United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Social Security matter comes before the court on the
“Commissioner's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
Complaint with Supporting Memorandum of Law.” (Doc. 6).
The Commissioner contends that Mr. Ward failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies and has no “final decision . .
. made after a hearing” to seek judicial review under
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Mr. Ward filed a response arguing
that the Appeals Council's denial of his request for a
review of the ALJ's dismissal of his request for a
hearing is a final decision giving this court subject matter
jurisdiction over this matter. (Doc. 8).
motion is now ripe for review. For the following reasons, the
court finds that it has subject matter jurisdiction over this
matter and will DENY the motion to dismiss (Doc. 6).
Administrative Law Judge granted Mr. Ward's claim for
benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act on
February 27, 2013 because of his severe back impairments and
generalized anxiety disorder. (Docs. 6 & 8-1). Mr. Ward
developed cancer and received radiation treatments throughout
2015 and 2016. As of August 7, 2018, his cancer was in
remission, but Mr. Ward suffers from a serious left jaw
condition caused by his radiation treatments. (Doc. 8-1).
April 19, 2017, the Social Security Administration concluded
that Mr. Ward was no longer eligible for Title XVI disability
benefits after a continuing disability review. (Doc. 6 at 2).
Mr. Ward requested reconsideration, and a Disability Hearing
Officer upheld the unfavorable determination on September 22,
2017 and concluded that Mr. Ward's disability had ended
in April of 2017. (Id. at 3).
Ward then requested a hearing before an ALJ on October 4,
2017. Mr. Ward's hearing was scheduled for May 1, 2018.
The SSA mailed Mr. Ward a Notice of Hearing on January 18,
2018, and he signed an Acknowledgement of Receipt, indicating
his plan to appear at the hearing. The SSA mailed a second
Notice of Hearing to Mr. Ward on February 9, 2018, and a
Reminder Notice on April 4, 2018. (Doc. 6 at 2).
1, 2018, the same day as the scheduled hearing, the ALJ
dismissed Mr. Ward's request for a hearing “because
he did not appear at the hearing and that no good cause had
been established.” (Doc. 6 at 3). Mr. Ward indicated
that he planned to attend the hearing without counsel but
missed the ALJ hearing because “[he] got confused on
the date.” Mr. Ward also pointed to his confusion
caused by his generalized anxiety disorder to support this
explanation. (Doc. 8-1).
Ward then filed an appeal to the Appeals Council without
counsel and submitted medical records from January 2018 and a
work status report from May 2018. (Doc. 8-1, 8-2 at 2). On
July 3, 2018, the Appeals Council denied his request for
review and determined the “additional evidence [did]
not relate to the period at issue.” (Doc. 8-2 at
September 6, 2018, Mr. Ward filed this civil action in the
United States District Court for the Northern District of
Alabama seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's
decision. (Doc. 1). The Commissioner's motion to dismiss
for lack of jurisdiction followed. (Doc. 6).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Commissioner presents a factual attack on the court's
subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Factual attacks
“challenge the existence of subject matter jurisdiction
in fact, irrespective of the pleadings, ” and the court
can consider matters outside the pleadings. Lawrence v.
Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990) (quotations
omitted). Mr. Ward, as the party invoking the court's
subject matter jurisdiction, bears the burden of establishing
that jurisdiction exists. Taylor v. Appleton, 30
F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994). If the court determines
that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the court must
dismiss the claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).
authority for judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security is set forth and limited by
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). A district court does not have
subject matter jurisdiction over an appeal of the
Commissioner's decision unless the party seeking review
has exhausted his or her administrative remedies as set forth
in the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) and (h). Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act
Any individual, after any final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security made after a hearing to which he was a
party, irrespective of the amount in controversy, may obtain
a review of such decision by a civil action commenced within
sixty days after the mailing to him of notice of such
decision or ...