The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUA
HONORABLE NICHOLAS J. BUA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Plaintiffs, a group of unsuccessful applicants for federal disability benefits, filed this class action suit against the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("Secretary") in 1983. For six years, plaintiffs and the Secretary have waged an acrimonious legal war over the propriety of certain regulations governing the evaluation of federal disability claims. Plaintiffs won the opening battles in this court in 1983 and 1984, obtaining both class certification and summary judgment. 593 F. Supp. 375 (N.D. Ill. 1984) (summary judgment); 100 F.R.D. 70 (N.D. Ill. 1983) (class certification). In the months that followed, the Secretary persistently attacked the composition of the Johnson class and the merits of plaintiffs' claims. Despite these attacks, this court refused to retreat from its original rulings. 607 F. Supp. 875 (N.D. Ill. 1984) (denying motion to alter or amend); 604 F. Supp. 1070 (N.D. Ill. 1985) (denying motion for stay of injunctive relief). The parties then resumed their legal combat on an appellate battleground. In the initial appellate skirmish, plaintiffs prevailed; the Seventh Circuit affirmed this court's rulings in all respects. 769 F.2d 1202 (7th Cir. 1985). The Secretary, however, achieved a limited victory over the Johnson class in the Supreme Court. In light of its recent decision in Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 96 L. Ed. 2d 119, 107 S. Ct. 2287 (1987), the Court vacated the Seventh Circuit's judgment in Johnson, remanding the case to the Court of Appeals for further consideration. 482 U.S. 922, 107 S. Ct. 3202, 96 L. Ed. 2d 690 (1987). The Seventh Circuit in turn remanded the Johnson case to this court.
After assessing the impact of the Yuckert ruling, this court modified its previous award of injunctive relief to the Johnson class. Convinced that this modified award represented "a final determination of the appropriate remedy in this case," the court entered final judgment for plaintiffs in an order dated October 6, 1988. 697 F. Supp. 346, 354 (N.D. Ill. 1988).
The court hoped in vain that its latest order would bring an end to the hostilities between the Johnson class and the Secretary. Unfortunately, the order of October 6, 1988 produced only a temporary cease-fire. Shortly thereafter, when the parties began to discuss the details of implementing the court-ordered relief, negotiations quickly reached an impasse. Unable to agree on the proper scope of relief, the parties asked the court to mediate their conflict over certain provisions of the amended judgment order proposed by plaintiffs. The Secretary then escalated the tension between the parties by firing a late volley at plaintiffs: a challenge to the composition of the class based on a recent Supreme Court decision. Angered by this assault on the class, plaintiffs counterattacked by filing a motion for Rule 11 sanctions. These recent developments require the court to step once more into the breach that separates the parties. In its continuing efforts to bring some measure of peace and conciliation to this bitter and contentious litigation, this court will now consider the parties' competing motions for entry of an amended judgment order, the Secretary's motion for reconsideration of class certification, and plaintiffs' motion for Rule 11 sanctions.
I. Amended Judgment Order
In the weeks following this court's order of October 6, 1988, the parties began to negotiate the specific details of implementing the court-ordered relief. Two months later, plaintiffs and the Secretary jointly moved to vacate the October 6 order insofar as it purported to be a final judgment. The court granted this motion based on the parties' assurances that they were attempting to agree on an amended judgment order that would better define the Secretary's obligations in implementing relief.
Despite the divisiveness that has pervaded this litigation, plaintiffs and the Secretary have managed to agree on a procedural framework for providing relief to the Johnson class.
Nonetheless, the parties remain deeply divided over certain substantive provisions of plaintiffs' proposed judgment order. The Secretary urges the court to amend the provisions in question; but plaintiffs strenuously object to the Secretary's proposed amendments. In order to fashion an amended judgment order, the court must choose between the conflicting provisions proposed by the parties. To achieve this purpose, the court will now examine the sections of plaintiffs' proposed order that have stalemated the parties' settlement negotiations.
