United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
E. MENDOZA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
CAUSE is before the Court on Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc.
1), which seeks judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his request for a
hearing regarding the termination of his Social Security
benefits. Also, before the Court is the Commissioner's
Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 16). United States Magistrate Judge Daniel C.
Irick issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R,
” Doc. 23), in which he recommends that the Court deny
the motion and reverse and remand the case for further
proceedings on the merits of Plaintiff's claim. The
Commissioner filed an Objection to the R&R (Doc. 26), to
which Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. 27). After a de
novo review of the record, the Court will adopt and
confirm the R&R.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), when a party makes a timely
objection, the Court shall review de novo any
portions of a magistrate judge's report and
recommendation concerning specific proposed findings or
recommendations to which an objection is made. See
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). De novo review
“require[s] independent consideration of factual issues
based on the record.” Jeffrey S. v. State Bd. of
Educ. of Ga., 896 F.2d 507, 513 (11th Cir. 1990) (per
curiam). The district court “may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. §
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
federal court's review of claims for disability benefits
is limited by the Social Security Act, which provides, in
relevant part, that:
Any individual, after any final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security made after a hearing to which he was a
party, irrespective of the amount in controversy, may obtain
a review of such decision by a civil action commenced within
sixty days after the mailing to him of notice of such
decision or within such further time as the Commissioner of
Social Security may allow.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
on Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233 (11th Cir.
1983) and Counts v. Commissioner of Social Security,
No. 6:09-cv-1257-Orl-22KRS, 2010 WL 5174498 (M.D. Fla. Dec.
15, 2010), Judge Irick concluded that the Court has subject
matter jurisdiction over this matter because Plaintiff
received a final decision from the Commissioner once
Plaintiff sought, and the Appeals Council declined, review of
the administrative law judge's (“ALJ”) order
dismissing his request for a hearing.
objecting to the R&R, the Commissioner asserts that
Bloodsworth does not control the outcome of this
case because, in Bloodsworth, the ALJ issued a
decision after conducting a hearing, and the Appeals
Council declined to review the ALJ's decision, thereby
making the decision final. In this case, however, Plaintiff
did not appear for his hearing. Therefore, the Commissioner
maintains that Plaintiff never received “a final
decision” subject to judicial review under §
in the words of the Eleventh Circuit, the Commissioner's
argument “makes linguistic but not legal sense.”
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239. “The dismissal
of a request for Appeals Council review is binding and not
subject to further administrative review.” Id.
at 1237 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.981 (1982)); see
also 20 C.F.R. § 404.972. As corollary, the
dismissal of a request for Appeals Council review is a
“final decision” from which a claimant is
entitled to file a timely appeal in federal court pursuant to
§ 405(g). Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1237 (citing
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.972 and 404.981). Therefore, if
the Court were to adopt the Commissioner's argument,
Plaintiff would be left with no recourse to challenge a final
decision from the Commissioner.
court eloquently put it, “[h]e cannot seek further
administrative review because he has exhausted all of his
administrative remedies, and yet under the
[Commissioner]'s argument he is foreclosed from judicial
review because he has not exhausted his
administrative remedies.” Macheski v. Leavitt,
No. 4:06-cv-85 CDL, 2007 WL 2710466, at *4 (M.D. Ga. Sept.
13, 2007). These are the very results that the Eleventh
Circuit rejected in Bloodsworth.
the principles and rationale in Bloodsworth, the
Court finds that Plaintiff exhausted his administrative
remedies once he sought, and the Appeals Council denied,
review of the ALJ's order dismissing his request for a
hearing. By denying review of the ALJ's decision, the
Appeals Council finalized the decision, thereby opening the
door to appeal to this Court regardless of whether Plaintiff
had a hearing before the ALJ. Accordingly, the Court has
subject matter jurisdiction over this matter. See Wright
v. Colvin, No. 3:12-cv-1007-J-32TEM, 2013 WL 5567409, at
*1 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 9, 2013) (concluding that the court had
subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's appeal
where the plaintiff had no hearing before the ALJ who ...