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FULLER v. FOLSOM

October 26, 1957

SHERMAN R. FULLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARION B. FOLSOM, SECRETARY OF HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WELFARE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Miller, District Judge.

In accordance with the statute the Secretary has filed a certified copy of the transcript of the record, including the evidence upon which the findings and decision complained of are based.

The jurisdictional statute, among other things, provides:

    "* * * The court shall have power to enter, upon
  the pleadings and transcript of the record, a
  judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the
  decision of the Secretary, with or without remanding
  the cause for a rehearing. The findings of the
  Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial
  evidence, shall be conclusive * * *."

The burden of proof, both before the Referee and in the instant proceeding, is upon the plaintiff. Thurston v. Hobby, D.C.Mo., 133 F. Supp. 205; Norment v. Hobby, D.C.Ala., 124 F. Supp. 489. Not only are the findings of fact made by the Referee, if supported by substantial evidence, conclusive, but a majority of courts also extend the finality of the Referee's findings to inferences and conclusions which he draws from the evidence, if there is a substantial basis for the conclusions. Rosewall v. Folsom, 7 Cir., 239 F.2d 724; United States v. LaLone, 9 Cir., 152 F.2d 43; Social Security Board v. Warren, 8 Cir., 142 F.2d 974; Walker v. Altmeyer, 2 Cir., 137 F.2d 531; McGrew v. Hobby, D.C. Kan., 129 F. Supp. 627; Hemmerle v. Hobby, D.C.N.J., 114 F. Supp. 16; Schmidt v. Ewing, D.C.Pa., 108 F. Supp. 505; Holland v. Altmeyer, D.C.Minn., 60 F. Supp. 954.

The Referee's conclusions of law, however, are not binding upon the Court, although they are entitled to great weight. See, Miller v. Burger, 9 Cir., 161 F.2d 992; Carroll v. Social Security Board, 7 Cir., 128 F.2d 876; Ayers v. Hobby, D.C.Va., 123 F. Supp. 115; Ray v. Social Security Board, D.C.Ala., 73 F. Supp. 58.

And in reviewing the decision of the Referee, the Court must not abdicate its conventional judicial function. Universal Camera Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board, 340 U.S. 474, 490, 71 S.Ct. 456, 466, 99 L.Ed. 456; Shields v. Folsom, D.C.Pa., 153 F. Supp. 733, 734.

With these general rules of law in mind, the Court must consider the record in the instant case. On November 23, 1955, plaintiff filed an application under 42 U.S.C.A. § 416(i), seeking to establish a period of disability from May 1, 1946, and continuously thereafter up to and including the date of the application.

While that application was pending, on February 15, 1956, plaintiff filed an application for old-age insurance benefits payable under 42 U.S.C.A. § 402(a). His wife also filed application under 42 U.S.C.A. § 402(b) for "wife's insurance benefits" based on her husband's wage record. Plaintiff and his wife were awarded benefits, but the question of any possible period of disability was left open for determination.

On July 16, 1956, plaintiff was notified that his application for the establishment of a period of disability had been denied, and that his benefit rate would remain unchanged. Plaintiff requested a hearing before a Referee, and such hearing was held at Harrison, Arkansas, on March 19, 1957. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearing.

The Referee issued his decision on April 15, 1957, holding that plaintiff was not entitled to a period of disability under 42 U.S.C.A. § 416(i). The Referee's decision was approved by the Appeals Council on June 11, 1957.

The question before this Court is whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Referee's findings.

The statute in question, 42 U.S.C.A. § 416(i), among other things, provides:

    "(i)(1) Except for purposes of sections 402(d),
  423 and 425 of this title, the term `disability'
  means (A) inability to engage in any substantial
  gainful activity by reason of any medically
  determinable physical or mental impairment which can
  be expected to result in death or to be of
  long-continued and indefinite duration, * * *. An
  individual shall not be considered to be under ...

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