A. Subparagraphs 1(k) and 1(l): The Definitions of "Redetermination" and "Retroactive Benefits "
Due to their fundamental differences over the proper scope of the new hearings, the parties have proposed divergent definitions of "redetermination" and "retroactive benefits" (subparagraphs 1(k) and 1(l) of plaintiffs' proposed judgment order). This definitional dispute represents the major bone of contention at this point in the litigation. Regrettably, despite the significance of this issue, most of the parties' arguments offer this court little guidance in deciding the appropriate scope of the Secretary's redeterminations. For instance, in a disingenuous declaration of righteous indignation, plaintiffs insist that the court's prior orders already require the Secretary to award benefits to class members whose disability postdates the original denial of their claims. This argument is totally specious. Quite frankly, until the parties raised the issue at this juncture, this court had not even considered whether the Secretary's reconsideration of a class member's impairments should encompass the entire period from the date of the class member's original application to the date of his rehearing. By suggesting that the court already resolved this issue, plaintiffs are merely engaging in legal ventriloquism, trying to put words into the court's mouth. With all due respect, the court has no intention of playing Charlie McCarthy to plaintiffs' Edgar Bergen.
Likewise, this court will not play the ventriloquist when interpreting the orders of other courts, finding a "judicial analysis" of the scope of redetermination where none previously existed. In seeking to settle their dispute over the scope of redetermination, both parties to this litigation have invited the court to consult other cases involving successful class action challenges to Social Security regulations. For the most part, however, the "case law" cited by the parties consists of terse judgment orders that offer no particular rationale for the scope of redetermination defined by the presiding courts. In fact, these orders provide no evidence that the courts gave any thought to the conflicting visions of redetermination and retroactivity espoused by the parties in the instant case. Devoid of any detailed analysis, these judgment orders do not assist this court in drawing the boundaries of the redetermination period.
Of all the cases cited by the parties, only one case analyzes the redetermination issue as the parties have framed it. In his recent order in Marcus v. Sullivan, No. 85 C 453 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 17, 1989), Judge Moran confronted the same issue concerning the scope of redetermination that this court currently faces. Like the Johnson class members, plaintiffs in Marcus successfully challenged a Social Security regulation on which the Secretary had relied when denying plaintiffs' disability claims. See Marcus v. Bowen, 696 F. Supp. 364 (N.D. Ill. 1988). Judge Moran then ordered the Secretary to redetermine the claims of Marcus class members. As in the instant case, plaintiffs in Marcus argued that the Secretary should reconsider each disability claim for the entire period from the date of a class member's original application to the date of the redetermination. Meanwhile, the Secretary contended that he should only have to reassess each Marcus plaintiff's claim as of the date the plaintiff's claim was initially rejected. After weighing these alternatives, Judge Moran adopted the Marcus plaintiffs' proposed scope of redetermination. He reasoned that the Secretary's regulatory scheme dictated the sort of comprehensive redetermination advocated by plaintiffs. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.620 & 416.330, a disability claim under Title II or Title XVI of the Social Security Act remains in effect until the Secretary makes a final determination or until an administrative law judge renders a decision following a disability hearing. By entering summary judgment for the Marcus plaintiffs, Judge Moran vacated the Secretary's previous resolution of all class members' claims. Because the Marcus plaintiffs have yet to receive a final determination on their applications, Judge Moran concluded that class members' claims continue to remain in effect until the Secretary makes a redetermination of eligibility.
This court concurs in Judge Moran's analysis of the Secretary's regulations. Like the Marcus plaintiffs, members of the Johnson class have never received a final determination on their disability claims. In the case of each class member, the Secretary's purported "final determination" rested on a regulation that this court has subsequently invalidated. Until the Secretary makes a proper final determination on plaintiffs' claims, the Secretary's regulations mandate that those claims remain very much alive. Thus, in accordance with his own regulations, the Secretary must assess each class member's eligibility for benefits right up to the time of the new disability hearing.
The Secretary contends that the sweeping redeterminations proposed by plaintiffs will provide a windfall to class members who were not entitled to benefits at the time their claims were originally denied. Under plaintiffs' proposal, these class members could recover benefits for subsequent disabilities without filing separate applications. In light of this prospect, the Secretary asserts that plaintiffs' scheme effectively exempts class members from a nonwaivable jurisdictional requirement: the filing of a written application each time benefits are requested. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 482-83, 90 L. Ed. 2d 462, 106 S. Ct. 2022 (1986) (quoting Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 328, 47 L. Ed. 2d 18, 96 S. Ct. 893 (1976)). This argument ignores the fact that an applicant need not file a new application while his previously filed disability claim awaits a final determination. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.620, 416.330 (1988). With their original claims still pending, plaintiffs do not have to file new applications for benefits. The Secretary's regulations entitle each class member to a complete evaluation of her impairments since the filing of her initial application.
