Becker, Greenberg and Garth, Circuit Judges

Author: Garth

Opinion OF THE COURT

GARTH, Circuit Judge :

After the Department of Health and Human Services rejected appellant James H. Jones's petition for social security benefits, Jones sought to review that action in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Secretary of Human Services and Jones appeals. Because we find that the decision by the Department of Human Services was supported by substantial evidence and properly applied the relevant laws and regulations, we will affirm.

I.

On September 13, 1988, James H. Jones filed an application with the Department of Health and Human Services of the Social Security Administration in Philadelphia (the "Department") for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Jones alleged that high blood pressure, a heart condition, a back problem and various related ailments had disabled him since January 2, 1986 and prevented him from continuing his past work as a security guard or procuring any other job.*fn1

The Department denied Jones's application both initially and on reconsideration. The Department predicated its denials on an initial finding, and a finding upon reconsideration, that Jones was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The Department explained its decision to Jones as follows:

You said that you are unable to work because of high blood pressure, a heart condition and a back problem. You do have some limitation of back movement. However, you can stand and walk and use your hands. Your blood pressure is controlled without complications. You have some chest pains at times, but no evidence of a severe heart condition.

Based on your age, education and description of the job you performed as a security guard for fifteen years, we have concluded that you have the ability to return to this job.

(Tr. 93-94).

Jones's case was considered de novo by an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). After a hearing, the ALJ issued an opinion on December 20, 1989 denying benefits on the grounds that Jones retained a residual capacity for at least light work activity. (Tr. 32). Although Jones's treating physicians characterized Jones as totally disabled, the ALJ dismissed that characterization as inconsistent with those doctors' own records and the weight of the medical evidence. (Tr. 30).

In addition to rejecting the medical claims that Jones had raised in his petition for benefits, the ALJ found no evidence that Jones currently abused alcohol*fn2 or that he had ever abused alcohol to such an extent that it interfered with his employment. The ALJ also rejected the suggestion that Jones's age of 56 substantially limited his ability to obtain work.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services (the "Secretary") adopted the Administrative Law Judge's opinion. On May 30, 1990, the Appeals Council of the Department denied Jones's request for review of the ALJ's decision. On July 5, 1990, Jones's attorney sent the Appeals Council a medical report indicating that Jones had been hospitalized from January 17, 1990 to January 24, 1990 for pancreatitis and hepatitis. The Appeals Council, noting that Jones's symptoms during that hospital stay had been quickly resolved and ...


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