United States District Court, Central District of Illinois
May 23, 1995
GARY VARNER, PLAINTIFF,
DONNA E. SHALALA, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mihm, Chief Judge.
Before the Court are Gary Varner's Motion for Summary Judgment
 and Defendant's Motion to Affirm . For the reasons set
forth herein, the Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED and the
Motion to Affirm is GRANTED.
Varner applied for Disability Insurance Benefits on November 4,
1991, alleging that he was impaired by manic depression and a
chemical imbalance from November 15, 1989. (Tr. 13, 147).
Varner's application was denied on February 21, 1992. Id. at
102. Varner's request for reconsideration was denied on July 9,
1992. Id. at 110. Varner requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on August 28, 1992. Id. at
30, 94. Such hearing was held before ALJ Gary L. Vanderhoof on
May 3 1993. Id. at 13-23. ALJ Vanderhoof denied Plaintiff's
request for benefits. Id. Varner timely appealed the ALJ's
decision. Id. at 8. The Appeals Council denied Varner's
request for review on December 14, 1993. Id. at 5-6. When the
Appeals Council declines to hear a case, the ALJ's decision is
that of the Secretary. 20 C.F.R. § 404.981 (1994). Pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Varner has brought the matter before this
Court for review of the Secretary's decision.
ALJ Vanderhoof's findings are set forth below, in relevant
1. The claimant met the special earnings requirements of the
Social Security Act from June 27, 1986 through September 30,
2. The claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity from
June 27, 1986 to November 15, 1989 as a truck driver, school
bus driver, and landscaper. On average, the claimant earned
more than $300.00 per month during this time. This work
activity constituted substantial gainful activity under the
Regulations. (20 C.F.R. 404.1572 and 416.972) The claimant
was not under a disability as defined by the Act from June
27, 1986 through November 15, 1989. The claimant has not
been engaged in substantial gainful activity since November
3. While the medical evidence indicates that the claimant
has a severe depressive disorder, it does not rise to the
level of an impairment or combination of impairments listed
in or medically equal to one listed in Appendix 1, Subpart
P, Regulations No. 4.
4. The testimony of claimant and claimant's wife are not
found to be fully credible.
5. Since November 16, 1989, the claimant has had the
residual functioning capacity to perform the following
physical exertional and nonexertional requirements of work:
no physical limitations, a moderately limited ability to
perform complex cognitive activities, can perform simple,
routine, repetitive work, no high-stress or fast-paced work,
and should work more with things than people.
6. The claimant's past relevant work as a truck driver did
not require the performance of work-related activities
precluded by the above limitations. The claimant can perform
his past relevant work as a truck driver.
7. The claimant has not been under a "disability," as
defined in the Social Security Act, at any time through the
date of this decision. (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(b) and (e) and
416.920(b) and (e)).
(Tr. at 21-22). As will be discussed below, Varner has not made
a claim that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence and, thus, it is not necessary to set forth a detailed
factual description of the medical evidence in the record.
Varner submits two arguments in support of his Motion for
Summary Judgment, including (1) his constitutional right to
equal protection has been violated and (2) "medical evidence of
record shows that Varner withdraws socially for periods of
time, which would preclude competitive employment, due to manic
depression." (Mot. for Summary Judgment at 20). The Court will
consider these arguments in reverse order.
In support of his second argument, Varner asserts that there
was no basis for the ALJ's credibility determination. This
Court is not in a position to overturn the credibility
determinations of the ALJ and will defer to the ALJ's findings
unless Varner demonstrates that such findings are clearly
wrong. Dray v. Railroad Retirement Bd., 10 F.3d 1306, 1313-14
(7th Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). Varner has not provided
this Court with any indications that the ALJ's credibility
determinations were clearly wrong and, thus, they will not be
disturbed by this Court.