Frankly, the scope of redetermination advocated by plaintiffs does not represent a novel or extraordinary departure from past practice. Administrative law judges routinely perform such comprehensive redeterminations when reconsidering individual disability claims remanded by the district courts. Two factors distinguish the instant case from the typical Social Security remand: the length of this litigation and the size of the class. In the course of implementing relief to the Johnson class, the Secretary faces the unenviable task of reconsidering thousands of disability claims spanning several years. Undoubtedly, the court could ease this substantial administrative burden by adopting the Secretary's narrow definition of redetermination. Considerations of administrative convenience, however, do not justify restricting the scope of redetermination in a manner that contravenes the Secretary's own regulations. Because plaintiffs may have reasonably relied on those regulations, acceptance of the Secretary's definition of redetermination could result in serious inequities. Consider the plight of a class member who was not disabled at the time his claim was initially denied, but who became disabled in 1985. Based on his reading of Social Security regulations and his knowledge of this litigation, this class member could reasonably have believed that he did not need to file a separate application for a subsequent disability because his original application remained in effect. Rather than file another application, he simply awaited the implementation of the court-ordered relief in Johnson, justifiably expecting that he would receive the sort of comprehensive redetermination described in plaintiffs' amended judgment order. Under the Secretary's circumscribed approach to redetermination, this class member would suffer a severe penalty for relying on the Secretary's regulations. Unless he had filed a separate application, the class member could not receive benefits for a disability that postdated the original denial of his claim; yet the regulations indicated that he would not have to submit a subsequent application. As a result of his reliance on these regulations, the class member would lose any opportunity to receive benefits for a period of several years during which he was disabled.
Thus, this court's adoption of the Secretary's redetermination scheme would unjustly punish class members who legitimately believed that their original claims remained in effect throughout this litigation.
Ultimately, the Secretary has offered no compelling justification for deviating from his regulations concerning the scope of redetermination.
In accordance with those regulations, the Secretary must reconsider each class member's claim for the entire time period from the date of the original application to the date of the new disability hearing. For this reason, the court adopts plaintiffs' definitions of "redetermination" and "retroactive benefits."
B. Paragraph 4: "Reopening if Necessary "
Paragraph 4 of plaintiffs' proposed judgment order states that "the Secretary shall make redeterminations (reopening if necessary) of the claims of all . . . responding claimants who are determined to be redetermination class members." The Secretary asks the court to strike the parenthetical phrase "reopening if necessary" from paragraph 4. Apparently, the Secretary's aversion to this language stems from his interpretation of the terms "redetermination" and "reopening." According to the Secretary, a "redetermination" involves reconsideration of a claim as of the date the claim was initially denied, whereas a "reopening" entails the analysis of a claimant's eligibility for the entire time period since he filed a disability claim. Although the Secretary characterizes "redetermination" and "reopening" as terms of art, he fails to cite a single case where a court expressly adopted his definitions of these terms. Moreover, this court does not share the Secretary's interpretation of the words "redetermine" and "reopen." In its 1985 judgment order, the court directed the Secretary to "redetermine (reopening if necessary)" the claims of all class members. 604 F. Supp. at 1076. This directive simply required the Secretary to redetermine whether plaintiffs' claims survived step two of the sequential evaluation process for determining disability. If the Secretary concluded that a Johnson claim satisfied the step two requirements, then he would necessarily have to reopen the claim by proceeding to the next step of the sequential evaluation process.
Based on this understanding of its previous order, this court can conceive of no plausible objection to the use of the term "reopening" in an amended judgment order. Therefore, the court declines to strike the phrase "reopening if necessary" from paragraph 4 of plaintiffs' proposed order.
