United States District Court, D. Nevada
SCREENING ORDER (IFP APP - ECF NO. 1)
A. LEEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Marti Eckloff has submitted an Application to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915 along with a Complaint (ECF No. 1-1). This Application
and Complaint are referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and LR IB 1-3 of the Local Rules
In Forma Pauperis Application
Eckloff's Application includes the affidavit required by
§ 1915(a) showing an inability to prepay fees and costs
or give security for them. Accordingly, the request to
proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. The court
will now review the Complaint.
Screening the Complaint
granting a request to proceed in forma pauperis, a
court must screen the complaint and any amended complaints
filed prior to a responsive pleading. Lopez v.
Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).
The simplified pleading standard set forth in Rule 8(a) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applies to all civil
actions, with limited exceptions. Alvarez v. Hill,
518 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008). A properly pled
complaint must therefore provide “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); see also Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
Although Rule 8 does not require detailed factual
allegations, it demands “more than labels and
conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). A
complaint “must contain sufficient allegations of
underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the
opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr
v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011).
courts are given the authority dismiss a case if the action
is legally “frivolous or malicious, ” fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The standard for
determining whether a plaintiff has failed to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted under § 1915 is the
same as the Rule 12(b)(6) standard for failure to state a
claim. Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th
Cir. 2012). Review under Rule 12(b)(6) is essentially a
ruling on a question of law. North Star Intern. v. Ariz.
Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 580 (9th Cir. 1983). In
considering whether a plaintiff states a valid claim, the
court accepts as true all material allegations in the
complaint and construes them in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Russell v. Landrieu, 621 F.2d 1037,
1039 (9th Cir. 1980). When a court dismisses a complaint
pursuant to § 1915, a plaintiff is ordinarily given
leave to amend with directions as to curing its deficiencies,
unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the
deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. Cato v.
United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).
Ms. Eckloff's Complaint challenges a decision by the
Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying
her disability insurance benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act. See Compl. (ECF No. 1-1) ¶
3. To state a valid denial of benefits claim, a complaint
must give the defendant fair notice of what the
plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.
Starr, 652 F.3d at 1216. To do so, a complaint
should state when and how a plaintiff exhausted her
administrative remedies with the SSA and the nature of her
disability, including when she claims she became disabled.
The complaint should also contain a short and concise
statement identifying the nature of the plaintiff's
disagreement with the SSA's determination and show that
the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See, e.g.,
Sabbia v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 669
F.Supp.2d 914, 918 (N.D. Ill. 2009) (when submitting a
complaint for judicial review to the district court, social
security appellants “must not treat the matter as a
simple formality” by filing “extremely
perfunctory” allegations), aff'd sub nom.
Sabbia v. Astrue, 433 F. App'x 462 (7th Cir. 2011).
Although this showing need not be made in great detail, it
must be presented in sufficient detail for the court to
understand the disputed issues so that it can meaningfully
screen the complaint. See 4 Soc. Sec. Law &
Prac. § 56:4 (2016); 2 Soc. Sec. Disab. Claims Prac.
& Proc. §§ 19:92-93 (2nd ed. 2015).
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
a plaintiff can sue the SSA in federal court, she must
exhaust her administrative remedies. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Bass v. Social Sec. Admin., 872 F.2d 832, 833 (9th
Cir. 1989) (“Section 405(g) provides that a civil
action may be brought only after (1) the claimant has been
party to a hearing held by the Secretary, and (2) the
Secretary has made a final decision on the claim”).
Generally, if the SSA denies a claimant's application for
disability benefits, he or she can request reconsideration of
the decision. If the claim is denied upon reconsideration, a
claimant may request a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). If the ALJ denies the claim, a
claimant may request review of the decision by the Appeals
Council. If the Appeals Council declines to review the
ALJ's decision, a claimant may then request review by the
United States District Court. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, 416.1481. A civil action for judicial
review must be commenced within 60 days after receipt of the
Appeals Council's notice of a final decision. Id. See
also 20 C.F.R. § 405.501. The SSA assumes that the
notice of final decision will be received within five days of
the date on the notice unless shown otherwise; thus, an
action commenced within 65 days is presumed timely. The civil
action must be filed in the judicial district in which the
plaintiff resides. 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g).
case, Ms. Eckloff alleges that on February 15, 2017, the
Appeals Council denied the request for review and the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. See Compl. ¶ 8. Thus, it appears
she has exhausted her administrative remedies. She timely
commenced this action as the Complaint was filed on April 14,
2017, and the Complaint indicates that she resides within the
District of Nevada. See Compl. ¶ 2.
Accordingly, Eckloff has satisfied these prerequisites for
Grounds for Eckloff's Appeal and the Nature of the
Complaint seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's
decision denying benefits and asks the court to reverse that
decision, or alternatively, to remand this matter for a new
hearing. A district court can affirm, modify, reverse, or
remand a decision if a plaintiff has exhausted his or her
administrative remedies and timely filed a civil action.
However, judicial review of the Commissioner's decision
to deny benefits is limited to determining: (a) whether there
is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support
the findings of the Commissioner; and (b) whether the correct
legal standards were applied. Morgan v. Comm'r Soc.
Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999).
Complaint, Eckloff contends there is not substantial medical
or vocational evidence in the record to support: (a) the
legal conclusion she is not disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act; or (b) the Commissioner's
finding that she could perform substantial gainful activity.
See Compl. ¶ 12. She asserts that the record
supports a ...