Fugate v. Comm'r of Social Sec., No. 14-5610 (6th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
In 1992, Fugate, receiving workers’ compensation, obtained disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. In such cases, SSA reduces payments until the total benefits equal 80 percent of the recipient's “average current earnings.” Using Fugate’s December 1991 pay stub, SSA calculated “one-twelfth of the total of his wages . . . for the calendar year in which he had the highest such wages,” on which FICA taxes are paid. Fugate had 1991 gross earnings of $22,964.41. After subtracting pretax benefits and retirement contributions (not subject to FICA), SSA calculated his covered earnings as $21,693.30. Fugate complained that SSA should have used pay stubs from his three highest months of earnings in 1991. In 2004, after a periodic review, SSA erroneously determined that Fugate’s covered earnings should have been $22,964.41 and paid Fugate an extra $8,875. In 2006, after another periodic review, SSA realized its mistake and asked Fugate to refund the $8,875. Instead of requesting a refund waiver, Fugate sought reconsideration of calculation of benefits for the same reasons he had cited since 1993. An ALJ declined to reconsider the 2004 decision, but erroneously held that Fugate was entitled to a waiver even though he had not requested one. Fugate nonetheless appealed. The Appeals Council vacated. The district court granted the Administration summary judgment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed.