United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
REFUGEE DISABILITY BENEFITS OREGON and JOHN DOE I, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated; Plaintiffs,
ALEX AZAR, in his official capacity as United States Secretary of Health and Human Services; NANCY BERRYHILL, in her official capacity as Acting Commissioner of the United States Social Security Administration; and KEN TOTA, in his official capacity as Deputy Director of the United States Office of Refugee Resettlement; Defendants.
S. Coon Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost Attorneys for
Blessing Attorneys for Defendants
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction  in which Defendants
contend this Court should dismiss Plaintiffs' putative
class action on the basis that the claims of Plaintiffs and
the putative class-members are moot and because they failed
to exhaust their administrative remedies. After extensive
settlement negotiations between the parties, Defendants'
Motion is now fully briefed and the Court heard oral argument
on November 27, 2018. For the reasons that follow, the Court
denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
Refugee Disability Benefits Oregon and John Doe I bring this
putative class action on behalf of a class of Iraqi and
Afghan immigrants who are eligible to apply to receive
supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits on
account of their service to the United States in Iraq or
Afghanistan. Beginning in 2008, Iraqi and Afghan nationals
with “special immigrant visaholder”
(“SIV”) status were eligible to receive SSI for
up to eight months. In October 2009 Congress extended that
period to provide SIV status-holders up to seven years of SSI
undisputed that Defendants erroneously continued to apply the
shorter period of eligibility to SSI applications filed by at
least some SIV status-holders after Congress extended the
period of eligibility. After Plaintiffs filed this action in
February 2017, Defendants acknowledged the errors and began
to undertake efforts to identify the applications of SIV
status-holders that had been improperly processed on the
basis that the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) erroneously applied the shorter period of
noted, Defendants move to dismiss this action on two bases.
First, Defendants contend Plaintiffs and the putative
class-members failed to exhaust their administrative remedies
because the John Doe Plaintiff and at least some putative
class-members failed to pursue their applications through to
a final administrative determination. Second, Defendants
argue this case should be dismissed because the claims of the
John Doe Plaintiff and the putative class-members have become
moot as a result of Defendants' efforts to identify and
to correct erroneously-processed applications after
Plaintiffs instituted this action.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
noted, Defendants contend Plaintiffs' Complaint should be
dismissed on the basis that the John Doe Plainitff and at
least some class-members failed to exhaust their
administrative remedies. Plaintiffs, on the other hand,
contend the John Doe Plaintiff and putative class-members
adequately presented their claims to the SSA, and that,
although the factual circumstances of the putative
class-members differ in some respects, the exhaustion
requirement should be waived for their claims.
Complaint, Plaintiffs allege the “claims for SSI
benefits were denied or limited here by defendants' local
offices in this district.” Compl.  ¶ 3.
Plaintiffs contend the procedural posture of putative
class-members' SSI applications fall into three broad
categories. First, Plaintiffs contend the SSA granted the SSI
applications of some putative class-members but limited the
award of benefits to eight months of eligibility. Second,
Plaintiffs assert the SSA denied the applications of some
putative class-members because those SIV status-holders had
been admitted to the United States more than eight months
before filing their claim. Third, Plaintiffs assert some SSA
field offices may have declined to accept SSI applications
from some SIV status-holders because their eight-month period
of eligibility had expired at the time that they attempted to
file their applications.
U.S.G. § 405(g), the basis for this Court's
subject-matter jurisdiction under the Social Security Act,
“requires an SSI claimant to obtain a final judgment
from the [SSA] before seeking judicial review.”
Johnson v. Shalala, 2 F.3d 918, 921 (9th Cir. 1993).
“A final decision has two elements: (1) presentment of
the claim to the Commissioner, and (2) complete exhaustion of
administrative remedies.” Kildare v. Saenz,
325 F.3d 1078, 1082 (9th Cir. 2003).