LOCATION: Ohio State Bar Association
DOCKET NO.: 108
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
CITATION: 402 US 389 (1971)
ARGUED: Jan 13, 1971
DECIDED: May 03, 1971
Facts of the case
Richardson v. Perales is a case brief that has been taken up by the United States Supreme Court. It focused on several issues connected with administrative processes in social disability situations. To be exact, there were up to nine issues to be judged based on the reports prepared by the physicians relying on the Social Security Act.
First of all, on the grounds of this case study, it is possible to examine whether the written reports by these physicians who have explored a claimant for disability is beneficial under the Social Security Act. Secondly, the legal conflict demonstrates if such reports could actually be supported to find out a non-disability. Thirdly, there are many facts showing that such situations might be false. That is why this situation serves as an example of the investigation based on the rules of evidence during any administrative law hearings. Fourthly, judging from this type of studies, cross-examination of the contributors has proven to be relevant.
One more issue examined in the case brief demonstrated if the problem of the claimant Richardson to test subpoena power and rely on the hostile witnesses for the examination during the hearing might be viewed illegal. Also, it determined whether the were any violations of the rules during the process. Another question arising in the issue draws attention to the situation with the federal administrative law judges. It is important to explore if they actually may look for opinion evidence or any type of case consultation from a third party, namely, some neutral observers who may be fired without any allowance from the petitioner.
Two last issues indicated in this case study explain whether the Social Security Act could be estimated liberally regarding the disability determination. It also explored whether Social Security disability can be beneficial to the entitlement subject and the whole procedure of the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Media for Richardson v. Perales
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 13, 1971 in Richardson v. Perales
Warren E. Burger:
We’ll hear arguments next in Number 108, Richardson against Perales.
Mr . Friedman.
Daniel M. Friedman:
Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.
This case here on the writ of certiorari to the Fifth Circuit presents an important question as to the evidence that maybe utilized by the Secretary of Health Education and Welfare in disability proceedings under the Social Security Act.
Specifically, the question is the correctness of a ruling by the Court of Appeals that written reports made by doctors found the examination of the patient which reflect the results of the examination and the doctor’s analysis and conclusions based upon that examination cannot constitute substantial evidence to support a determination of disability if, one, at the hearing before the social security authorities, the claimant objects to the introduction of this evidence.
And two, if these written doctor’s reports are contradicted by oral testimony given at the hearing by the claimant and the claimant’s doctor.
The Government has brought this case to this Court because of the serious adverse impact, it believes this rule announced by the Court of Appeals will have upon the operation of the entire social security disability program.
There's a tremendous number of these administrative hearings conducted each year in disability cases.
Last year, our figure showed that 27,000 of these hearings were held.
The hearings are conducted quite informally, they are not adversary in characters, we know the term and the examiner who presides is not an advocate of one position or the other.
He attempts to develop all the facts, both those indicating disability and both -- and those questioning disability.
Now, for as long as this program has been in effect for at least 15-years, traditionally these cases have been determined on the basis of medical reports, written reports --
Mr. Friedman, how does it all start?
Someone has claimed disability?
Daniel M. Friedman:
Yes, let me just --
What's the disability?
Daniel M. Friedman:
Well let me start by explaining what happened perhaps in this case.
This man filed a claim for disability in April 1966, in which he claimed that he had become disabled in September of 1965 as a result of a back injury.
Before he had actually filed his claim, he had undergone some treatment which had been unsuccessful.
And when he flied his claim, under the procedures of statutory procedures, the claim was referred by the social security agency to the state agency that handles disability problems.
In this case the Texas Agency and under the statute, the statute authorizes the secretary to enter into agreements with state agencies to handle, to process these claims originally.
The state agency then --
And in the procedures by which they’re handled differed depending upon the state?
Daniel M. Friedman:
Well, they may vary some but the basic procedure I think is the same which is the state agency makes whatever examinations are necessary at -- the Federal Government pays for these but it sends the man out for medical examinations.
In this case, there were a series of examinations by four different doctors.
First, they sent the man to an orthopedic surgeon who conducted various tests.
Then they sent him to a neurologist, following that they also had -- I might mention before this.
They also attached to his applications were various reports from his doctors who had indicated the problems they saw.
And at an early stage -- at an earlier stage before he filed his claim, he had undergone surgery, something called a laminectomy for this pain he had at his lower back.
Harry A. Blackmun:
Would you explain there a little bit, he did have surgery?