United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an appeal from a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (the “Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff
Timothy Scot Morris' applications for benefits. The case
is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g)
and 1383(c)(3). The parties have consented to the entry of a
final judgment by the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Rule 73.1 of
the Local Rules for the United States District Court for the
Middle District of Alabama. Docs. 14 & 15. Based upon a
review of the parties' briefs, the relevant authority,
and the record as a whole, the court finds that, for the
reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision is due
to be AFFIRMED.
November 15, 2011, Morris filed an application for a period
of disability, disability insurance benefits, and
supplemental security income benefits, alleging a disability
onset date of August 28, 2009. Docs. 18-2 & 18-3.
Morris' claims were denied at the initial administrative
level. Doc. 18-4. Morris then requested review by an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), and on August
12, 2013, he appeared, along with a non-attorney
representative,  and testified at a hearing before the
August 26, 2013, the ALJ denied Morris' claims. Doc.
18-2. The cover letter attached to the ALJ's decision,
entitled “Notice of Decision, ” is dated and
addressed to Morris and his representative. Doc. 18-2. The
Notice of Decision advised Morris of his appeal rights,
If you disagree with my decision, you may file an appeal with
the Appeals Council.
* * *
To file an appeal, you or your representative must ask in
writing that the Appeals Council review my decision. You may
use our Request for Review form (HA-520) or write a letter.
* * *
You must file your written appeal within 60 days of the date
you get this notice. The Appeals Council assumes you got this
notice 5 days after the date of the notice unless you show
you did not get it within the 5-day period.
The Appeals Council will dismiss a late request unless you
show you had a good reason for not filing it on time.
Doc. 18-2. Based on the above, Morris' deadline to file a
request for review with the Appeals Council was October 30,
2013 (i.e., 65 days after the ALJ issued his August
26, 2013 decision).
record indicates that, on December 24, 2014, Morris'
representative faxed to the Appeals Council a “Request
for Review of Hearing Decision/Order” form along with a
separate letter requesting Appeals Council review of the
ALJ's August 26, 2013 decision. Doc. 18-2. The form and
the letter are addressed to the Appeals Council's office
in Falls Church, Virginia,  and both are dated September 3,
2013. Doc. 18-2. Notably, while the form and the letter
submitted with Morris' December 24, 2014 facsimile are
both dated September 3, 2013, there is no other evidence or
documentation in the record demonstrating that either of
those documents was actually filed with the Appeals Council
on September 3, 2013, or at any other time before Morris'
October 30, 2013 deadline expired.
January 20, 2015, the Appeals Council sent Morris and his
representative written notification that his request for
review was untimely. Doc. 18-2. In that letter, the Appeals
Council explained that Morris' deadline to request review
was October 30, 2013, that the Appeals Council's records
show that his request was filed on December 24, 2014, and
that there “is no statement or other information about
why you did not file the appeal on time.” Doc. 18-2.
The Appeals Council concluded its letter by requesting that
Morris submit “a statement showing the ...