Miller v. Richardson

Decision Date01 October 1970
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 1196.
Citation320 F. Supp. 313
PartiesGracie V. MILLER, o/b/o Paula L. Oliver, Plaintiff, v. Elliot L. RICHARDSON, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia

James H. Coleman, Coleman & Lantz, Charleston, W. Va., for plaintiff.

W. Warren Upton, U. S. Atty., Charleston, W. Va., Leo J. Meisel, Asst. U. S. Atty., Huntington, W. Va., for defendant.

CHRISTIE, District Judge:

This is an action under Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g), to review a final decision of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. A decision by a hearing examiner on November 26, 1969, became the final decision of the Secretary on March 9, 1970, when the Appeals Council refused plaintiff's request for review. The final decision holds that plaintiff is not entitled to child's insurance benefits on behalf of her daughter after September 1968. This matter is now before the Court on the motion of the defendant, under Rule 56, for summary judgment.

The standard of review in actions of this nature is found in Section 205(g) of the Act, as amended, and is as follows:

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

In short, the Courts are not to try the case de novo, and if the findings of the Secretary are supported by substantial evidence, the Courts are bound to accept them. Hicks v. Gardner, 393 F.2d 299 (4th Cir. 1968); Underwood v. Ribicoff, 298 F.2d 850 (4th Cir. 1962). Nevertheless, it is said that this provision of the law does not contemplate that the Courts should surrender their "traditional functions," but that they will view the record as a whole, not for the purpose of making an independent finding, but to determine whether or not the administrative finding is supported by substantial evidence and to see that the administrative agency does not act arbitrarily or capriciously in denying just claims or allowing unworthy ones. Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d 541 (4th Cir. 1964); Underwood v. Ribicoff, supra; Snyder v. Ribicoff, 307 F.2d 518 (4th Cir. 1962); Miracle v. Celebrezze, 351 F.2d 361 (6th Cir. 1965). In determining the meaning of "substantial evidence," the Courts have held it to be more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Thomas v. Celebrezze, supra. It is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion and it must be based on the record as a whole. Celebrezze v. Bolas, 316 F.2d 498 (8th Cir. 1963). The Fourth Circuit has pointed out that if there is only a slight preponderance of the evidence on one side or the other, the Secretary's findings must be affirmed. Underwood v. Ribicoff, supra. Therefore, the immediate task of this Court on this review is to determine whether the defendant's denial of plaintiff's claim is supported by substantial evidence.

Paula L. Oliver was born November 23, 1950, and attended public schools through the eighth grade. She left school at the age of twelve, following the death of her father, and later tried to return to school but dropped out alleging "headaches and nervousness." Since March 16, 1966, she has been taking a correspondence course from the American School, Chicago, Illinois, which, if successfully completed, would lead to a high school diploma. At the age of nineteen and after four years, she has completed 6½ hours of 18 required units.

On April 13, 1967, plaintiff filed an application for child's insurance benefits on behalf of her daughter and on June 8, 1967, she filed a supplemental application. The administration granted this application and awarded benefits beginning in February 1966. By letter dated November 19, 1968, plaintiff was advised that child's benefits would be terminated as of October 1968, the month of the child's eighteenth birthday. On reconsideration the decision to terminate was affirmed. Plaintiff requested a hearing which was held on October 24, 1969. In his decision dated November 26, 1969, the hearing examiner found that the child has not been, and is not now, a full-time student as defined by the Act and the regulations of the Secretary.

Plaintiff admits that her daughter is not attending a school which would qualify her for benefits under the Act, but she argues that her daughter's psychological handicaps were such that she was unable to attend public school and could only complete her education through a correspondence course.

In order to qualify for child's insurance benefits as a full-time student under Section 202(d) of the Act, 42 U.S. C.A. § 402(d),1 the child must be over eighteen years of age and not yet twenty-two years of age, and must be a "full-time student" at an "educational institution" as defined by the Secretary in his regulations.

Section 202(d) (7) (A) of the Act defines "full-time student" as follows:

"(7) For the purposes of this subsection—
(A) A `full-time student' is an individual who is in full-time attendance as a student at an educational institution, as determined by the Secretary (in accordance with regulations prescribed by him). * * *"

The Secretary defines "full-time attendance" as follows:

"Full-time attendance. Ordinarily, a student is in `full-time attendance' at an educational institution if he is enrolled in a non-correspondence course (emphasis added) and is carrying a subject load which is considered full-time for day students under the institution's standards and practices. * * *" 20 C.F.R. § 404.320(c) (2).

It is obvious from the foregoing statements that plaintiff's child does not qualify as a full-time student under the Act, indeed plaintiff admits that she does not qualify. Nevertheless, plaintiff argues that her child's handicaps prevent her from qualifying as a full-time student under the Act and should be taken into consideration. In support of this argument she submitted several psychological reports to the hearing examiner.

On March 26, 1969, Robert Swinger, clinical psychologist, stated that Paula Oliver had a full-scale I.Q. of 90, and was capable of "learning a skill of average difficulty and taking over responsibility for her own life as she acquires more knowledge and experience."

In 1969, Margaret Smith, Community Mental Health Consultant,...

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3 cases
  • Succession of Taglialavore
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana — District of US
    • 5 d4 Junho d4 1986
    ...are intended to help defray the expenses of those students attending educational institutions on a full-time basis. Miller v. Richardson, 320 F.Supp. 313 (S.D.W.Va.1970). Although the OASDI benefits of Jill's father may have accrued as a result of social security taxes paid upon community r......
  • Elam v. Hanson, Civ. No. C 71-286.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • 1 d2 Outubro d2 1974
    ...§ 402(d) is to help defray the expenses of those students attending educational institutions on a full-time basis. Miller v. Richardson, 320 F.Supp. 313, 316 (S.D.W.Va.1970). From the construction of the statute itself it is abundantly clear, and the Court so finds, that Congress sought to ......
  • Anderson v. Blum
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • 11 d4 Dezembro d4 1980
    ...education expenses of recipients so that they can remain full-time students (Elam v. Hanson, supra, p. 552; see also, Miller v. Richardson, D.C., 320 F.Supp. 313, 316). Observing that the Social Security Act is a statute which is to be "broadly construed and liberally applied", the Federal ......

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