United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
R., Julie Lorraine Bentz SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,
Daniel R. Janes SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Kathryn E.
Olivier UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE (Indianapolis)
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
LaToya R.,  proceeding pro se, requests
judicial review of the final decision of the Deputy
Commissioner for Operations of the Social Security
Administration (the “Deputy Commissioner”) that
she was overpaid $8, 388.00 in benefits certified to her as
representative payee for her then-minor son
(“TR”) and is liable for the overpayment. For the
following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the
decision of the Deputy Commissioner.
August 27, 2014, the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) sent notice to LaToya R. informing her
that she was solely liable for repayment of an overpayment
totaling $8, 388.00 that occurred when TR was not living with
her during the months between February 2012 and January 2013,
but continued to receive Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits while also getting Title 4E
funds from the State of Indiana to assist in paying for his
living expenses. (Filing No. 14-2 at 146-47.) On October 4,
2014, LaToya R. was informed that SSA intended to reduce her
own SSI benefits by ten percent, beginning November 1, 2014,
to get back the money she was overpaid. (Filing No. 14-2 at
152-55.) LaToya R. timely requested reconsideration, (Filing
No. 14-2 at 156), which was denied on November 20, 2014
(Filing No. 14-2 at 160). On January 1, 2014, she requested a
hearing concerning the matter. (Filing No. 14-2 at 163.)
Administrative Law Judge Albert Velasquez (the
“ALJ”) held a hearing on January 7, 2016, at
which LaToya R., unrepresented by counsel, appeared and
testified. (Filing No. 36-22 at 4-22.) The ALJ issued a
decision on March 22, 2016, concluding that LaToya R. was
liable for the overpayment. (Filing No. 14-2 at 13.) The
Appeals Council denied review on July 25, 2017. (Filing No.
14-2 at 6.) On August 9, 2017, she timely filed this civil
action, asking the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
to review the final decision of the Deputy Commissioner.
(Filing No. 1.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Social Security Act (the “Act”), the
“findings of the [Deputy] Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . .” 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). The
standard of review applies to overpayment determinations.
Banuelos v. Apfel, 165 F.3d 1166, 1169 (7th Cir.
1999) (overturned on other grounds by Johnson v.
Apfel, 189 F.3d 561 (7th Cir. 1999)). The United States
Supreme Court has recognized that judicial review of Social
Security decisions is limited to matters for which the
plaintiff has exhausted administrative review under the Act.
Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 327 (1976)
(citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)-(h)). “It is clear from
[42 U.S.C. § 405(g)] that a district court may not
consider evidence outside the certified record.”
Papendick v. Sullivan, 969 F.2d 298, 302 (7th Cir.
1992) (overturned on other grounds by Johnson v.
Apfel, 189 F.3d 561 (7th Cir. 1999)). Moreover, the
Commissioner is responsible for weighing the evidence,
resolving conflicts and making independent findings of fact,
the court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence
or substitute its own judgment. Powers v. Apfel, 207
F.3d 431, 434-35 (7th Cir. 2000).
September 16, 1996, LaToya R. completed and signed a
representative payee application/agreement (the “1996
agreement”) to become the payee for TR's SSI
benefits. (Filing No. 14-2 at 80.) As part of that
agreement, LaToya R. endorsed, “I may be held
personally liable for repayment if I misuse the payments or
if I am at fault for any overpayment of benefits.”
(Filing No. 35-2 at 3.) She further endorsed, “I agree
to: [. . .] [n]otify the Social Security Administration when
the claimant dies, leaves my custody or otherwise changes
his/her living arrangements or when I no longer have
responsibility for his/her care and welfare.” (Filing
No. 35-2 at 4.)
