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HENNINGS v. HECKLER

January 31, 1985

ERIKA HENNINGS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARGARET M. HECKLER, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT.



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.

Background

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 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.

Discussion

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 ยง 405(g) is the only possible source of jurisdiction over this case, we must dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. ...


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