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Brooks v. Acting Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 14, 2014

JAHMELA BROOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

KATHERINE POLK FAILLA, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jahmela Brooks, proceeding pro se, appeals from a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for benefits. The Acting Commissioner[1] has moved the Court to reverse that final decision and remand the case for rehearing pursuant to the fourth sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court concludes that remand is appropriate here and so grants the Acting Commissioner's motion.

BACKGROUND[2]

A. Factual Background

On February 19, 2010, Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income disability benefits. (Tr. 6, 70). She complained of disabilities arising from HIV infection, hypertension, obesity, affective disorder, anxiety, sleep disturbance, depression, and gastritis. ( Id. at 11-13, 42). Her claim for benefits was denied on April 1, 2010. ( Id. at 38).

On April 28, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge, disagreeing with that adverse determination. (Tr. 42). On January 18, 2011, a hearing was scheduled for February 15, 2011. ( Id. at 53). Plaintiff testified at the hearing on February 15, 2011, before an Administrative Law Judge ( id. at 23-36), who subsequently issued a decision on March 3, 2011, denying her claim on the basis that Plaintiff was not disabled ( id. at 10-17). Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of that decision on April 29, 2011. ( Id. at 6). The Appeals Counsel denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 24, 2012, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. ( Id. at 1).

B. The Instant Litigation

Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this action on June 27, 2012, appealing the decision denying her application for benefits. (Dkt. #1). The Commissioner[3] answered the Complaint on December 4, 2012. (Dkt. #11). The Court set a briefing schedule for motions for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. #17). After several extensions, the Acting Commissioner filed a motion for remand on January 24, 2014 (Dkt. #24), accompanied by a memorandum of law in its support (Dkt. #25). Plaintiff did not file any opposition.

DISCUSSION

A. Applicable Law

42 U.S.C. § 405(g) provides, in its fourth sentence:

The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Secretary, with or without remanding the case for a rehearing.

"[A] sentence-four remand order terminate[s] the civil action' seeking judicial review of the Secretary's final decision." Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 299 (1993) (emphasis omitted, second alteration in original) (quoting Sullivan v. Finkelstein, 496 U.S. 617, 625 (1990)). "Such a remand is appropriate when the Commission has failed to provide a full and fair hearing, to make explicit findings, or to have correctly applied the law and regulations.'" Melecio v. Astrue, No. 09 Civ. 1900 (CSH), 2010 WL 382722, at *1 (D. Conn. Jan. 27, 2010) (quoting Castro v. Apfel, No. 98 Civ. 0395 (CEH), 1999 WL 761142, at *2 (W.D.N.Y. May 13, 1999)); see also Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 83 (2d Cir. 1999) (observing that sentence-four remands are appropriate when "further development of the evidence" is necessary). In contrast, where a reviewing court has "no ...


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