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GAZDA v. SHALALA

January 27, 1994

EDWARD J. GAZDA, Plaintiff,
v.
DONNA E. SHALALA, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GUSTAVE DIAMOND

 DIAMOND, C.J.

 Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), the plaintiff seeks judicial review of a decision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("Secretary") denying his application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. Presently before the court are cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's motion will be denied and the Secretary's motion will be granted.

 Background

 Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on March 12, 1991, alleging that he had been disabled since August 2, 1990, due to high blood pressure, gallbladder trouble and rheumatic heart disease. (Tr. 62). His applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 66-74).

 Upon request by the plaintiff, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). At the hearing, plaintiff testified and was represented by counsel. A vocational expert, Ms. Karen S. Krull, also testified. (Tr. 50-57).

 After consideration of the record, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, was not entitled to disability insurance benefits or supplemental security income. (Tr. 11).

 The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Secretary. (Tr. 4-5). Plaintiff appeals from this decision.

 Discussion

 When the Secretary determines that a claimant is not "disabled" within the meaning of the Act, the findings leading to such a conclusion must be based upon substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Stunkard v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 841 F.2d 57, 59 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842, 91 S. Ct. 1420 (1971)). "'It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance.'" Stunkard, 841 F.2d at 59 (quoting Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403, 406 (3d Cir. 1979)). If the Secretary's conclusions are based on a resolution of conflicting evidence -- rather than a mere dismissal of it -- then those conclusions will most likely be satisfied by substantial evidence. See Wier on Behalf of Wier v. Heckler, 734 F.2d 955, 956 (3d Cir. 1984). Despite the deference to administrative decisions required by this standard, a reviewing court "retain[s] a responsibility to scrutinize the entire record and to reverse or remand if the Secretary's decision is not supported by substantial evidence." Smith v. Califano, 637 F.2d 968, 970 (3d Cir. 1981); Baerga v. Richardson, 500 F.2d 309, 313 (3d Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 420 U.S. 931, 95 S. Ct. 1133, 43 L. Ed. 2d 403 (1975).

 This court's independent review of the entire record in this case reveals that the Secretary's decision that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act is supported by substantial evidence.

 The Act defines "disability" as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of a physical or mental impairment which can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423 (d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The impairment or impairments must be so severe that the claimant "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 . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1323c(a)(3)(B). The existence of such an impairment must be demonstrated by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3), 1323c(a)(3)(C).

 The claimant has the burden of making out a prima facie case that he is disabled within the meaning of the Act. Parker v. Harris, 626 F.2d 225, 231 (2d Cir. 1980); Livingston v. Califano, 614 F.2d 342, 345 (3d Cir. 1980); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1512(a) (1982). This burden is met when a physician substantiates a claimant's subjective claim that he has an impairment which prevents his return to his previous employment. Rossi v. Califano, 602 F.2d 55 (3d Cir. 1979).

 In the instant case, plaintiff has failed in his burden of making out a prima facie case that he was disabled. Plaintiff's claims of physical impairment have not been ...


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