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Figueroa v. Astrue

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 14, 2013

Orlando Dones FIGUEROA, Plaintiff,
v.
Michael ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SARAH NETBURN, District Judge.

TO THE HONORABLE LORNA G. SCHOFIELD:

Pro se plaintiff Orlando Dones Figueroa filed this action seeking judicial review of a favorable decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") awarding him Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The Commissioner has moved, without opposition, to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Because there is no final administrative decision denying benefits that this Court may review, I recommend that the Commissioner's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) be GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

On September 20, 2012, Orlando Dones Figueroa filed an action in this Court for review of a decision of the Commissioner under section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g). It appears that he seeks review of a 2003 decision by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") related to his claim for Supplemental Security Insurance ("SSI") benefits. (Compl. ¶¶ 7, 9.) According to Figueroa's complaint, he became disabled in 2002, applied for benefits, and was denied benefits by an ALJ on February 15, 2003. (Compl. ¶ 7.) But the Commissioner, through the declaration of Julio Infiesta, an Assistant Regional Commissioner at the Social Security Administration ("Infiesta Decl."), provides information that Figueroa applied for SSI benefits on February 25, 2003, received a favorable decision, and was awarded benefits on March 16, 2004. (Infiesta Decl. ¶¶ 2-3 & at Ex. A.) Figueroa is currently receiving SSI benefits and has been receiving such benefits since he became eligible to do so in March 2003. (Id. at Ex. B.)

Although not raised in the complaint, the Commissioner also provides information that Figueroa filed a claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") on October 4, 1996. (Infiesta Decl. ¶ 6.) This claim was denied at the initial level of administrative review and again at the reconsideration level on October 30, 1997. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) The Commissioner attests that Figueroa did not seek or receive further administrative review of his October 1996 DIB application, and that the agency has no further record of him filing a subsequent claim for DIB. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11).

In light of these circumstances, on April 5, 2013, the Court issued an Order to Show Cause, directing that Figueroa clarify the nature of his claims regarding both the 2003 SSI benefits application and the 1996 DIB application. The Court warned Figueroa that his failure to respond may result in dismissal of this action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Figueroa failed to respond.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

Because a court cannot act if it lacks jurisdiction, a court must decide a 12(b)(1) motion before any other motion to dismiss. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't , 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998) (citing cases); Winn v. Schafer , 499 F.Supp.2d 390, 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (citing cases); 5B Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1350 (3d ed. 2012). Figueroa's request for review can be addressed completely under a jurisdictional analysis. Accordingly, the Court will decide this case on Rule 12(b)(1) grounds only.

"A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Makarova v. U.S. , 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the court "must accept as true all material factual allegations in the complaint, " J.S. ex rel. N.S. v. Attica Cent. Sch. , 386 F.3d 107, 110 (2d Cir. 2004), but "no presumptive truthfulness attaches to the complaint's jurisdictional allegations, " Guadagno v. Wallack Ader Levithan Assocs. , 932 F.Supp. 94, 95 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). The burden is on the plaintiff to satisfy the Court of the jurisdictional facts. Makarova , 201 F.3d at 113 ("A plaintiff asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it exists."). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the Court "may consider affidavits and other materials beyond the pleadings." Attica Central Sch. , 386 F.3d at 110.

Judicial review of cases arising under Title II of the Social Security Act is provided for, and expressly limited by, sections 205(g) and (h) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and (h). These sections provide the exclusive remedy for seeking review of a decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. § 405(h) ("No findings of fact or decision of the Commissioner shall be reviewed by any person, tribunal, or governmental agency except as provided herein.").

II. The 2003 SSI Application

Section 405(g) "assumes as a condition for judicial review" that the determination will be adverse to the claimant. Jones v. Califano , 576 F.2d 12, 18 (2d Cir. 1978) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). It makes "no provision for judicial review of a determination favorable to the complainant." Id .; see also Wheeler v. Heckler , 719 F.2d 595, ...


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