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Rita Martin v. Commissioner of Social Security

April 16, 2013

RITA MARTIN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cogan, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff pro se challenges the decision of the Commissioner*fn1 regarding her entitlement to social security disability benefits. Her attorney appears to have agreed at the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, after consulting with plaintiff, and contrary to her original application for benefits, to a closed period of benefits ending December 18, 2009, and the ALJ awarded benefits for that period. However, he went beyond that; he ruled that based on the medical evidence submitted, plaintiff had recovered sufficiently so that she was not disabled after December 18, 2009. The Commissioner has moved to dismiss on the ground that based on plaintiff's attorney's stipulation at the hearing, she received a "fully favorable" decision and thus subject matter jurisdiction is lacking. The Commissioner is mistaken, and the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff originally filed an application for disability benefits with an alleged onset date of May 1, 2006. The Field Office Disability Report, next to the question of whether the case is a "Closed Period Case," answered that question, "No," which I interpret as meaning that if plaintiff was found to be disabled, she would have an ongoing right to benefits, subject to such improvement in her condition as to render her non-disabled at some presently unknown time in the future. Her application was denied by a claims analyst, denied again by an Administrative Law Judge after a hearing, and denied again by the Appeals Council. However, plaintiff challenged the denial in this Court and the Commissioner stipulated to a remand for a further hearing and findings.

At the second hearing, at which plaintiff was represented by counsel, a medical expert testified that the records she had reviewed clearly indicated that plaintiff had a listed impairment, which would qualify her for disability benefits, from May 1, 2006 through December 18, 2009 (the "closed period"). It is worth quoting the testimony of the medical expert and the colloquy that followed:

Q: [by the ALJ] I want you to tell me the nature of this lady's impairments as evidenced in the record, whether she meets or equals the listings, if so which ones. If not, what you believe her mental residual functional capacity is?

A: Your Honor, claimant has a history of major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Her record dates back as far as May 1 of 2006. Your Honor, in reviewing the record as a whole, what it seems to me is that the claimant would meet a listing for a closed period of time within the record.

Q: When?

A: From 5/1/06 to 12/18/09. This is based on her Elmhurst Hospital records, the psych evaluation from 3/27/07 from Dr. Starke. And what we see, Your Honor, is that the claimant has marked impairments with ADL's and with concentration -- ALJ: Are you willing to have a closed period, Ms. Monbrun [plaintiff's attorney]? ATTY: I haven't discussed it with my client --

ALJ: Do it now.

ATTY: --but I really don't believe that she --okay. I'll ask her. May I go outside, Your Honor?

ALJ: Yeah. {Off the record.) (On the record.)

ALJ: Let the record indicate there's a closed period here from 5/1/06 to 12/18/09 and not ...


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