United States District Court, D. Nevada
ROSA I. MENDEZ, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
SCREENING ORDER (IFP APP - ECF NO. 1)
A. LEEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Rosa I. Mendez 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.
In Forma Pauperis Application
Mendez'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 ("IFP") will be
granted. The court will now review the proposed Complaint.
Screening the Complaint
courts must screen any IFP complaint or amended complaint
before allowing the case to move forward, issuing summons,
and requiring an answer or responsive pleading. Lopez v.
Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000). Courts are
required to dismiss an IFP action if the complaint fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 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 standard
under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure for failure to state a claim. Watison
v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012). A
screening 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); Navarro
v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001) (noting that
the purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency
of a complaint). 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 cannot be cured by amendment. Cato v. United
States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).
properly pled complaint must provide "a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To avoid dismissal, a
plaintiff must allege enough facts to state a claim for
relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim has facial
plausibility when a plaintiff alleges factual content that
allows the court to make a reasonable inference that a
defendant is liable for the claim alleged. Teixeira v.
County of Alameda, 873 F.3d 670, 678 (9th Cir. 2017)
(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009)). Although Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual
allegations, it demands "more than labels and
conclusions." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Merely
reciting the elements of a cause of action and providing only
conclusory allegations will not be enough to survive the
court's review. Id. at 679-80.
Ms. Mendez challenges a decision by the Social Security
Administration ("SSA") denying her supplemental
security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.
Compl. ¶ 3. To state a valid benefits claim, a complaint
must give the Commissioner fair notice of the plaintiffs
claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Starr v.
Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011) (a complaint
must contain sufficient factual allegations "to enable
the opposing party to defend itself effectively"). A
plaintiff must present sufficient detail for the court to
understand the disputed issues so that it can meaningfully
screen the complaint. E.g., 4 Soc. Sec. Law &
Prac. § 56:4 (2016); 2 Soc. Sec. Disability Claims Prac.
& Proc. §§ 19:92-93 (2nd ed. 2015). To do so, a
complaint should state when and how a
plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies and the
nature of her disability, including the date she claims she
became disabled. The complaint should also contain a short
and concise statement identifying why the SSA's
decision was wrong and showing that the plaintiff is entitled
to relief. Sabbia v. Comm 'r Soc. Sec. Admin.,
669 F.Supp.2d 914, 918 (N.D. Ill. 2009) (social security
appellants "must not treat the matter as a simple
formality" by submitting "extremely
perfunctory" allegations in a complaint for judicial
review), aff'd, 433 Fed.Appx. 462 (7th Cir.
2011); Soc. Sec. Disability Law & Pro. § 9:8 (Apr.
2018 update) ("The complaint must include a statement as
to what the Commissioner did that was wrong, and why it
was wrong." (emphasis added)).
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
a plaintiff can sue the Commissioner 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 an application for disability
benefits, a claimant 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. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981,
action for judicial review must be filed within 60 days after
receipt of the Appeals Council's notice of a final
decision. Id; 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); 20 C.F.R.
§ 405.501. The SSA assumes that the notice of final
decision will be received by mail within five days of the
date on the notice unless shown otherwise. 20 C.F.R.
§§416.1401, 422.210(c). Thus, an action commenced
within 65 days is presumed timely. Id. If a claimant
does not file a civil action within the allowed time frame,
he or she loses the right to judicial review. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.900(b). The civil action must be filed in the
judicial district in which the claimant resides. 42 U.S.C.
case, Ms. Mendez alleges that on January 4, 2019, the Appeals
Council denied the request for review and the ALJ's
decision became the Commissioner's final decision. Compl.
¶ 8. Thus, it appears she has exhausted her
administrative remedies. She timely commenced this action as
the Complaint was filed on March 1, 2019, and the Complaint
indicates that she resides within the District of Nevada.
Id. ¶ 1. Accordingly, Mendez has satisfied
these prerequisites for judicial review.
Grounds for Ms. Mendez's Appeal and the ...