Page:Michael J. Biestek v. Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security.pdf/13

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Cite as: 587 U. S. ___ (2019)

Opinion of the Court

refusal, the absence of data places the selfsame limits on cross-examination.

Where Biestek goes wrong, at bottom, is in pressing for a categorical rule, applying to every case in which a vocational expert refuses a request for underlying data. Sometimes an expert’s withholding of such data, when combined with other aspects of the record, will prevent her testimony from qualifying as substantial evidence. That would be so, for example, if the expert has no good reason to keep the data private and her testimony lacks other markers of reliability. But sometimes the reservation of data will have no such effect. Even though the applicant might wish for the data, the expert’s testimony still will clear (even handily so) the more-than-a-mere-scintilla threshold. The inquiry, as is usually true in determining the substantiality of evidence, is case-by-case. See, e. g., Perales, 402 U. S., at 399, 410 (rejecting a categorical rule pertaining to the substantiality of medical reports in a disability hearing). It takes into account all features of the vocational expert’s testimony, as well as the rest of the administrative record. And in so doing, it defers to the presiding ALJ, who has seen the hearing up close.

That much is sufficient to decide this case. Biestek petitioned us only to adopt the categorical rule we have now rejected. He did not ask us to decide whether, in the absence of that rule, substantial evidence supported the ALJ in denying him benefits. Accordingly, we affirm the Court of Appeals’ judgment.

It is so ordered.