January 26, 2012, the Marion Superior Court, Juvenile
Division, issued an Order Regarding Children in Need of
Services, after a permanency hearing, which included the
appearance of LaToya R. (Filing No. 14-2 at 60.) The order
concerning TR described that he had been temporarily placed
at Damar Services, Inc., (“Damar”), but was
spending weekends with LaToya R., and that neither LaToya R.
nor the Department of Child Services (“DCS”)
wished to change the plan. (Filing No. 14-2 at 61;
https://www.damar.org/children/residential (last visited
August 27, 2018) (Damar is an organization funded by the
State of Indiana that provides residential care services for
children with developmental and behavioral disabilities).)
The hearing resulted in a permanency plan whereby the court
ordered continued current placement at Damar and the
“responsibility for placement and care is granted to
the Department of Child Services.” (Filing No.
14-2 at 62-63.) On January 17, 2013, an order of the
court following a periodic review hearing indicated that TR
was still placed at Damar. (Filing No. 14-2 at 104.) DCS
retained custody of TR until he was released to ResCare, an
adult services provider, on May 23, 2013. (Filing No. 14-2 at
interim on November 23, 2012, LaToya R. completed a
representative payee report, under penalty of perjury,
reporting that TR had lived with her from August 1, 2011
through July 31, 2012. (Filing No. 14-2 at 65-66.)
January 11, 2013, LaToya R., again under penalty of perjury,
completed a redetermination summary for the purpose of
determining continuing eligibility for TR's SSI payments.
(Filing No. 14-2 at 67-70.) LaToya R. endorsed that TR
“has not spent a calendar month in a hospital, nursing
home, correctional facility, or any type of institution since
March 1, 2012.” (Filing No. 14-2 at 68.) LaToya R. was
asked to describe TR's living arrangements as of May 27,
2011, March 2, 2012, and April 2, 2012, and provided only her
own address for each requested date. Id. She
endorsed that as of April 2, 2012, TR “does not get
help or money from any person not living with him or any
agency to pay for food, rent, mortgage payments, property
insurance, property taxes, heating fuel, gas, electricity,
garbage removal, water or sewerage.” Id. She
further endorsed, “There have not been any other
changes in his living arrangements.” Id.
on January 15, 2013, SSA contacted DCS stating that,
“One of our claims reps did a redetermination interview
with this child's mom yesterday, and she reported the
child has been at Damar since 2/04/12. She says DCS pays for
his stay there.” (Filing No. 14-2 at 110.) DCS
responded that TR had been at Damar since January 26, 2012
and had received Title 4E funds from the State of Indiana
against placement costs up until he had become an adult.
the hearing, the ALJ issued a written decision explaining his
findings of fact and conclusions of law. The ALJ found that
LaToya R. was the sole representative payee for TR from at
least February 2012 through January 2013. (Filing No. 14-2 at
17.) The ALJ noted that LaToya R. had agreed to notify SSA in
the 1996 agreement if TR “leaves her custody or
otherwise changes his living arrangements or when she no
longer has responsibility to [sic] his care and
welfare.” Id. The ALJ further summarized the
custody and living arrangement changes during the relevant
period, including that DCS “was granted responsibility
for the placement and care of” TR on January 26, 2012.
Id. The ALJ noted that despite TR's removal,
LaToya R. had failed to report his change of living
arrangement and in fact continued to report to SSA, as noted
above, that TR “lived with her and was under her
care.” Id. The ALJ found that LaToya R.
“should not have received benefits as the
representative payee for [TR] during this period because DCS
was responsible for the care and placement of [TR] during
this period. As a result, the claimant was overpaid
supplemental security income benefits as a representative
payee of $8, 338.00 from February 2012 to January
2013.” Id. The ALJ further found that LaToya
R. was liable for paying back the “misused”
benefits she received as a representative payee. (Filing No.
14-2 at 18 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.635, 416.640,
R. has made various claims on her own behalf. When she
requested reconsideration she simply stated, “this is
not my overpayment.” (Filing No. 14-2 at 156.) When she
requested a hearing, she stated, “I do not owe [an]
overpayment, ” and “everyone in this office ...