Also in support of the second argument, Varner asserts that the
hypothetical questions posed to the vocational expert were
lacking in certain details. The hypothetical questions posed to
the vocational expert need not consider each and every one of
the claimant's impairments as long as the record indicates that
the vocational expert has reviewed the documentary evidence
prior to the hearing. Ragsdale v. Shalala, 1995 WL 242648
(7th Cir. April 27, 1995) (citing Ehrhart v. Secretary of
Health and Human Services, 969 F.2d 534 (7th Cir. 1992)). The
record in the case at bar indicates that the vocational expert,
G. Brian Paprocki, had reviewed the documentary evidence prior
to the hearing. (Tr. at 62). Therefore, the Court finds that
Varner's second argument does not support his Motion for
Turning to the constitutional argument raised by Varner, this
Court finds the logic of Spragens v. Shalala, 36 F.3d 947
(10th Cir. 1994), persuasive and holds that Varner's equal
protection rights were not violated by the Social Security
Regulations ("SSR"). The SSR provide generally that blind
persons may earn approximately $650.00 per month for the time
period at issue in Varner's claim before becoming ineligible
for Social Security benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(4); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.430, 404.1574(b)(2)(vi), 404.1584(d). Persons who are
otherwise disabled, such as Varner, are generally entitled to
earn only $300.00 per month for the calendar years between 1979
and 1989 before they are characterized as engaged in
substantial gainful employment. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1574(b)(2)(vi).
416.974(b)(2)(vi). Varner asserts that these decisions of the
Secretary violated his equal protection rights conferred upon
him by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.
It is well established that decisions to spend money to improve
the public welfare do not belong to the courts, but to
Congress. The courts may review such decisions only for
arbitrary displays of power which are clearly wrong. Dandridge
v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 485, 90 S.Ct. 1153, 1161-62, 25
L.Ed.2d 491 (1970) (citing Helvering v. Davis, 301 U.S. 619,
640, 57 S.Ct. 904, 908, 81 L.Ed. 1307 (1937)); see also
Califano v. Goldfarb, 430 U.S. 199, 210, 97 S.Ct. 1021,
1028-29, 51 L.Ed.2d 270 (1977) (citations omitted). Thus, the
appropriate standard of review is that of a rational basis.
Id. The presumption of constitutionality will not be
overturned unless the decisions or allocations are invidious.
Mathews v. De Castro, 429 U.S. 181, 185, 97 S.Ct. 431, 434,
50 L.Ed.2d 389 (1976) (citing Jefferson v. Hackney,
406 U.S. 535, 546, 92 S.Ct. 1724, 1731, 32 L.Ed.2d 285 (1972)). The
burden of overcoming the presumption is placed squarely on the
party who challenges a statute's constitutionality. New York
State Club Ass'n, Inc. v. City of New York, 487 U.S. 1, 17,
108 S.Ct. 2225, 2236-37, 101 L.Ed.2d 1 (1988).
In Spragens, the Tenth Circuit reasoned that the legislative
distinction between blind persons and persons otherwise
disabled was not irrational. 36 F.3d at 950-51. The Spragens
court cited to Mathews v. De Castro in support of its
decision, noting that in Mathews the Supreme Court determined
that the Secretary's distinction between married women below
the age of 62 with minor children and divorced women under the
age of 62 with minor children survived a constitutional
challenge because Congress could "rationally decide that the
problems created for divorced women remained less pressing than
those faced by women who continue to live
with their husbands." 429 U.S. at 189, 97 S.Ct. at 436.
Likewise, in the case at bar, Congress could rationally
determine that the hardships facing the visually impaired are
more substantial than those facing persons otherwise disabled.
The fact that Varner may be more disabled than a general
sampling of the visually impaired does not change this
constitutional analysis. Therefore, this Court finds that the
legislature's classification which distinguishes between blind
persons and persons otherwise impaired is neither patently
arbitrary nor irrational.
For the reasons set forth herein, the Motion for Summary
Judgment is DENIED, and the Motion to Affirm is GRANTED. This
terminates the case.