Garner v. Heckler, No. 83-5637

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore EDWARDS, Circuit Judge, BROWN, Senior Circuit Judge, and DOWD; DOWD; BAILEY BROWN
Citation745 F.2d 383
Parties, Unempl.Ins.Rep. CCH 15,548 Douglas GARNER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Margaret M. HECKLER, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Defendant-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 83-5637
Decision Date05 October 1984

Page 383

745 F.2d 383
7 Soc.Sec.Rep.Ser. 100, Unempl.Ins.Rep. CCH 15,548
Douglas GARNER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Margaret M. HECKLER, Secretary of Health and Human Services,
Defendant-Appellee.
No. 83-5637.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Argued July 31, 1984.
Decided Oct. 5, 1984.

Page 385

Joseph Kelley (argued), Monhollon, Bruce & Kelley, Greenville, Ky., for plaintiff-appellant.

Ronald E. Meredith, U.S. Atty., Philip Dunnagan (argued), Asst. U.S. Atty., Louisville, Ky., for defendant-appellee.

Before EDWARDS, Circuit Judge, BROWN, Senior Circuit Judge, and DOWD, District Judge. *

DOWD, District Judge.

Douglas Garner instituted this action in federal district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Secs. 405(g), 1383(c)(3) for judicial review of a final decision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services denying his application for the establishment of a period of disability and the award of disability insurance and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. The district court upheld the Secretary's decision and Garner appeals to this Court. For the reasons stated below, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand this case to the district court with directions to remand to the Secretary for an award of disability insurance and SSI benefits.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Garner is a 26-year-old man. He attended school through the 10th grade and engaged in past relevant work as a heavy

Page 386

laborer in a paper mill. His physical impairments are the result of a fractured spine he sustained in a July 1975 automobile accident and two injuries he sustained in work place accidents during September 1979.

Garner filed an application for establishment of a period of disability and the award of disability and SSI benefits on December 11, 1980, alleging that he had become unable to work on September 30, 1979, due to neck and spine injuries. This application was denied. At the plaintiff's request, an administrative law judge (ALJ) heard this case de novo on September 2, 1981. In a decision dated January 26, 1982, the ALJ denied Garner's claim for benefits. In relevant part, the ALJ found:

1. The claimant met the special earnings requirements of the Act on September 30, 1979, the date that the claimant stated he became unable to work, and continues to meet them through June 30, 1981.

2. The claimant has a cervical spine fracture and a disc lesion in the lumbar spine.

4. The claimant did not have a severe impairment which would have prevented him from engaging in substantial gainful activity at any time through June 30, 1981, the date he last met the special earnings requirement of the Act.

5. Beginning in August 1981, the claimant has a severe impairment but this is not expected to last for twelve continuous months.

6. The claimant is expected to be unable to perform heavy work.

7. The claimant's impairment is expected to improve following his surgery and he should have the residual functional capacity for at least sedentary work.

11. Rule 201.27, Table No. 1 of Appendix 2, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4, directs a conclusion that the claimant, considering his expected residual functional capacity, age, education, and work experience, is not disabled.

12. The claimant has not been disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act at any time through the date of this decision.

The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Secretary when the Appeals Council denied review on April 28, 1982.

Garner then filed for judicial review in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The case was referred to a magistrate who recommended affirmance of the Secretary's decision. Garner filed objections and the district court affirmed the Secretary's decision, although the district judge modified the basis for the decision. Garner now appeals to this Court.

II. ANALYSIS

Analysis of Garner's eligibility for disability insurance and SSI benefits involves a number of common issues. To qualify for an award of disability insurance benefits, Garner must be (a) insured for disability insurance benefits, and (b) disabled. 1 See 42 U.S.C. Sec. 423(a)(1)(A, D). To qualify for an award of SSI benefits, Garner must be (a) meet certain income requirements, and (b) be disabled. See 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1382(a). As Garner's eligibility for benefits under both programs turns on the requirement that he be disabled, we begin our analysis by considering whether Garner is disabled. We will then consider whether he meets the other requirements for an award of benefits under the two programs.

A. Disability.

The Social Security Act defines disability as the inability

to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be

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expected to result in death or which has lasted or which can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.

42 U.S.C. Sec. 423(d)(1)(A), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1382c(a)(3)(A). A person is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity

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.

42 U.S.C. Sec. 423(d)(2)(A), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1382c(a)(3)(B). Under these statutes, and the regulations promulgated pursuant to these statutes, a claim of disability must be considered pursuant to the following seven-step analysis:

1. Is the claimant currently engaged in substantial gainful activity? If yes, the claimant is not disabled. If no, proceed to Step 2. See 20 C.F.R. Sec. 404.1520(b); 20 C.F.R. Sec. 416.920(b).

2. Does the claimant have any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s)? If yes, proceed to Step 3. If no, the claimant is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. Sec. 404.1508; 20 C.F.R. Sec. 416.908.

