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Turner v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 20, 2017

CHRISTINE M. TURNER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          FOR THE PLAINTIFF: Christine M. Turner Pro Se

          KATHRYN S. POLLACK Special Assistant U.S. Attorney

          FOR THE DEFENDANTS: HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN United States Attorney, Steven P. Conte Regional Chief Counsel

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          Gary L. Sharpe Senior District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff pro se Christine Turner challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of widow's insurance benefits (WIB), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering Turner's arguments, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and the complaint is dismissed.

         II. Background

         In 2012, Turner filed an application for WIB under the Social Security Act (“the Act”). (Tr.[2] at 12-18.) After her application and her request for reconsideration were denied, (id. at 21-22, 58-62), Turner requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), (id. at 74), which was held on February 4, 2014, (id. at 138-51). On February 21, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding Turner ineligible for WIB and denying the requested benefits, (id. at 6-11), which became the Commissioner's final determination upon the Appeals Council's denial of review, (id. at 2-4).

         Turner commenced this action by filing her complaint on August 25, 2015 wherein she sought review of the Commissioner's determination. (See generally Compl.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 12, 13.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 19, 21.)

         III. Contentions

         Turner contends that the ALJ erred in denying her benefits because she had been married to the wage earner for a total of twelve years. (Dkt. No. 19 at 1.) Specifically, Turner asserts that the Social Security Administration's (SSA) website did not indicate that she needed to be married to the wage earner for ten consecutive years as opposed to at least ten total years. (Id.) In response, the Commissioner argues that the ALJ's determination was supported by substantial evidence because Turner was not married to the insured for ten calendar years before their final divorce as required by the Act. (Dkt. No. 21 at 3-6.)

         IV. Facts

         The court adopts the undisputed factual recitations of the parties and the ALJ. (Dkt. No. 19 at 1-5; Dkt. No. 21 at 2; Tr. at 10-11.) That said, the court highlights certain relevant facts. Turner twice married and divorced the wage earner in New York. (Tr. at 27-30, 32-36.) Turner first married the wage earner on July 10, 1971, and they subsequently divorced after six years on September 26, 1977. (Id. at 27-30.) Turner remarried the wage earner on March 30, 1980, and they again divorced after six years on March 26, 1986. (Id. at 32-36.)

         V. Stand ...


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