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Thomas E. B. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon

November 12, 2019

THOMAS E. B., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DREW L. JOHNSON SHERWOOD J. REESE ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, ENATA GOWIE ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, MICHAEL W. PILE ACTING REGIONAL CHIEF COUNSEL, ALEXIS L. TOMA SPECIAL ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANT

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Thomas E. B. seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which the Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application for Disabled Adult Child (DAC) Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On September 6, 2019, the Commissioner also filed a Motion (#17) to Remand with his responsive brief. The parties agree the Court should remand this matter, but they disagree on the purpose for remand.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner and REMANDS this matter pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for the immediate calculation and award of benefits.

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         I. Prior Proceedings

         On March 7, 2005, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Tr. 38, 78-80.[2] Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of March 7, 2005. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on August 14, 2007. Tr. 850-87. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the hearing.

         On September 25, 2007, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to benefits. Tr. 38-46. Plaintiff did not request review of this decision.

         On October 15, 2010, Plaintiff reapplied for SSI benefits. Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of January 1, 2007. Tr. 371.

         On May 11, 2012, an ALJ issued an opinion without a hearing and concluded Plaintiff met the requirements for Listing 12.04 for bipolar disorder as of October 15, 2010, the date of his SSI application. Tr. 370-75. Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff was disabled and awarded Plaintiff benefits starting from October 2010. Tr. 375.

         II. Current Proceedings

         On June 29, 2015, Plaintiff protectively filed his application for DAC benefits. Tr. 21, 377. Plaintiff alleges a disability onset date of February 14, 1987, his date of birth. Tr. 21, 377, 444. Plaintiff's application was denied initially in November 2015 and on reconsideration in April 2016. Tr. 21. An ALJ held a hearing on May 1, 2018. Tr. 888-915. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing, and Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the hearing.

         On June 15, 2018, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to DAC benefits. Tr. 21-29. Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council. On October 17, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's decision, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 11-13. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         On December 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.

         On July 11, 2019, Plaintiff filed his initial Brief (#16) in support of his challenge to the ALJ's determination.

         On September 6, 2019, the Commissioner filed a Response (#17) and Motion to Remand this matter to the ALJ. The Commissioner concedes the ALJ erred and that his decision was not supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Commissioner, therefore, requests the court to remand this matter for further administrative proceedings. On September 12, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Reply (#18) and Response to the Commissioner's Motion to Remand and asserts the case should be remanded for an award of benefits. Accordingly, the issue before this Court is whether the Court should remand for further administrative proceedings or for an award of benefits.

         STANDARDS FOR REMAND

         The decision whether to remand for further proceedings or for immediate payment of benefits is within the discretion of the court. Harman v. Apfel,211 F.3d 172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2000). The issue turns on the utility of further proceedings. A remand for an award of benefits is appropriate when no useful purpose would be served by further administrative proceedings or when the record has been fully developed and the evidence is insufficient to support the Commissioner's ...


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