Hephner v. Mathews, 76-1396

Decision Date17 April 1978
Docket NumberNo. 76-1396,76-1396
Citation574 F.2d 359
PartiesVincent Leroy HEPHNER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Forest David MATHEWS, Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Dan R. Bruggeman, Adrian, Mich., for plaintiff-appellant.

James K. Robinson, U. S. Atty., Samuel J. Behringer, Jr., Asst. U. S. Atty., Detroit, Mich., Robert Burton Breisblatt, Gen. Atty., Dept. of HEW, Chicago, Ill., for defendant-appellee.

Before WEICK, LIVELY and MERRITT, Circuit Judges.

WEICK, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from an order of the District Court granting summary judgment in favor of the Secretary in a proceeding to review the denial of Social Security disability benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.

Appellant filed his claim for disability benefits on February 20, 1973, alleging that subsequent to January 26, 1973 he had become unable to engage in substantial gainful activity because of pain and discomfort caused by degenerative disc disease in his cervical spine and a right shoulder injury. His application was denied initially, and again on reconsideration by the Secretary. A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) was requested. The ALJ found that appellant was not precluded by reason of his alleged physical impairments from engaging in substantial gainful activity.

Appellant then requested review by the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council declined to review the case and appellant initiated action seeking judicial review in the District Court. There the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The District Court, without opinion, entered an order denying the appellant's motion and granting the motion of the Secretary.

Appellant has timely filed this appeal from the District Court's judgment. Oral argument in this case was waived by the parties.

Appellant, at the time he filed his application for disability benefits, was 42 years of age, was married and had one dependent child. He is a high school graduate, and at the time the alleged disability arose he was self-employed in the business of selling hand tools to service stations and garages in a three-county area around Morenci, Michigan. The job required him to drive a walk-in van to the premises of his customers, and to carry the tools and tool boxes, ranging in weight from five to one hundred fifty pounds, into the service areas. Appellant had been engaged in this work continuously since 1964, with the exception of a six months' period in 1967 when he attempted, unsuccessfully, to sell securities. Appellant's previous work had included also that of a mechanic and service manager in a garage, an aluminum extrusion plant inspector's helper, a press operator, a self-employed hauler of milk, a farmer and he had pressed and cleaned clothes in a dry cleaning shop.

On May 21, 1971 appellant was driving his van when another vehicle crossed directly in front of him. The impact of the collision hurled him through the windshield. He was taken to a hospital where he remained for one week. Although none of the injuries sustained in the accident relates to appellant's claim for disability benefits, it is clear from the medical evidence that the accident caused a preexisting but undiagnosed degenerative disc involvement of the cervical spine to become symptomatic, that is, it began to cause appellant pain. Appellant also sustained an injured tendon in his right shoulder as a result of the accident.

Appellant returned to work approximately three months after the accident. Due to pain and stiffness in his right shoulder and neck appellant was unable to drive his van; therefore he had his wife accompany him to work as his driver. On January 26, 1973 appellant sold his tool distributorship business to his son-in-law.

At the administrative hearing the oral testimony consisted of that of appellant and his wife. The substance of appellant's testimony was that the pain and discomfort emanating from his neck and shoulder caused him to relinquish his business and precluded him from engaging in any meaningful activity. The testimony of his wife corroborated that of appellant.

The medical evidence pertinent to the claim of disability consisted of reports of the doctors who had examined or treated appellant, and his treating physician's depositions taken in connection with a civil action filed by appellant against the driver of the vehicle which caused the accident. The salient feature of this evidence is that each doctor who examined appellant after the accident found an underlying medical basis for his subjective complaints of pain and discomfort. In fact, the diagnoses of the doctors were virtually identical and showed severe degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine at C-5, C-6 and either bicipital tendonitis or adhesive capsulitis of the right shoulder.

The only issue on appeal is whether there is substantial evidence as a whole to support the Secretary's determination that appellant is not disabled as that term has been defined statutorily.

To recover disability benefits under the Social Security Act, the burden of proof is upon the claimant to show that his disability precludes him from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. A prima facie case is established if the claimant shows a medical basis for an impairment that prevents him from engaging in his particular occupation. Garrett v. Finch, 436 F.2d 15, 18 (6th Cir. 1970), and cases cited therein. Proof of a claimant's inability to perform his usual work because of great pain is sufficient to make a prima facie case. See Noe v. Weinberger, 512 F.2d 588 (6th Cir. 1975); Sayres v. Gardner, 380 F.2d 940 (6th Cir. 1967).

Once a prima facie case is established, the burden of going forward with the evidence shifts to the Secretary to show that the claimant, in his physical condition, can perform...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1834 cases
  • Lawson v. Astrue
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • March 2, 2010
    ...the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the Court must consider the record as a whole. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359 (6th Cir.1978). To qualify for SSI benefits, plaintiff must file an application and be an "eligible individual" as defined in the Act. 42 U.S.C.......
  • Santise v. Schweiker
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • April 8, 1982
    ...HHS was required to identify "specific types of jobs" suitable for an individual deemed "not disabled" by an ALJ. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359, 363 (6th Cir. 1978). In the course of upholding the validity of the same medical-vocational regulations at issue here, however, the court concl......
  • Maximum Home Health Care, Inc. v. Shalala
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Tennessee
    • July 27, 2000
    ...not focus and base [its] 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 Memorial Hospital/Adair County Health Center, Inc. v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 111 (D.C.Cir.1987), the District of Columbia Circ......
  • Bull v. Commissioner of Social Sec.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • May 29, 2008
    ...the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the Court must consider the record as a whole. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359 (6th Cir.1978). To qualify for SSI benefits, plaintiff must file an application and be an "eligible individual" as defined in the Act. 42 U.S.C.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT