United States District Court, D. Nevada
ROBERT J. MILLER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER (IFP APP - ECF NO. 1)
A. LEEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Robert J. Miller has submitted an Application to Proceed
In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915 along with a proposed Complaint (ECF No. 1-1).
The 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.
Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
Miller'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
federal court must additionally 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) (§ 1915(e) “applies to all in forma
pauperis complaints”). 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). For purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1915's
screening requirement, 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).
the Complaint challenges a decision by the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denying him disability
insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income under
Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. See
Compl. (ECF No. 1-1) at ¶ 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 s/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. 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 (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, s/he 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, Mr. Miller alleges that on August 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 he has
exhausted his/her administrative remedies. Miller timely
commenced this action as the Complaint was filed on October
6, 2017, and the Complaint indicates that he resides within
the District of Nevada. See Compl. ¶ 1.
Accordingly, he has satisfied these prerequisites for
Grounds for Miller's Appeal
Complaint seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's
decision 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 the plaintiff has exhausted his
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, Mr. Miller alleges that he has been disabled since
the application date of October 1, 2012, through the decision
date of September 14, 2016. See Compl. (ECF No. 1-1)
¶ 5. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
found Miller to have the severe impairments of degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar spine, congenital nystagmus and
right knee pain. Id. ¶ 9(a). Despite his severe
impairments, the ALJ found that Miller had the residual
functional capacity to lift and/or carry 25 pounds
occasionally, 20 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk for
four hours in an eight-hour workday; and sit for six hours in
an eight-hour workday, with certain additional limitations.
Id. ¶ 9(b).
Miller alleges that the ALJ's decision lacks the support
of substantial evidence in finding that the vocational
expert's testimony is consistent with the information
contained in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles,
when it is not, and there is no explanation for the conflict
as required. Id. ¶ 9(e). Miller asserts that
the ALJ further erred by failing to adequately consider the
impact Miller's morbid obesity has on his impairments,
which specifically relate to weight-bearing joints.
Id. ¶ 9(f). The Complaint contains sufficient
allegations of underlying facts to give the Defendant fair