East v. Colvin, No. 1:2016cv07798 - Document 13 (S.D.W. Va. 2017)

Court Description: MEMORANDUM OPINION: The Court GRANTS Claimant's 10 MOTION for Judgment on the Pleadings, to the extent that it requests reversal and remand under sentence four; GRANTS Defendant's 11 MOTION to Remand; REVERSES the final decision of the Commissioner; REMANDS this matter pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings consistent with this opinion; and DISMISSES this action from the Court's docket. Signed by Magistrate Judge Cheryl A. Eifert on 1/4/2017. (cc: counsel of record) (arb)
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East v. Colvin Doc. 13 IN TH E U N ITED STATES D ISTRICT COU RT FOR TH E SOU TH ERN D ISTRICT OF W EST VIRGIN IA BLU EFIELD D IVISION CH RISTOPH ER LEE EAST, Plain tiff, v. Cas e N o .: 1:16 -cv-0 779 8 CAROLYN W . COLVIN , Actin g Co m m is s io n e r o f th e So cial Se cu rity Ad m in is tratio n , D e fe n d an t. MEMORAN D U M OPIN ION This is an action seeking review of the decision of the Com m issioner of the Social Security Adm inistration (hereinafter the “Com m issioner”) denying Plaintiff’s application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 40 1-433. The case is presently before the court on the plaintiff’s m otion for judgm ent on the pleadings, seeking, inter alia, reversal and rem and of the Com m issioner’s decision, and the defendant’s m otion to rem and. (ECF Nos. 10 , 11). Both parties have consented in writing to a decision by the United States Magistrate J udge. (ECF No. 12). The court has fully considered the representations and argum ents of counsel and GRAN TS both m otions. Accordingly, the court FIN D S that the decision of the Com m issioner should be REVERSED and REMAN D ED , pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 40 5(g), for further evaluation of Plaintiff’s application as stated herein. Plaintiff, Christopher Lee East (“Claim ant”), com pleted an application for DIB on J anuary 10 , 20 13, alleging a disability onset date of Decem ber 19, 20 12, (Tr. at 178), due 1 Dockets.Justia.com to “PTSD, Back Injury, Leg Injury (both), [and] Hearing Loss.” (Tr. at 20 3). The Social Security Adm inistration (“SSA”) denied the application initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. at 15). Claim ant filed a request for a hearing, which was held on October 27, 20 14 before the Honorable Anne V. Sprague, Adm inistrative Law J udge (“ALJ ”). (Tr. at 38-76). By written decision dated Decem ber 3, 20 14, the ALJ determ ined that Claim ant was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. at 16-28). The ALJ ’s decision becam e the final decision of the Com m issioner on J une 23, 20 16, when the Appeals Council denied Claim ant’s request for review. (Tr. at 1-5). On August 17, 20 16, Claim ant filed the present civil action seeking judicial review of the adm inistrative decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 40 5(g). (ECF No. 1). The Com m issioner filed an Answer on October 17, 20 16, along with a Transcript of the Proceedings. (ECF Nos. 6, 7). Thereafter, Claim ant filed a brief in support of judgm ent on the pleadings, requesting rem and of the Com m issioner’s decision under both sentence four and sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 40 5(g). (ECF No. 10 ). Claim ant asserted, in relevant part, that reversal and rem and were appropriate, because the ALJ had failed to provide a sufficient explanation of her findings at steps two and three of the sequential disability determ ination process, and because Claim ant had new and m aterial evidence to subm it. (Id. at 5-10 ). On Decem ber 27, 20 16, after being given an extension for the filing of her brief in opposition to reversal and rem and, the Com m issioner filed a m otion for rem and under sentence 4 of 42 U.S.C. § 40 5(g), acknowledging that the ALJ ’s decision denying benefits m erited further evaluation. (ECF No. 11). The Com m issioner represented that Claim ant agreed to a sentence four rem and. Title 42 U.S.C. § 40 5(g) authorizes the district court to rem and the decision of the Com m issioner of Social Security for further consideration at different stages of the 2 judicial proceedings. When the Com m issioner requests rem and prior to filing an answer to the plaintiff’s com plaint, the presiding court m ay grant the request under sentence six of § 40 5(g), upon a showing of good cause. In addition, a court may rem and the m atter “at any tim e” under sentence six to allow “additional evidence to be taken before the Com m issioner of Social Security, but only upon a showing that there is new evidence which is m aterial and that there is good cause for the failure to incorporate such evidence into the record in a prior proceeding.” 42 U.S.C. § 40 5(g). When a court rem ands the Com m issioner’s decision under sentence six, the court retains jurisdiction over the m atter, but “closes it and regards it as inactive” until additional or m odified findings are supplied to the court. See McPeak v. Barnhart, 388 F.Supp.2d 742, 745 n.2. (S.D.W.Va. 20 0 5). In contrast, under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 40 5(g), “[t]he court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgm ent affirm ing, m odifying, or reversing the decision of the Com m issioner of Social Security, with or without rem anding the cause for a rehearing.” Because a sentence four rem and effectively “term inates the litigation with victory for the plaintiff,” the court enters a final judgm ent dism issing the case and rem oving it from the court’s docket. Shalala v. Schaefer, 50 9 U.S. 292, 299, 113 S. Ct. 2625, 2630 -31, 125 L. Ed. 2d 239 (1993) (“Under § 40 5(g), ‘each final decision of the Secretary [is] reviewable by a separate piece of litigation,” and a sentencefour rem and order ‘term inate[s] the civil action’ seeking judicial review of the Secretary's final decision.”) (quoting in Sulliv an v. Hudson, 490 U.S. 877, 892, 10 9 S.Ct. 2248, 2258, 10 4 L.Ed.2d 941 (1989)). Given that Claim ant m oved this court to reverse and rem and the decision of the Com m issioner, and the Com m issioner ultim ately agreed to a rem and without contesting 3 the argum ents raised by Claim ant, the court concludes that Claim ant is entitled to reversal and rem and of the Com m issioner’s decision on the grounds asserted in her brief. Moreover, the court notes that in her m otion to rem and, the Com m issioner asks for a sentence four rem and; thereby, im plicitly conceding term ination of the judicial proceeding in Claim ant’s favor. Accordingly, the court hereby GRAN TS Claim ant’s m otion for judgm ent on the pleadings, to the extent that it requests reversal and rem and under sentence four, (ECF No. 10 ); GRAN TS Defendant’s m otion to rem and, (ECF No. 11); REVERSES the final decision of the Com m issioner; REMAN D S this m atter pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 40 5(g) for further adm inistrative proceedings consistent with this opinion; and D ISMISSES this action from the docket of the Court. A J udgm ent Order will be entered accordingly. The Clerk of this Court is directed to transm it copies of this Mem orandum Opinion to counsel of record. EN TERED : J anuary 4, 20 17 4