Walker-Butler v. Berryhill, 051217 FED1, 16-1944
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit|
|Attorney:||Riley L. Fenner on brief for appellant. Nicole Sonia, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, and Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.|
|Judge Panel:||Before Lynch, Baldock, and Kayatta Circuit Judges.|
|Opinion Judge:||BALDOCK, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||CYNTHIA DIANE WALKER-BUTLER, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [*] Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant, Appellee.|
|Case Date:||May 12, 2017|
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE Hon. D. Brock Hornby, U.S. District Judge.
Riley L. Fenner on brief for appellant.
Nicole Sonia, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, and Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.
Before Lynch, Baldock, [**] and Kayatta Circuit Judges.
BALDOCK, Circuit Judge.
Following a remand from a federal district court, the Commissioner of Social Security issued a partially favorable decision on Plaintiff Cynthia Diane Walker-Butler's claim for Title II disability benefits. Dissatisfied, Plaintiff once again sought review of the Commissioner's decision in federal court, but the district court dismissed her complaint as untimely. We consider in this appeal whether a five-day grace period outlined in 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(c) should have applied on remand and saved her complaint from dismissal.
An individual seeking Title II disability benefits from the Social Security Administration may obtain judicial review in federal district court of "any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [regarding those benefits] made after a hearing to which he was a party." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On an individual's initial application for disability benefits, such a final decision arises in only two circumstances. First, the decision of the administrative law judge ("ALJ") who held the hearing on the individual's claim will become the final decision of the Commissioner if the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration denies the individual's request for further review. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 422.210(a). Second, if the Appeals Council does decide to review the individual's claim, the Appeals Council's decision becomes the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. In either instance, the Appeals Council must take some action-either denying review or issuing its own decision-before the individual is considered to have exhausted his or her administrative remedies with the Social Security Administration and may therefore seek judicial review in federal district court. See id.
But what counts as the Commissioner's final decision differs when the individual's case has already gone to federal court and been remanded for further proceedings. In such an instance, and assuming the individual does not file with the Appeals Council any written exceptions to the ALJ's new decision on remand, the ALJ's decision "will become the final decision of the Commissioner after remand on [the individual's] case unless the Appeals Council assumes jurisdiction of the case" within sixty days after the date of the ALJ's new decision.1 Id. § 404.984(a), (c) (emphases added). Put differently, the Appeals Council does not need to take action before the individual may seek judicial review in federal district court. See id. If the Appeals Council chooses to do nothing, the ALJ's decision automatically becomes the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. § 404.984(d).
These differences in finality on an initial application for disability benefits and on remand from a district court influence how we calculate the amount of time the individual has to seek judicial review. In both situations, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) applies and mandates that the individual must file his or her civil action "within sixty days after the mailing to him of notice of [the Commissioner's final] decision or within such further time as the Commissioner of Social Security may allow." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Even so, the specific procedural posture of the case changes the practical effect of this statute.
On initial applications for disability benefits, applying § 405(g) is relatively straightforward. In that scenario, the Appeals Council, which must take some action, always mails the individual a notice of that action (i.e., denying review or issuing its own decision). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.967, 404.981. As such, the default rule under § 405(g) is that the individual has sixty days from the date the notice was mailed to bring a civil action unless the Commissioner has given him or her more time to do so. And under 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(c), the Commissioner has done just that: pursuant to this regulation, the sixty-day time limit starts when the individual receives the notice of the Appeals Council's action. Further, § 422.210(c) provides that "[f]or purposes of this section, the date of receipt of notice . . . shall be presumed to be 5 days after the date of such notice, unless there is a reasonable showing to the contrary."
But on remand, the application of § 405(g) is...
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