3. Does the claimant have any severe impairment(s)--i.e., any impairment(s) significantly limiting the claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities? If yes, proceed to Step 4. If no, the claimant is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. Secs. 404.1520(c), 404.1521; 20 C.F.R. Secs. 416.920(c), 416.921.

4. Can the claimant's severe impairment(s) be expected to result in death or last for a continuous period of at least 12 months? If yes, proceed to Step 5. If no, the claimant is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. Sec. 404.1509; 20 C.F.R. Sec. 416.909.

5. Does the claimant have any impairment or combination of impairments meeting or equalling in severity an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Listing of Impairments)? If yes, the claimant is disabled. If no, proceed to Step 6. See 20 C.F.R. Secs. 404.1520(d), 404.1526(a); 20 C.F.R. Secs. 416.920(d), 416.926(a).

6. Can the claimant, despite his impairment(s), considering his residual functional capacity and the physical and mental demands of the work he has done in the past, still perform this kind of past relevant work? If yes, the claimant is not disabled. If no, proceed to Step 7. See 20 C.F.R. Sec. 404.1520(e); 20 C.F.R. Sec. 416.920(e).

7. Can the claimant, despite his impairment(s), considering his residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience, do other work--i.e., any other substantial gainful activity which exists in the national economy? If yes, the claimant is not disabled. If no, the claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. Secs. 404.1505(a), 404.1520(f)(1); 20 C.F.R. Secs. 416.905(a), 416.920(f)(1).

The Secretary found Garner not disabled for two reasons. Garner's impairment was not expected to result in death or last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. See Step 4, Finding 5. Alternatively, the Secretary's finding that Garner could do sedentary work, in conjunction with the other vocational factors, required a finding of not disabled. See Step 7, Findings 7, 11. On appeal, Garner has challenged both bases for the Secretary's finding of not disabled.

Judicial review of the Secretary's decision is limited in scope to determining whether the findings of fact made by the Secretary are supported by substantial evidence and deciding whether the Secretary employed the proper legal criteria in reaching her conclusion. Walston v. Gardner, 381 F.2d 580, 585 (6th Cir.1967). This Court may not try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor decide questions of credibility. Myers v. Richardson, 471 F.2d 1265 (6th Cir.1972). Rather, "[t]he findings of the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence,

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shall be conclusive...." 42 U.S.C. Sec. 405(g).

The Supreme Court has stated that "substantial evidence" is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971). Substantiality of the evidence must be based upon the record taken as a whole. Allen v. Califano, 613 F.2d 139, 145 (6th Cir.1980), citing Futernick v. Richardson, 484 F.2d 647 (6th Cir.1973). "Substantial evidence is not simply some evidence, or even a great deal of evidence. Rather, the 'substantiality of evidence must take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight.' " Beavers v. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, 577 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir.1978), quoting Universal Camera Corp. v. N.L.R.B., 340 U.S. 474, 71 S.Ct. 456, 95 L.Ed. 456 (1951). "We may not focus and base our decision entirely on a single piece of evidence, and disregard other pertinent evidence." Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359, 362 (6th Cir.1978).

In order for Garner to prevail on this appeal, two findings of...

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4338 practice notes
  • Payne v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 4:20-CV-00125-HBB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • December 16, 2021
    ...decide questions of credibility.” Cohen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)). As previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3). At......
  • Sandlin v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 1:20-CV-00178-HBB
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Kentucky
    • March 14, 2022
    ...decide questions of credibility.” Cohen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)). As previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3). At......
  • Arms v. Nancy A. Berryhill Acting Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 2:15-0047
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • July 25, 2017
    ...court may not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of credibility. See, e.g., Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984) (citing Myers v. Richardson, 471 F.2d 1265, 1268 (6th Cir. 1972)). The Court must accept the ALJ's explicit findings and det......
  • Davis v. Berryhill, CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:18-CV-00062-HBB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • February 20, 2019
    ...decide questions of credibility." Cohen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)). As previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3). At......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4329 cases
  • Payne v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 4:20-CV-00125-HBB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • December 16, 2021
    ...decide questions of credibility.” Cohen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)). As previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3). At......
  • Sandlin v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 1:20-CV-00178-HBB
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Kentucky
    • March 14, 2022
    ...decide questions of credibility.” Cohen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)). As previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3). At......
  • Arms v. Nancy A. Berryhill Acting Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 2:15-0047
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • July 25, 2017
    ...court may not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of credibility. See, e.g., Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984) (citing Myers v. Richardson, 471 F.2d 1265, 1268 (6th Cir. 1972)). The Court must accept the ALJ's explicit findings and det......
  • Davis v. Berryhill, CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:18-CV-00062-HBB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • February 20, 2019
    ...decide questions of credibility." Cohen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)). As previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3). At......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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