C. Subparagraph 4(e)(ii): The Timetable for Completing Redeterminations and the Secretary's Authority over State Agencies
The parties cannot agree on a timetable for completing the court-ordered redeterminations. In subparagraph 4(e)(ii) of their proposed order, plaintiffs assert that the Secretary should complete the redeterminations at an average rate of 1000 per month for the two-year period commencing 60 days after the mailing of class notices. If he must make the comprehensive redeterminations prescribed by plaintiffs, however, the Secretary contends that a monthly average of 1000 redeterminations represents an onerous and unrealistic goal. Based on the court's adoption of plaintiffs' proposed scope of redetermination, the Secretary urges the court to reduce the average monthly requirement from 1000 to 800 redeterminations. He admits that he previously considered 1000 redeterminations a reasonable monthly rate; but he based this projection on his restrictive interpretation of the scope of redetermination. Now that the court has adopted the broader scope of redetermination proposed by plaintiffs, each redetermination will take more time to complete than the Secretary had originally anticipated. Consequently, the Secretary will be unable to complete as many redeterminations per month as he had originally estimated. The Director of the Illinois Bureau of Disability Determination Services ("BDDS") confirms that the sort of comprehensive redetermination endorsed by plaintiffs would significantly increase the Secretary's administrative burden. See Deposition of Jack Bell, Dec. 7, 1988, at 141-42. In light of this increased burden, the court grants the Secretary's request for a reduction in the rate of redetermination. The court shall require the Secretary to implement relief at an average rate of 800 redeterminations per month.
In a further effort to ensure the expeditious implementation of relief, plaintiffs' proposed subparagraph 4(e)(ii) prohibits the Secretary from sanctioning the BDDS or other state agencies "for any delay occasioned in adjudicating cases (of individuals who are not redetermination class members) as a result of their effort to comply with the time guidelines of this subparagraph." This court, however, sees no need for such a pervasive intrusion into the Secretary's management of his caseload. The court's establishment of a time frame for the completion of redeterminations sufficiently ensures the prompt implementation of relief. Therefore, at the Secretary's behest, the court strikes the language in subparagraph 4(e)(ii) that would limit the Secretary's authority to sanction state agencies.
D. Paragraph 6: The Secretary's Recovery of Overpayments
E. Subparagraph 13(d): Compliance Reports
The parties' final dispute over plaintiffs' proposed order concerns subparagraph 13(d), which requires the Secretary to produce periodic reports detailing his progress in implementing relief. The Secretary has consented to provide plaintiffs' attorneys with a compliance report for each six-month period from the entry of final judgment until each class member obtains relief. Moreover, the parties agree that each compliance report will feature most of the specific components described in subparagraph 13(d), including a statistical breakdown of the Secretary's redeterminations of class members' claims. Nonetheless, the Secretary has balked at plaintiffs' request in subparagraph 13(d) for data regarding class members' appeals to administrative law judges or the Appeals Council. The Secretary insists that the compilation of such data would prove extremely burdensome, involving the review of numerous files in various locations throughout the United States. Even if the Secretary is exaggerating the difficulty of gathering information on class members' appeals, the court questions the utility of such information. Plaintiffs' attorneys can adequately monitor the Secretary's compliance with this court's orders by reviewing the data that the Secretary has already agreed to supply. Thus, the Secretary's compliance reports will fully serve their purpose whether or not they include information on class members' appeals. For this reason, the court will not require the Secretary to report the results of class members' appeals in his semiannual compliance reports.
II. The Secretary's Motion for Reconsideration of Class Certification
To participate in this class action lawsuit, unsuccessful disability claimants did not need to exhaust their administrative remedies or file a timely petition for judicial review. When certifying the Johnson class, this court elected to waive the exhaustion requirement for class members. 100 F.R.D. at 73-74. One year later, the court found that the Secretary had waived the statute of limitations. 607 F. Supp. at 877-78. On three previous occasions, the Secretary's predecessors have asked this court to reconsider these jurisdictional rulings. Each time, the court has reaffirmed its original rulings. 697 F. Supp. at 353; 607 F. Supp. at 878-80; 604 F. Supp. at 1072-74. Undaunted by these repeated rebuffs, the Secretary recently mounted yet another challenge to the composition of the class. Several weeks after the parties moved for entry of an amended judgment order, the Secretary filed an independent motion for reconsideration of class certification in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Pittston Coal Group v. Sebben, 488 U.S. 105, 109 S. Ct. 414, 102 L. Ed. 2d 408 (1988).
