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Faulkner v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 31, 2015

KENDRA FAULKNER O/B/O D.J.K., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

The Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") moves to dismiss a challenge by Plaintiff Kendra Faulkner, on behalf of minor D.J.K., to the Commissioner's decision dismissing her application for benefits, arguing that this Court lacks jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons explained below, the Commissioner's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED. [Filing No. 16.]

I.

BACKGROUND

The relevant background facts, which consist solely of the procedural history of this case, are undisputed. Ms. Faulkner filed for social security benefits on behalf of her daughter, D.J.K., on January 29, 2013. [Filing No. 17-1 at 2.] Her application was denied at the initial stage and upon reconsideration. [Filing No. 17-1 at 2-3.] Ms. Faulkner requested a hearing, and one was scheduled for May 12, 2014. [Filing No. 17-1 at 3.] Ms. Faulkner failed to appear at the hearing, and the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") dismissed her case. [Filing No. 17-1 at 3.]

On July 3, 2014, Ms. Faulkner requested Appeals Council review of the ALJ's dismissal. [Filing No. 17-1 at 3.] The Appeals Council remanded the case back to the ALJ to consider additional information in determining whether Ms. Faulkner has good cause for not appearing at the hearing. [Filing No. 17-1 at 13.] On July 28, 2014, the ALJ again dismissed Ms. Faulkner's request for a hearing, finding that there was no good cause for her failure to appear at the hearing. [Filing No. 17-1 at 18-20.]

Ms. Faulkner requested Appeals Council review of the ALJ's dismissal. [Filing No. 17-1 at 3.] The Appeals Council denied review on August 26, 2014. [Filing No. 17-1 at 3.] Ms. Faulkner filed this action on October 29, 2014.

II.

LEGAL STANDARDS

Judicial review of decisions by the Commissioner is governed by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which provides in relevant part as follows: "Any individual, after any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing to which he was a party... may obtain a review of such decision by a civil action...." What constitutes a final decision "is left to the [Commissioner] to flesh out by regulation." Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 766 (1975). The regulations adopted by the Commissioner set forth the administrative review process a claimant must undergo before receiving a "final decision" of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a).

III.

DISCUSSION

The Commissioner seeks dismissal of this action, arguing that the Court lack's jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) because the Commissioner did not issue a final decision as defined by the statute. [Filing No. 17 at 5-6.] Specifically, the Commissioner argues that no final decision was issued as to the claim of disability since the request for hearing was dismissed without decision. [Filing No. 17 at 6.]

Ms. Faulkner responds that she has exhausted all avenues of administrative relief. [Filing No. 20 at 3.] She points the Court to Boley v. Colvin, 761 F.3d 803 (7th Cir. 2014), and argues that she, like the claimant in Boley, "should be entitled to judicial review as the Appeals Council's last ...


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