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Phillips v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

April 1, 2019

JAMES L. PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, and U.S. DEP'T OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          William C. Lee, Judge

         This matter is before the court on a request for hearing, filed by the Plaintiff, James L. Phillips (“Phillips”), pro se, on February 7, 2019. Defendants filed a response to the request on February 20, 2019. Also before the court is the Defendants' joint motion to dismiss Phillips' complaint, filed on February 15, 2019. Phillips filed a letter to the court on February 26, 2019, requesting to subpoena President Trump to his dismissal hearing.

         For the following reasons, Phillips' request for a hearing and for subpoena will be denied. Defendants' joint motion to dismiss will be granted.

         Discussion

         Phillips initiated this lawsuit by filing a 113 page document. It appears that page one of this document is his “complaint” and the remaining 112 pages are various exhibits. Phillips states that he is a veteran. Most of the exhibits appear to be related to the Department of Veterans Affairs' administrative review of whether some of Phillips' physical conditions were service connected. Most of these VA records date back to the mid to late 1990s or unknown dates. (DE 1 pages 3-7; 15-24 and 26-113). There are also exhibits that relate to Phillips' requests for an audit of his VA benefits and a pending administrative review matter before the VA. (DE 1 pages 8 and 11).

         It seems that these older records may relate to earlier VA determinations related to Phillips' VA benefits. Defendants state that they believe that only the exhibits on pages 8, 11, 12, and 25 relate to Phillips' pending complaint. Though Phillips' allegations against the Defendants are unclear, it seems that Phillips is contesting the offset of his Social Security benefits as evidenced by the exhibits on pages 12 and 25 of his Complaint.

         Phillips also appears to be contesting the amount he owes and/or the amount paid by the VA for certain health services he received at the “county hospital” on an unknown date. (DE 1 page 1). Phillips references the “Choice Card” for veterans to use. Defendants have informed the court that the Veterans Choice Program is a benefit for veterans eligible for VA health care to receive care from a local community care provider, paid for by VA. There may be copayments for nonservice-connected care. Additionally, Phillips appears to be contesting the amount of his other VA benefits.

         The Defendants point out that Phillips does not provide a jurisdictional statement for his complaint. In addition, Phillips does not identify the specific legal basis for his claims for relief. Defendants assert that this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over Phillips complaint and that Phillips fails to state actionable claims for relief.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides for dismissal of claims over which the Federal Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is the "power to decide" and must be conferred upon the Federal Court. In re Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co., 794 F.2d 1182, 1188 (7th Cir.1986). When a court's jurisdiction to entertain a case is placed in question by the filing of a 12(b)(1) motion, the Court must resolve that issue before reaching the merits of the case. Crawford v. United States, 796 F.2d 924, 928 (7th Cir. 1986). The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the jurisdictional requirements have been met. Kontos v. United States Dept. of Labor, 826 F.2d 573, 576 (7th Cir.1987). A court may properly dismiss an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) when the court lacks the statutory authority or constitutional power to adjudicate the case. Home Builder's Ass'n of Miss. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998).

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the Court may look beyond the complaint and review any extraneous evidence submitted by the parties to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. United Transp. Union v. Gateway Western R.R. Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir.1996).

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]” Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), “detailed factual allegations” are not required, but the rule does call for sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. at 556. There are two principles espoused in Twombly. First, the tenet that a court must accept a complaint's allegations as true is inapplicable to threadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by mere conclusory statements. Id. at 555. Second, determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim is context-specific, requiring the reviewing court to draw on its experience and common sense. Id.

         A court considering a motion to dismiss may begin by identifying allegations that, because they are mere conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1940 (2009). While legal conclusions can provide the complaint's framework, they must be supported by factual allegations. Id. When there are well pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id. at 1940-41. The facts in the complaint must "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegality.” Twombly at 556.

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957). The complaint must set out who did what to whom and why. Dewey v. University of New Hampshire, 694 F.2d 1 (1st Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 44 (1983). Since government officials are frequently targets of nonmeritorious suits founded on rhetorical assertions of wrongdoing, the courts have been careful to ensure that plaintiffs suing government officials comply with the standard set out in Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). In Butz v. Economou, the Supreme Court warned courts about the possibilities of artful pleading and to "[firmly apply] the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [to] ensure that Federal officials are not harassed by frivolous lawsuits." 438 U.S. 478, 507 (1978).

         In the present case, Phillips fails to allege that this Court has jurisdiction over the issues he presents in his complaint, as required. Kontos v. U.S. Dep't Labor, 826 F.2d 573, 576 (7th Cir.1987). The Defendants acknowledge that Phillips is proceeding pro se, and that the Court may liberally construe the allegations in the complaint. Hudson v. McHugh, 148 F.3d 859, 864 (7th Cir.1998). However, this Court is not required ...


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