Sebben involved a class of coal miners who had applied for black lung benefits. In denying the claims of these miners, the Secretary of Labor applied regulations that the Eighth Circuit subsequently struck down. See Coughlan v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, 757 F.2d 966 (8th Cir. 1985). Following the invalidation of these regulations, the Sebben plaintiffs sought readjudication of their claims under the standard of review prescribed by Coughlan. In requesting this reconsideration, the Sebben plaintiffs faced a serious obstacle. None of the Sebben class members had exhausted administrative remedies, and most of the miners in the class had not filed a timely petition for judicial review. Therefore, the Sebben plaintiffs' claims had already become final. When the Secretary of Labor refused to reconsider these final determinations, the Sebben plaintiffs persuaded the Eighth Circuit to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the Department of Labor to reopen the claims of all class members. See In re Sebben, 815 F.2d 475 (8th Cir. 1987). On appeal, the Supreme Court agreed that the Secretary of Labor had previously applied invalid regulations when deciding class members' claims. Sebben, 109 S. Ct. at 419-23. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court reversed the Eighth Circuit's mandamus order. The Court observed that "the extraordinary remedy of mandamus . . . will issue only to compel the performance of 'a clear nondiscretionary duty."' Id. at 424 (citing Heckler v. Ringer, 466 U.S. 602, 616, 80 L. Ed. 2d 622, 104 S. Ct. 2013 (1984)). The Court then concluded that the Sebben plaintiffs had not established a duty to reopen the final determinations of their claims. Id. Consequently, the Court ordered dismissal of the petition for mandamus. Id. 109 S. Ct. at 425.
Factually, Sebben bears a certain resemblance to the instant case. In each case, a government agency relied on invalid regulations when denying certain claims for federal disability benefits. In each case, several of the affected claimants filed a class action suit seeking reconsideration of their applications for benefits. Finally, in each case, plaintiffs' proposed class included claimants who had not satisfied the procedural requirements of exhaustion and timeliness. After noting these superficial similarities between the cases, the Secretary argues that each case should produce a similar outcome: the denial of readjudications to class members who have not exhausted administrative remedies or complied with the statute of limitations. This argument overlooks a rather obvious point: Although Sebben and Johnson may have evolved from similar factual scenarios, the similarity between the cases ends when the legal analysis begins. In Sebben, the Supreme Court denied plaintiffs relief because they had not justified judicial resort to the extreme remedy of mandamus under 28 U.S.C. § 1361. By contrast, the Secretary's challenge to the Johnson class raises two entirely different issues: judicial waiver of exhaustion and the Secretary's waiver of the 60-day limitations period under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Thus, the Supreme Court's mandamus analysis in Sebben provides this court with little assistance in defining the appropriate scope of the Johnson class.
The Secretary acknowledges that Sebben did not directly address the jurisdictional issues involved in Social Security class action suits. Nonetheless, the Secretary urges this court to redefine the Johnson class by applying the "policy" espoused in Sebben. According to the Secretary, Sebben stands for the general principle that courts should favor the finality of claims over the waiver of procedural prerequisites. This court does not read Sebben so broadly. In any event, the court need not strain to apply Sebben to the instant case when the Supreme Court has already offered more explicit guidance concerning the waiver of procedural prerequisites in Social Security class actions. In Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 90 L. Ed. 2d 462, 106 S. Ct. 2022 (1986), the Supreme Court analyzed the very same issues raised by the Secretary in his continuing challenge to the composition of the Johnson class. Last October, based on its analysis of City of New York, this court concluded that it had properly defined the Johnson class "to include claimants who did not satisfy the requirements of timely appeal and exhaustion - requirements that have been waived in the context of this litigation." 697 F. Supp. at 353. Sebben does not alter the court's position on this matter.
Contrary to this court's conclusion, the Secretary continues to insist that City of New York justifies his proposed redefinition of the class. He claims to find additional support for this argument in Sebben's discussion of City of New York. In fact, Sebben's passing reference to City of New York has little if any relevance to the issues involved in the instant case. When discussing City of New York, the Sebben Court focused solely on the issue of equitable tolling of the statute of limitations. See Sebben, 109 S. Ct. at 425. In the instant case, however, this court did not rely on the equitable tolling doctrine; rather, the court found that the Secretary had waived the limitations period. 607 F. Supp. at 877-78. Thus, Sebben sheds no new light on how City of New York affects the definition of the Johnson class.
