United States District Court, D. Maryland
RE: Kenda D.
Commissioner, Social Security Administration;
LETTER TO PARTIES
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Plaintiff and Counsel:
February 6, 2019, Plaintiff filed a complaint, pro
se, complaining of a final decision by the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”).
ECF 1. The Commissioner filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction, citing Plaintiff's untimely
Complaint and her failure to exhaust her administrative
remedies. ECF 15. Plaintiff filed two letters in response.
ECF 17, 18. I have carefully reviewed the parties'
filings, and no hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2018). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's Motion to Dismiss must be granted.
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction challenges a
court's authority to hear the matter brought by a
complainant. See Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d
792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). Generally, when a court considers a
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, it
“may regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue
and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without
converting the proceeding into one for summary
judgment.” Velasco v. Gov't of Indonesia,
370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004); see also Adams v.
Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982) (“A
trial court may consider evidence by affidavit, depositions,
or live testimony.”). In considering this motion, I
have considered the declaration filed by Janay Podraza, the
Chief of Court Case Preparation and Review Branch II of the
Office of Appellate Operations at SSA, along with its
supporting documentation. ECF 15-2.
plaintiff carries the burden of establishing subject matter
jurisdiction. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654
(4th Cir. 1999) (citing Thomas v. Gaskill, 315 U.S.
442, 446 (1942); Goldsmith v. Mayor of Balt., 845
F.2d 61, 63-64 (4th Cir. 1088)). However, a pro se
plaintiff's complaint should not be dismissed
“unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can
prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would
entitle him to relief.” Gordon v. Leeke, 574
F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1987) (quoting Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972)) (quotation and
citation omitted). Pro se filings “however
unskillfully pleaded, must be liberally construed.”
Noble v. Barnett, 24 F.3d 582, 587 n.6 (4th Cir.
1994) (citing Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928
(4th Cir. 1977)). Nevertheless, where a plaintiff has failed
to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing a claim,
the action should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(1). See
Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 607-08 (D. Md.
2003), aff'd 85 Fed.Appx. 960 (4th Cir. 2004).
her earlier claims for benefits were denied, Plaintiff filed
a claim for Supplemental Security Income on April 9, 2014,
and was found to be disabled. ECF 15-2, Exh. 6. On December
27, 2017, the SSA reviewed Plaintiff's case and
determined that she was no longer disabled. ECF 15-2, Exh. 7.
Plaintiff requested reconsideration of that decision. ECF
15-2, Exh. 8. By notice dated April 20, 2018, the SSA revised
its determination and informed Plaintiff that her
Supplemental Security Income would continue, because she
remained disabled. ECF 15-2, Exh. 9. Subsequent
communications in 2018 confirmed that Plaintiff's
benefits would continue. ECF 15-2, Exh. 10-11.
Complaint in this case states that she is appealing from a
“final decision by the Commissioner against
plaintiff” in 2016. ECF 1. According to the materials
submitted by Ms. Podraza, there are no communications in
Plaintiff's file dated in 2016. ECF 15-2.
Federal Government and its agencies, including SSA, are
immune from suit, absent a statute expressly permitting a
court to exercise jurisdiction. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp.
v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994). Under the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 301 et. seq., United
States District Courts have the authority to review decisions
of the Commissioner of Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The Act precludes judicial review absent a
“final decision, ” see Califano v.
Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 108 (1977), and clarifies that the
remedy provided by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is exclusive:
“No findings of fact or decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security shall be reviewed by any person, tribunal, or
governmental agency except as herein provided.” 42
U.S.C. § 405(h). Social Security Administration
regulations define a “final decision” of the
Commissioner as an “initial determination” that
has been pursued through all steps of the administrative
review process. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a).
Indeed, the Supreme Court has long required parties to
exhaust administrative remedies before seeking relief from
the courts. See McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140,
144-45 (1992). The Social Security administrative review
process entails four steps: (1) an initial determination; (2)
reconsideration; (3) an Administrative Law Judge hearing and
decision; and (4) Appeals Council review or denial thereof.
20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)(1)-(4). Once a claimant has
completed that process, a “final decision” has
been issued, and the claimant may seek judicial review. 20
C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)(5). Appeal of a final decision
ordinarily must be “commenced within sixty days after
the mailing” to the claimant of notice of the decision.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
the file does not evidence any decisions mailed to Plaintiff
in 2016, even if such a decision had been mailed, Plaintiff
did not seek reconsideration or proceed through any other
stages of the administrative appeal process. Of the decisions
contained in Plaintiff's file, the most recent was the
letter of June 2, 2018, which was favorable to Plaintiff
because it affirmed her continued receipt of Supplemental
Security Income benefits. ECF 15-2, Exh. 11. Again, the
record does not reflect that Plaintiff asked for
reconsideration of that decision, or pursued any other type
of administrative appeal. Finally, there are no decisions, of
any sort, mailed within sixty days of the filing of
Plaintiff's Complaint. Accordingly, this Court cannot
exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's appeal.
reasons set forth herein, the Commissioner's Motion to
Dismiss, ECF 15, is GRANTED. The clerk is directed to CLOSE
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as