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Davis v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 22, 2018



          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         On June 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in which he alleged that Defendant violated the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. ECF No. 5. Defendant has filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, and Plaintiff has filed a Response and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 19, 21. The matter is now ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, denies Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, and denies Plaintiff's Petition for Leave to File a Surreply.


         The Amended Complaint avers that on August 8, 2016, Plaintiff sent a letter to the Social Security Administration (SSA) requesting a Survivor Entitlements or Benefits Application. ECF No. 5 at 3; see also ECF No. 1-1 at 1.[1] On August 22, 2016, Plaintiff sent a letter to the SSA titled “RE: Freedom Of Information Act/Privacy Request.” ECF No. 1-1 at 4. The letter requested “a copy of any/all documents, records, and information that any part of your agency has or had in its possession that's in any way connected to” Plaintiff's deceased father, Lonnie Davis (hereinafter “Davis Senior”). Id. at 4-5. The letter also stated that Plaintiff sought “all information concerning [Davis Senior's] income level eligibility, insurance, and auxiliary benefits to ascertain his contributions to the social security system.” Id. at 4. The letter provided Davis Senior's social security number, a brief history of his employment, and a copy of his death certificate. Id. at 4-5.

On October 18, 2016, the SSA replied to Plaintiff's August 22, 2016 letter, stating:
As we previously advised you in our letter dated April 4, 2012, a worker cannot designate who can receive Social Security benefits on his or her earnings record. We can pay benefits only to people who meet the requirements for entitlement. . . .
Generally, we may pay child's benefits to a dependent unmarried child under age 18, to a child age 18 or older who became disabled before age 22, or to a full-time elementary or secondary school student under age 19. If the parent is alive, the parent must be entitled to retirement or disability benefits; if the parent is no longer living, the parent must have worked long enough under the Social Security program.

Id. at 2. The letter also informed Plaintiff, who had sent his letter from a federal penitentiary, that “[u]nder Public Law 111-115, ‘No Social Security Benefits for Prisoners Act of 2009, ' we cannot pay any retroactive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits to beneficiaries . . . [w]hile they are in prison.” The SSA also provided Plaintiff a phone number to call with any questions. Id. at 2-3. The letter did not respond to Plaintiff's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Id.; ECF No. 5 at 3.

         On May 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed this civil action against the SSA. ECF No. 1. At this Court's instruction, ECF No. 3, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, in which he stated:

This is a freedom of information act/privacy act lawsuit for failure to provide an application in a timely manner for survivor entitlements, for violation of 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)(1) Employment [sic] Retirement Income Security Act and for failing to respond to freedom of Information Act/privacy act request submitted August 22, 2016 to Social Security Administration.
Plaintiff asserts he has been aggrieved and damaged by defendant [sic] actions and inactions in failing to properly respond that he interprets as a No Response to the FOIA/privacy act request or the letter requesting application for survivor entitlements. Plaintiff asserts the information sought is not exempt under the Act of Employment [sic] Retirement Income Security Act; therefore, social security administration should have properly provided the information and application to Plaintiff in a timely manner.

         ECF No. 5 at 2-3. Under the requested relief section of the Complaint, Plaintiff asks the Court to

Compel defendants for disclosure of decedant [sic] Lonnie Davis [sic] . . . with an injunctive order, penalties at up to $110.00 per day for violating (E.R.I.S.A.) 29 U.S.C. ยง 1132(c)(1) and plaintiff seeks cost of this litigation reasonably incurred and attorney fees. Provide the requested survivor ...

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