Despite his citation to a recent Supreme Court decision, the Secretary's latest challenge to the class echoes most of the same arguments that this court has already rejected. For the fourth time, the court declines the Secretary's invitation to overturn its previous waiver rulings. Nonetheless, at the Secretary's request, the court will make one minor modification to the class definition: The class will not include individuals whose applications were denied or whose entitlements were terminated after May 1, 1985. By that date, the Secretary had abandoned the practice of refusing to combine nonsevere impairments. In assessing all disability claims since that date, the Secretary has not applied the regulation that this court invalidated in Johnson. For this reason, May 1, 1985 represents an appropriate temporal terminus for the class. Accordingly, the court shall amend the class definition in its final judgment order, closing the class as of May 1, 1985.
III. Plaintiffs' Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions
Although the Secretary learned about Sebben while the parties were negotiating an amended judgment order, he did not immediately indicate to plaintiffs that he would mount yet another challenge to the composition of the class. In fact, at the time the parties filed their competing motions for amended judgment, the Secretary raised no objection to the definition of the class proposed by plaintiffs. Then, several weeks after the parties had finished briefing their motions for amended judgment, the Secretary filed a motion for reconsideration of class certification in light of Sebben. Plaintiffs characterize this eleventh-hour motion for reconsideration as a harassing and dilatory tactic that needlessly increased the cost of this litigation. On this basis, plaintiffs seek sanctions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11.
In assessing the propriety of imposing Rule 11 sanctions, this court must make "an objective determination of whether [the Secretary's] conduct was reasonable under the circumstances." Brown v. Federation of State Medical Boards, 830 F.2d 1429, 1435 (7th Cir. 1987). Judged by an objective standard of reasonableness, the timing of the Secretary's motion for reconsideration defies easy explanation. In attempting to justify his delay in filing the motion, the Secretary offers a couple of lame excuses. First, he claims that his motion for amended judgment, which simply concerned the details of implementing relief, did not provide an appropriate context for raising his objections to the class, which challenged the merits of the court's prior orders. This assertion is rather dubious; when moving for amended judgment, the Secretary could easily have challenged plaintiffs' proposed class definition in the same manner that he objected to other aspects of plaintiffs' proposed order. Even giving the Secretary the benefit of the doubt, his reluctance to raise the class certification issue in his motion for amended judgment does not explain why he waited more than a month after the completed briefing of the motions for amended judgment before he filed his motion for reconsideration. The Secretary tries to attribute this delay to the fact that he recently retained a new attorney. This attorney, however, entered the case while the parties were still negotiating the details of the amended judgment order. Moreover, the Secretary has retained the same attorney of record from the outset of this litigation. Therefore, a change in counsel does not account for the Secretary's delay in filing his motion for reconsideration of class certification.
Ultimately, the Secretary can offer no reasonable explanation for the timing of his motion for reconsideration. His conduct probably merits Rule 11 sanctions. Nonetheless, this court has decided to deny plaintiffs' motion for Rule 11 sanctions. The imposition of such sanctions would unfairly single out the Secretary as the sole villain in this litigation. At various points in the litigation, attorneys on both sides have engaged in unreasonable conduct, advancing legal arguments that were highly questionable if not indefensible. The court attributes this phenomenon to the rancorous relationship that has developed between the lawyers, a blood feud that evokes images of the Montagues and the Capulets. The attorneys' animosity toward each other has transformed zealous advocacy of noble principles into inflexible adherence to untenable positions. In this war of words between the attorneys, the only casualties have been the class members, some of whom have died while awaiting a rehearing on their disability claims. Although plaintiffs' attorneys may fancy themselves the white knights of this litigation, their outrageous posturing has contributed to the delay in their clients' receipt of relief.
Arguably, attorneys on both sides of this lawsuit have engaged in sanctionable conduct. In light of this mutual misconduct, the court sees no point in sanctioning either of the parties at this late stage of the lawsuit. The court can only hope that the entry of an amended judgment order will restore some semblance of civility and reasonableness to this litigation.
