United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
CLARA Z. PACK, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Baker United States Magistrate Judge.
Clara Z. Pack challenges the Social Security Appeals
Council's decision that she was overpaid $9, 936 in
benefits and must repay that amount. The Court is asked to
determine whether the Appeals Council's decision is
supported by substantial evidence. As explained below, it is.
The Magistrate Judge recommends that the Appeals
Council's decision be affirmed.
Facts and Findings
a retired federal government employee who receives a monthly
government pension. Pack's government employer chose not
to participate in Social Security, so Pack's government
earnings did not count toward her Social Security work
record. However, Pack had sufficient earnings from a
non-government employer that qualified her for Social
Security, and she elected to receive retirement benefits
based on those earnings. Pack also elected to receive Social
Security spousal benefits (widow and survivor) based on the
work record of her late husband.
August 15, 2012, Social Security notified Pack that she had
been overpaid $9, 936 in benefits because her retirement and
spousal benefits did not account for her government pension.
[Filing No. 16, at ECF p. 43-46.] The notice requested a lump
sum repayment to Social Security, but informed Pack that she
may also request a waiver of repayment by demonstrating that
she was not at fault for the overpayment and could not meet
her necessary living expenses if she repaid that amount.
Id. Pack did not make a lump sum repayment or seek a
waiver. Rather, Pack appealed the decision, which was denied.
[Filing No. 16, at ECF p. 47-50.]
requested a hearing on the denial, and appeared before an
Administrative Law Judge on April 29, 2013. On June 13, 2013,
the ALJ ruled that Pack must repay the overpayment. [Filing
No. 16, at ECF p. 16-21.] The ALJ found that Pack failed to
report her government pension, which changed the calculation
of her benefits by prompting application of the Social
Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government
Pension Offset (GPO) reductions. [Filing No. 16, at ECF p.
18-19.] The ALJ found that that Pack was overpaid $9, 924 in
benefits and that she was at fault for causing the
overpayment. [Filing No. 16, at ECF p. 20.]
Pack's request, the Appeals Council reviewed the
ALJ's decision. On February 12, 2015, the Appeals Council
issued a decision adopting the ALJ's statements regarding
Social Security law, issues in Pack's case, and the
evidentiary facts. [Filing No. 16, at ECF p. 7.] However, the
Appeals Council determined that the ALJ miscalculated the
overpayment by $12 due to a rounding error and that the ALJ
erred in finding Pack was at fault for the overpayment.
[Filing No. 16, at ECF p. 7-10.] The Appeals Council vacated
the ALJ's calculations and affirmed the calculations from
the August 2012 Social Security notice, incorporating those
calculations into its decision. [Filing No. 16, at ECF p. 9.]
The Appeals Council found that Pack had not submitted any
evidence that would support a finding of waiver, and
determined that she must repay the $9, 936 overpayment. The
Appeals Council's decision became the final decision of
the Commissioner. This appeal followed.
Standard of Review
Court must uphold the Commissioner's decision if the
findings are supported by substantial evidence. Moore v.
Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1120 (7th Cir. 2014). The
substantial evidence standard requires “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id. at 1121. The Court
will not reweigh the evidence or substitute the
Commissioner's judgment, but will examine the decision
and determine whether there is “a logical bridge from
the evidence to the conclusions.” Id. If the
decision lacks substantial evidence, it will be remanded.
filed a number of motions in this action. After holding a
telephonic status conference on November 13, 2015, and upon
review of Pack's motions and responses, the Magistrate
Judge interprets Pack's arguments as: (1) the $9, 936
overpayment amount is not supported by substantial evidence,
and (2) the Appeals Council failed to take into account $6,
796 that Pack has since repaid.
Appeals Council found that Pack received an overpayment of
$9, 936 based on the calculations in the August 2012 Social
Security notice. [Filing No. 16, at ECF p. 9.] Pack argues
that the overpayment amount is erroneous because she should
be allowed to receive the full sum of her retirement benefits
and her full spousal benefits, less a two-thirds offset of
her pension. [Filing No. 16, at ECF p. 128; Filing No. 24, at
ECF p. 2.] The Commissioner argues that the Appeals
Council's finding of a $9, 936 overpayment is ...