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Baugh v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Central Division

January 10, 2020

MARION BAUGH PLAINTIFF
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objections; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction

         On September 3, 2019, Plaintiff Marion Baugh (“Baugh”) filed a pro se Complaint seeking review of the denial of disability insurance benefits by the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). Doc. 2. While Baugh suggests in her Complaint that, on “August 26, 2019, ” she received notice that the Commissioner's decision was final, she does not attach a copy of the “Commissioner's final decision” as the “Pro Se 13 Complaint Form” instructed her to do. Id. at 3. Federal courts only have jurisdiction to review final decisions by the Commissioner of the SSA. On its face, Baugh's failure to attach a copy of the Commissioner's final decision to her Complaint, as she was required to do, raises questions about whether she has met her burden of demonstrating that the Court has jurisdiction over this action.

         A review of the substantive allegations in her pro se Complaint confirms that she is not appealing from a final decision of the Commissioner. According to her own allegations, her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits was denied based solely on a review of her medical records by “Doctors and other trained staff [who] . . . work for the state but used our [SSA] rules.” Id. at Attachment 1.[1] This admission by Baugh makes it clear that her claim was denied at the initial determination level of review.[2]

         Thus, on the face of her Complaint, Baugh is appealing an “initial decision, ” at step one of the administrative review process, without proceeding to step two, “reconsideration”; step three, an administrative hearing before an ALJ; and step four, an appeal and adverse decision from the Appeals Council, which constitutes the Commissioner's final decision.

         On November 22, 2019, Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), along with a supporting Brief.[3] Doc. 8 (Respondent's Motion and Brief were filed as one docket entry). Respondent argues that, after Baugh's disability claim was denied at the first step of an “initial determination, ” the SSA sent Baugh a “Notice of Disapproved Claim, ” dated August 26, 2019. This Notice explained to Baugh that, if she disagreed with the SSA's “initial determination, ” she should proceed to the second step in the administrative review process and “file a Request for Reconsideration of the [SSA's] initial decision denying benefits.” Doc. 8 at 3.

         Instead of following those instructions, about one week later, Baugh initiated this action. Thus, because Baugh failed to obtain a final decision from the Commissioner denying her claim for disability, Respondent argues the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over her appeal from an “initial decision” by the SSA that she is not entitled to disability benefits.

         On November 25, 2019, Baugh filed an Amended Complaint. In an apparent effort to avoid the dismissal of this action, she makes conclusory and factually unsupported allegations that the SSA's initial determination that she was not entitled to disability benefits violated her constitutional rights under Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), [4] and constituted “fraud” in violation of the False Claims Act (“FCA”), 31 U.S.C. § 3729. Doc. 9 at 3.[5]

         On November 27, 2019, Baugh filed a Response to Respondent's Motion to Dismiss. Doc. 11. She does not contest Respondent's assertion that she failed to exhaust administrative remedies before attempting to appeal the initial determination she is not entitled to disability benefits. Instead, she argues the Court has jurisdiction based on the Bivens and the FCA claims raised in her Amended Complaint. Doc. 11 at 3.

         Finally, on December 20, 2019, Baugh filed a one-paragraph Motion for Summary Judgment, which makes the following nonsensical request for relief under Rule 56(c):

The plaintiff made recent accommodations in this case to appease the questions at present, of “lack of subject-matter jurisdiction” consequences, in order to secure a burden of proof in this case against the Defendant. These accommodations have been cited in the Amendment of the Complaint Civil Procedure Rule15, filed November 25, 2019. The Plaintiff would like to request a Motion for Summary Judgment under Civil Procedure Rule 56(c).Now that the plaintiff has answered the Defendant request for Dismissal. The plaintiff would like to ask the Court to accept a Motion of Summary Judgement under Civil Procedure 56(c). The Plaintiff believes that the Defendant has not executed any Burden of Proof on Defense.

Doc. 13 (emphasis in original).

         For the reasons explained below, the Court recommends that: (1) Baugh's Complaint, Amended Complaint, and Second Amended Complaint be dismissed, without prejudice; and (2) her Motion for Summary Judgment be denied, as moot.

         II. ...


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