For the foregoing reasons, the court grants plaintiffs' motion for entry of an amended judgment order. As the court has previously discussed, this amended judgment order will include certain amendments proposed by the Secretary. Insofar as the Secretary asks the court to close the plaintiff class as of May 1, 1985, the court grants the Secretary's motion for redefinition of the class. In all other respects, however, the court denies the Secretary's motion for reconsideration of class certification. The court also denies plaintiffs' motion for Rule 11 sanctions.
To ensure the full and prompt implementation of the relief previously ordered by this court, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that:
1. As used herein, the following terms have the meanings indicated.
(a) "Class Members" means the class of persons defined as:
All persons in Illinois who have filed applications for disability benefits under Title II and/or Title XVI of the Social Security Act, and whose benefits (between February 26, 1979 and May 1, 1985 inclusive) have been denied pursuant to the policies set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and.1522 (1983), 416.920(c) and.922 (1983), and Social Security Rulings cum ed. 82-55, 82-56 (1982); and all recipients of such benefits who (between February 26, 1979 and May 1, 1985 inclusive) have made claims for continued benefits (through participation in a Continuing Disability Interview), and whose benefits have been terminated pursuant to the same policies.
(b) "Secretary" or "Defendant" means the defendant Secretary of Health and Human Services.
(c) "SSA" means the Social Security Administration.
(d) "BDDS" means the Illinois Bureau of Disability Determination Services.
(f) "disability benefits" means benefits paid under Titles II and/or XVI of the Social Security Act, to persons who were or are eligible for them, because they were or are disabled within the meaning of the Act.
(g) "SSA administrative decision" means any decision on a claim when rendered by any SSA administrative unit or decision maker, including BDDS (or any DDS), an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), or the Appeals Council.
(h) (i) "redetermination class members" means class members who claimed to be or were suffering from multiple "nonsevere" or "severe" impairments and:
(A) whose de novo applications for disability benefits were denied at the severity step of the sequential evaluation process by any SSA administrative decision between August 20, 1980 and May 1, 1985 inclusive, or;
(B) whose previously awarded disability benefits were terminated at the severity step of the sequential evaluation process and by any SSA administrative decision between August 20, 1980 and May 1, 1985 inclusive, or;
(C) whose claims for disability benefits were denied or terminated at the severity step of the sequential evaluation process by the BDDS between February 26, 1979 and August 19, 1980 inclusive, if they were listed by the BDDS under listing code 922.
(ii) Under this definition, no person otherwise a redetermination class member shall be deemed not such a class member because: (a) he appealed any denial or termination of a claim (to an Administrative Law Judge, to the Appeals Council, or to the federal courts), or because the time for such appeals lapsed and an appeal was not taken; or (b) based on a later application, he was found eligible for disability benefits for a period of time later than that with respect to which his benefits were initially denied or terminated; or (c) he failed to allege multiple impairments but the evidence establishes the existence of more than one impairment; or (d) he received a judicial decision on his claim.
(iii) Under this definition, a person who would otherwise be a redetermination class member because a particular claim was denied or terminated at the severity step of the sequential evaluation process is not such a class member if:
(A) the last SSA administrative denial or termination he received respecting that particular claim was based on any step of the sequential evaluation process other than the severity step; or
(B) he received an SSA administrative decision on a subsequent claim for disability benefits that reopened an earlier severity denial or termination of that claim, which decision determined entitlement to benefits for a period beginning no later than the first date with respect to which his eligibility would otherwise be redetermined under this order, and either the last SSA administrative denial on the subsequent claim was based on any step of the sequential evaluation process other than the severity step, or the last administrative denial on the subsequent claim was based on the severity step of the sequential evaluation process, but the denial came after May 1, 1985.
(i) "responding claimants" means the persons on whose behalf the election forms described in para. 4(a) and (b) infra are returned to SSA.
(j) "claims" when used in connection with "redetermination class members" means such class members' applications for disability benefits under Titles II and/or XVI of the Social Security Act, or their claims for continuing disability benefits under Titles II and/or XVI of the Act, or any request for disability benefits to which they may be entitled under this order.
