United States District Court, D. Nevada
NAIM R. COSTANDI, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
SCREENING ORDER (IFP APP - ECF NO. 1)
A. LEEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Naim R. Costandi 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 of Practice.
In Forma Pauperis Application
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).
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).
the Complaint challenges a decision by the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denying Plaintiff
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act. See Compl. (ECF No. 1-1) ¶ 3. To
state a valid 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 his administrative remedies with the SSA
and the nature of his disability, including when he claims he
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, he must exhaust
his 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, Plaintiff alleges that on May 27, 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 Plaintiff has
exhausted administrative remedies. Plaintiff timely commenced
this action as the Complaint was filed on July 25, 2017, and
the Complaint indicates that Plaintiff resides within the
District of Nevada. See Compl. ¶ 1.
Accordingly, Plaintiff has satisfied these prerequisites for
Grounds for Plaintiff'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, Plaintiff contends there is not substantial
medical or vocational evidence in the record to support: (a)
the legal conclusion that Plaintiff is not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act; or (b) the
Commissioner's finding that Plaintiff could perform
substantial gainful activity. See Compl. ¶ 9.
Plaintiff asserts that the record supports a finding that
Plaintiff is disabled and has been continuously disabled at
all relevant times. Id. ¶ ...