United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION INSTRUCTIONS
Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has
been sent to Judge J. Leon Holmes. Either party may file
written objections to this Recommendation. Objections should
be specific and should include the factual or legal basis for
considered, all objections must be received in the office of
the Court Clerk within 14 days of this Recommendation. If no
objections are filed, Judge Holmes can adopt this
Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By
not objecting, parties may also waive any right to appeal
questions of fact.
FOR RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION
Michael Bishop was awarded social security disability
benefits in a decision dated March 29, 2013. (R. at 23-28).
Mr. Bishop had died, however, the week before the decision,
on March 24, 2013. (R. at 37). Mr. Bishop had married
Johnelyn Wilson on March 12, 2013, less than three weeks
before the decision was issued. (R. at 35).
December 19, 2013, Johnelyn Wilson Bishop filed an
application for a lump-sum death payment of the sums awarded
to, but not received by, Mr. Bishop before his death. (R. at
31-34). Her claim was denied. (R. at 44-46). Ms. Bishop
requested a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (R. at 56). The ALJ denied the
application. (R. at 16). The Appeals Council denied review.
(R. at 2). Ms. Bishop filed this appeal, requesting judicial
review. As explained more fully below, the Commission's
decision should be summarily affirmed because Ms.
Bishop's claim finds no support in the governing statutes
The Commissioner's Decision
found that Ms. Bishop was not entitled to the underpayment
under 20 C.F.R. § 404.503(b)(1) because she did not meet
the statutory definition of “surviving spouse.”
(R. at 13). The ALJ also found that she was not entitled to
the underpayment under 20 C.F.R. § 404.503(b)(4) for the
same reason. (R. at 14). Further, the ALJ found that Mr.
Bishop's estate was not entitled to the underpayment
because he had a surviving child who took priority over the
estate. (R. at 14). The ALJ concluded, therefore, that Ms.
Bishop was not entitled to Mr. Bishop's underpayment.
Court reviews the record to determine whether substantial
evidence on the record as a whole supports the
Commissioner's findings. Prosch v. Apfel, 201
F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). “Substantial
evidence” in this context means, “enough that a
reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
ALJ's decision.” Slusser v. Astrue, 557
F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).
Bishop argues that her eligibility is governed by 42 U.S.C.
§ 404(d)(1)(i), and that the ALJ erroneously relied upon
42 U.S.C. § 416. She argues that § 416's
definitions would govern if she were seeking benefits to
which she was entitled under Mr. Bishop's earnings, but
that § 404(d)(1)(i) should apply here because she is
seeking benefits due to her deceased husband-benefits that
she was not entitled to. Ms. Bishop's argument is
definitions in 42 U.S.C. § 416 apply to the entire
subchapter. Ms. Bishop argues that § 416 is categorized
under “Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability
Insurance Benefits” and that she was not seeking
benefits under old age, survivors, or disability insurance.
This interpretation finds no support in the governing
statute, regulations, or case law. Both § 404 and §
416 are found in the same subchapter. Therefore, any term
used in § 404 that is defined in § 416 must be read
with that definition in mind.
provision upon which Ms. Bishop relies reads as follows:
d) Payment to survivors or heirs when eligible person is
deceased If an individual dies before any payment due him
under this subchapter is completed, payment of the amount due
(including the amount of any unnegotiated checks) shall be
(1) to the person, if any, who is determined by the
Commissioner of Social Security to be the surviving spouse of
the deceased individual and who either (i) was living in the
same household with the deceased at the time of his death or
(ii) was, for the month in which the deceased individual
died, entitled to a monthly benefit on the basis ...