(k) "redetermination" or "redetermine" when used in connection with "claims" and/or "redetermination class members" means:
(ii) for a redetermination class member whose Title II application was denied or whose Title II benefits were terminated, a new determination by BDDS (or an appropriate DDS) on the class member's claim, the new determination to establish eligibility vel non for disability benefits for the entire period from the seventeenth month prior to the date of the Title II application or from the date of termination of Title II benefits (or date of alleged onset, whichever is later), to the date the redetermination decision is made (and thereafter until eligibility ends). "Redetermination" also includes the issuance of a written decision explaining the result of the determination to the individual claimant (whose claim has been redetermined) and to his designated representative (if any);
(l) "retroactive benefits" when used to refer to the payment of disability benefits to "redetermination class members" means the payment of disability benefits to such persons for all periods from February 26, 1979 inclusive to the date of the redetermination decision, provided that they are eligible for them, as determined by the redeterminations required by paras. 4, 5, and 10 of this order;
(m) "sequential evaluation process" means the process for determining eligibility for disability benefits described in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920, and the "severity step" is the step of that process described at 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c);
(n) "combination criteria" means the following statutory eligibility criteria:
In determining whether an individual's physical or mental impairments are of sufficient medical severity that such impairment or impairments could be the basis of eligibility . . . [for disability benefits], the Secretary shall consider the combined effect of all of the individual's impairments without regard to whether any such impairment, if considered separately, would be of such severity. If the Secretary does find a medically severe combination of impairments, the combined impact of the impairments shall be considered throughout the disability determination process.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(C);
(o) "Reinstatement Order" means this court's Memorandum Order of October 6, 1988.
2. The court's Order of March 3, 1988 dismissing this case, but retaining jurisdiction for sixty (60) days to permit plaintiffs to move to reinstate the case, is vacated, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(5), (6).
3. Within one hundred twenty (120) days of the entry of the Reinstatement Order, the Secretary, through the use of SSA's automated data base, shall identify the persons who may be redetermination class members, except that the list of persons so identified may be refined and verified within the thirty (30) day period following the entry of this order.
(a) Not later than sixty (60) days after the entry of this order, the Secretary shall send to each person who has been identified as a redetermination class member whose de novo application for disability benefits was denied, the notice attached hereto as Exh. A-1. (Such notices shall be sent by first class mail, postage prepaid, and to such class member's last known address). With the Exh. A-1 notice, defendant shall provide Exh. A-2, which, as printed, shall be an election form by which the election described in Exh. A-1 notice may be made. The election form shall either be accompanied by a pre-addressed postage prepaid envelope in which the election form can be returned to SSA, or it will itself be returnable to SSA as a postage prepaid postcard. The pre-addressed envelope or postcard, whichever is used, shall be pre-addressed to a single location (as opposed to various SSA local offices).
(b) (i) Not later than sixty (60) days after the entry of this order, the Secretary shall send to each person who has been identified as a redetermination class member whose previously awarded disability benefits were terminated, the notice attached hereto as Exh. B-1. (Such notices shall be sent by first class mail, postage prepaid, and to such class member's last known address). With the Exh. B-1 notice, defendant shall provide Exhibit B-2, which, as printed, shall be an election form by which the election described in Exh. B-1 notice may be made. The election form shall either be accompanied by a pre-addressed postage prepaid envelope in which the election form can be returned to SSA, or it will itself be returnable to SSA as a postage prepaid postcard. The pre-addressed envelope or postcard, whichever is used, shall be pre-addressed to a single location (as opposed to various local SSA offices).
(ii) Redetermination class members who return a completed Exh. B-2 election form may elect to have their benefits reinstated (as described in the Exh. B-1 notice), following completion of one of the applicable forms attached as Group Exh. C hereto. (SSA will contact the redetermination class member respecting completion of this form as soon as possible after that class member's claims file is retrieved or reconstructed, but in no event later than thirty (30) days after his claims file is retrieved or reconstructed.) However, if a redetermination class member reports, or SSA becomes aware of, current work activity, SSA will secure a statement from him regarding his work activity, the amount of monthly wages, and any other pertinent information pertaining to his employment. Except as provided in section 1619 of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382h, reinstated (interim) benefits shall not be payable for any month for which earnings are at or beyond the substantial gainful activity level. If interim benefits are not payable for that reason, then defendant shall notify the ...