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Barker v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 12, 2015

JO ANN BARKER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

Jo Ann Barker, Drain, Oregon, Plaintiff pro se.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, District of Oregon, Ronald K. Silver, Assistant United States Attorney U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, DISTRICT OF OREGON, Portland, OR, Kathryn A. Miller, Special Assistant United States Attorney SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION Office of the General Counsel, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

MARCO A. HERNNDEZ, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Jo Ann Barker brings this action for judicial review of the May 24, 2013, decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") granting Plaintiff a waiver of overpayment of past supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits. Plaintiff contends that, despite granting Plaintiff a favorable decision, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in two ways: (1) "the Commissioner asserting lack of jurisdiction in the matter of reimbursement and recovery of interim assistance allegedly owed paid and transferred to the CA Department of Social services [and]; (2) failure of the Commissioner to address the continuing disability and that Underpayment from December 1999 to February 6th, 2002 found in the Commissioners Recordings of the Downey ODAR September 1st and September 7th, 2011." Compl. 1-2.

The Commissioner moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(h)(3). The Commissioner contends that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to review decisions of the Commissioner regarding reimbursement of interim assistance payments to a state. The Commissioner also argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction to review an earlier SSI application when Plaintiff failed to timely request reopening of the application.

The Court agrees that it lacks jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's claims and, therefore, the Court dismisses the Complaint.

BACKGROUND

I. History of the Case

The history of this case is lengthy and complicated. In 1993, an ALJ found Plaintiff disabled as of April 8, 1991. Several years later, following a periodic review, the Social Security Administration ("Administration") requested that Plaintiff undergo consultative examinations in order to obtain current medical evidence. When Plaintiff refused to attend those examinations, the Administration terminated her eligibility of benefits. Plaintiff appealed the termination. Pursuant to a hearing regarding the appeal, an ALJ issued a decision on February 18, 1999, terminating Plaintiff's eligibility for benefits effective September 30, 1997. On February 3, 2000, the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ decision. Plaintiff did not seek review of the cessation of benefits in federal court.

On February 6, 2002, Plaintiff filed another application for SSI. The Administration denied the application initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff appealed. An ALJ conducted a hearing and issued an unfavorable decision on February 19, 2004, determining that Plaintiff was not disabled from the date of the 2002 application through the date of the decision. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's application for review.

Plaintiff then appealed to the United States District Court for the Central District of California, which remanded the case for further proceedings in an opinion issued on May 11, 2009. See Barker v. Astrue, No. CV05-5766JC, 2009 WL 1334366 (C.D. Cal. May 11, 2009). The court remanded the case for the ALJ to "develop the record regarding plaintiff's mental condition and to assess whether... plaintiff is able to work." Id. at *5. The court noted that "much of plaintiff's motion for summary judgment takes issue with the Administration's prior decisions relating to her 1991 application for supplemental security income." Id. However, Plaintiff had not requested a reopening of that decision from the Appeals Council within 12 months of the Council's denial of review of Plaintiff's application. Id. (citing 20 C.F. R. § 416.1488(a)). Therefore, the ALJ's cessation decision had become final and the district court determined that it lacked jurisdiction to review the earlier decision. Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.1487(a); Brodie v. Commissioner of Social Security, 267 Fed.App'x. 662, 664 (9th Cir. 2008)[1]; and Udd v. Massanari, 245 F.3d 1096, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 2001)). However, the court stated that, on remand "it may be appropriate for the Administration, in accordance with Social Security Ruling 91-5p, to review whether there is cause to reopen the prior application for further administrative action to determine whether plaintiff's mental impairment prevented her from appropriately supplementing the record for disability review." Id. at *6.

On September 20, 2011, an ALJ issued a decision after conducting a hearing in accordance with the district court's remand instructions. The ALJ found Plaintiff disabled since February 6, 2002, the date her second application for SSI was filed, because there were no jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. Pl. Reply Att. 2, [29-2]. The ALJ also conducted an analysis under SSR 91-5p, as recommended by the district court, to determine whether there was cause to reopen Plaintiff's prior application for further administrative action. Id. Specifically, the ALJ looked at Plaintiff's mental impairment and whether it prevented her from supplementing the record in the 1999 proceedings that resulted in her benefits being terminated. Id. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have a mental or physical impairment which limited her ability to appeal the cessation determination either herself or through a representative. Id. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that "the decision issued on February 18, 1999, ceasing the claimant's eligibility for benefits will not be reopened herein and is final." Id.

II. Present Case

After Plaintiff's benefits were terminated on September 30, 1997, she appealed the decision and elected to continue receiving benefits during the pendency of her appeal. Tr. 7. As discussed above, an ALJ subsequently issued a decision on February 18, 1999, affirming the termination of Plaintiff's disability benefits. Therefore, between 1997 and 1999, Plaintiff received benefits ...


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