Biestek v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 17-1459 (COOK, Clay, White).
Plaintiff argues that an Administrative Law Judge with the Social Security Administration incorrectly found that he was not disabled for a period of time that he claimed he should be entitled to disability benefits. The district court rejected his claims, and he appealed.
The Sixth Circuit affirmed. In evaluating Plaintiff’s appeal, the Court noted that the Sixth Circuit had not yet squarely addressed the extent to which vocational experts must produce underlying data in support of their opinions, and there was a circuit split on the issue. The Seventh Circuit requires vocational experts to provide the data and reasoning used in support of their conclusions upon request, incorporating the essence of Federal Rule of Evidence 702 into the administrative adjudicative process. The Sixth Circuit, following the Second, Third, and Ninth Circuits, did not follow this approach. Instead, the Court held that no stringent evidentiary requirements should be applied. The Court reasoned that Congress specifically exempted the Social Security disability proceedings from the strictures of the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Seventh Circuit’s standards would be difficult to apply. The Court found that the ultimate responsibility for weighing the credibility of witnesses belongs to the ALJ and, while testimony “conjured out of whole cloth” cannot be considered substantial evidence, there was no reason to suppose that the ALJ in this case did not carefully weigh the credibility of the witnesses.