The opinion of the court was delivered by: Plunkett, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Erika Hennings ("Plaintiff") brought this action against
Margaret M. Heckler, as Secretary of Health and Human Services
("Defendant" or the "Secretary"), seeking reversal of the
Secretary's decision that Plaintiff is not entitled to receive
Social Security Disability Insurance benefits ("S.S.D.I.").
Plaintiff invokes 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) ("§ 405(g)") as the basis
for subject matter jurisdiction over this case. Presently before
the court is Defendant's motion, under Fed.R.Civ.P. Rules
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), to dismiss the complaint for lack of
jurisdiction over the subject matter, or, in the alternative, for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For
the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is denied.
Plaintiff is a forty-five year old German citizen who has not
lived in the United States since June 1972. However, because she
worked in the United States from 1960 until she returned to
Germany (apparently only intending to stay for a short period) in
1972, Plaintiff was "insured," for purposes of the S.S.D.I.
program, until March 31, 1977. As a result, Plaintiff is eligible
for S.S.D.I. if she became "disabled," within the meaning of
42 U.S.C. § 423(d), on or before March 31, 1977, but not if she
became disabled after that date.
On August 18, 1978, Plaintiff filed an application for
S.S.D.I., contending that she had been disabled, as a result of
several physical impairments, at least since November 16, 1974.
The Social Security Administration (the "S.S.A.") initially
Plaintiff's claim, and the S.S.A. denied her claim again on
reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested a "hearing" before an
administrative law judge ("A.L.J."), but she waived her "right to
appear and give evidence," asking for "a decision on the evidence
on file." (Plaintiff's Exhibit A at 8.) On September 28, 1979,
the A.L.J., basing his decision on "the evidence of record,"
ruled that Plaintiff "was not under a `disability,' as defined in
the Social Security Act, as amended, at any time on or before
March 31, 1977." (Plaintiff's Exhibit A at 9, 15.) Plaintiff did
not seek review of the A.L.J.'s decision by the Appeals Council
within the time allowed.
On September 16, 1981, Plaintiff filed a second application for
S.S.D.I., claiming that she had been disabled since November 16,
1974. The S.S.A. properly treated that application as a request
to reopen the A.L.J.'s September 28, 1979 decision, see 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.987-404.995 (1983), on the ground that Plaintiff
had submitted "[n]ew and material evidence,"
20 C.F.R. § 404.989(a)(1) (1983), and the S.S.A. denied the
request initially and on reconsideration. On September 29, 1983, a
different A.L.J. dismissed Plaintiff's request for a hearing, stating,
in part, as follows:
On September 28, 1979, an Administrative Law Judge
issued a decision denying . . . [Plaintiff's] claims.
The claimant did not request review of the decision
and it thereupon became final and binding on all
issues covered therein. The claimant last had insured
status for disability purposes under Title II of the
Social Security Act March 31, 1977. Inasmuch as the
claimant did not have disability insured status after
the decision of September 28, 1979, that decision
accordingly is the final and binding action of the
Secretary. . . .
Under . . . [20 C.F.R. § 404.988 (1983)] a decision
may be reopened for good cause "— (w)ithin four
years of the date of notice of the initial
determination. . . .". Notice of the initial
determination in this case was dated September 19,
1978. The four year period during which the September
28, 1979 decision might be reopened for good cause
thus expired September 19, 1982.
The decision of September 28, 1979 is no longer
subject to reopening for good cause and remains final
and binding. It was dispositive of all issues
relating to the claims and is res judicata as to the
subsequent application dated [S]eptember 16, 1981.
(Plaintiff's Exhibit B at 24.) The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the A.L.J.'s decision on
November 10, 1983, and the A.L.J.'s decision thus constitutes the
Secretary's decision with respect to Plaintiff's second
application for S.S.D.I. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.959 (1983).
Plaintiff filed her complaint in this court on January 12, 1984.
Section 405(g) provides, in part, as follows:
Any individual, after any final decision of the
Secretary 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 within such further
time as the Secretary may allow.
Defendant's primary contention is that that jurisdictional grant
does not cover the present case, and that, because § 405(g) is
the only possible source of jurisdiction over this case, we must
dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. ...