12 F.3d 245 (D.C. Cir. 1993), 91-5236, Ryan v. Bentsen

Docket Nº:91-5236.
Citation:12 F.3d 245
Party Name:Unempl.Ins.Rep. (CCH) P 17664A James RYAN, Appellant, v. Lloyd BENTSEN, Secretary of the Treasury, et al., Appellees.
Case Date:December 28, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 245

12 F.3d 245 (D.C. Cir. 1993)

Unempl.Ins.Rep. (CCH) P 17664A

James RYAN, Appellant,

v.

Lloyd BENTSEN, Secretary of the Treasury, et al., Appellees.

No. 91-5236.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

December 28, 1993

Argued Sept. 7, 1993.

Page 246

[304 U.S.App.D.C. 220] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 91-608).

William H. Dempsey, Washington, DC (appointed by the Court), argued the cause for amicus curiae. On brief was Warner W. Gardner, Washington, DC.

Marina Utgoff Braswell, Asst. U.S. Atty., Washington, DC, argued the cause for the appellees. On brief were J. Ramsey Johnson, U.S. Atty., and John D. Bates and R. Craig Lawrence, Asst. U.S. Attys.

Before: BUCKLEY, GINSBURG and HENDERSON, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the court filed by Circuit Judge KAREN LeCRAFT HENDERSON.

KAREN LeCRAFT HENDERSON, Circuit Judge:

James Ryan appeals the district court's dismissal of his claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Before the district court Ryan challenged the suspension of his Social Security retirement benefits. The court found that Ryan's case arose under the Social Security Act and that Ryan had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. Sec. 405(g). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I.

In 1987 Ryan became eligible for and began receiving Social Security retirement benefits. 42 U.S.C. Secs. 401 et seq. In 1989 Ryan was convicted of a felony and confined to a federal prison. Section 402(x) of the Social Security Act (Act) prohibits the payment of benefits to incarcerated felons; 1 acting pursuant to section 402(x), the Mid-Atlantic regional office of the Social Security Administration (SSA) terminated Ryan's benefits in late 1989. Ryan sought reconsideration but was unsuccessful. He did not request a hearing before an administrative law judge or Appeals Council review as provided by the Act. See 42 U.S.C. Sec. 405(g); 20 C.F.R. Sec. 404.900(a)(1)-(4). Proceeding pro se, Ryan then filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Ryan's challenge to the suspension of his benefits arises from the fact that section 402(x) prohibits payment of Social Security benefits to incarcerated felons but not to incarcerated misdemeanants; according to Ryan, the statutory distinction between felons and misdemeanants violates the due process clauses of both the fifth and the fourteenth amendments.

Page 247

[304 U.S.App.D.C. 221] The district court dismissed Ryan's case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because he had not exhausted his administrative remedies. See Ryan v. Brady, 776 F.Supp. 1, 2 (D.D.C.1991). The court found that Ryan's claim arose under the Act and that he had not received a "final decision" of the Secretary (Secretary) of the Department of Health and Human Services (Department) rendered after a hearing, as required by 42 U.S.C. Sec. 405(g). Ryan, 776 F.Supp. at 2. When Ryan sought summary reversal of the lower court's decision, and the Secretary sought summary affirmance, this Court appointed an amicus curiae to address numerous issues raised by Ryan's appeal. 2 Today we need reach only one of those issues: whether we should waive the exhaustion requirement and remand the case to the district court to consider the constitutionality of section 402(x).

II.

Judicial review of Social Security benefit determinations is circumscribed by the Act. See 42 U.S.C. Secs. 405(g)-(h). Specifically, section 405(g) permits judicial review of the Department's action only after a "final decision of the Secretary made after a hearing." 42 U.S.C. Sec. 405(g). The Secretary renders a "final decision" after a benefit claimant receives an initial determination of his right to benefits by the regional SSA office, asks that office to reconsider its determination, requests a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) and requests Appeals Council review of the ALJ's decision. See 20 C.F.R....

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