Binion v. Astrue(CONSENT)

Filing 31

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying the Commissioner's 25 MOTION to Supplement the Transcript; that the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for the reasons set forth in this Order and adduced at the hearing described herein. Signed by Honorable Wallace Capel, Jr on 10/20/2008. (cc, )

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IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION L U C Y BINION, P la in tif f , v. M IC H A E L J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security, D e f e n d a n t. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C IV IL ACTION NO. 2:07cv513-WC M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER P e n d in g before the Court is the Commissioner of Social Security's Motion to A m e n d /S u p p le m e n t the Transcript (Doc. #25) of administrative proceedings that was filed in this Court on July 15, 2008. The Motion seeks to replace pages 206-216 of the transcript, w h ich appear to be an Application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") by Robert R e e se Binion, with an equivalent number of blank, redacted pages. As grounds for the M o tio n , the Commissioner asserts the SSI application included in the transcript pertains to a claimant other than Plaintiff - by all appearances, her husband - and therefore must be re d a cte d from the record. Although both the Commissioner and the Administrative Law J u d g e ("ALJ") state that Plaintiff has filed her own SSI application, see Def.'s Mem. in Supp. o f Comm. Dec. (Doc. #23) at 1, 2 & Transcript (Doc. #24) at 12, the Commissioner has not p ro v id e d the Court with a copy of such application. Out of concern for the completeness of the record and, hence, the legality of the ad m inistrat iv e review prior to these proceedings, the Court held a hearing on Defendant's M o tio n on October 20, 2008. Counsel for the Commissioner appeared at this hearing, as did P la in t if f , who is pro se. At the hearing, counsel for the Commissioner conveyed to the Court th a t a SSI application on behalf of Plaintiff could not be found, that the Commissioner could n o t definitively state whether such an application had ever been filed, and that the C o m m is s io n e r could not explain why the ALJ, and subsequently counsel for the C o m m issio n er, asserted that such an application had been submitted by Plaintiff. The Court sta ted its belief that, absent the application, the record is incomplete and the matter should b e remanded to permit appropriate review of the complete record, as well as further d e v e lo p m e n t, if necessary. The Commissioner agreed that the record appeared incomplete a n d neither the Commissioner nor Plaintiff voiced any objection to the remand contemplated b y the Court. S e n te n c e four of 42 U.S.C. 405(g) authorizes the district court to "enter, upon the p le a d in g s and transcript of the record, a judgement affirming, modifying, or reversing the d e c is io n of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. 405(g). The district court may remand a case to the Commissioner f o r a rehearing if the court finds "either . . . the decision is not supported by substantial e v id e n c e , or . . . the Commissioner or the ALJ incorrectly applied the law relevant to the d is a b ility claim." Jackson v. Chater, 99 F.3d 1086, 1092 (11th Cir. 1996); see Carril v. B a r n h a r t, 201 F. Supp. 2d 1190, 1192 (N.D. Ala. 2002) (reversing the Commissioner's d e c is io n and remanding the case for further proceedings, where the Commissioner's decision 2 w as not supported by substantial evidence). In this case, it is unclear to this Court, and apparently the Commissioner as well, w h e th e r Plaintiff has previously filed an SSI application and, if so, what was the content of th e application. Likewise, it is unclear whether the ALJ may have erroneously considered the SSI application of Robert Reese Binion in assessing the disability claims of Plaintiff. In a n y event, without the ability to review Plaintiff's SSI application, the Court cannot conclude th a t the ALJ's decision, which references such an application, is supported by substantial e v id e n c e. Thus, the Court finds reversal and remand necessary, as the record appears either f u n d a m e n ta lly incorrect or incomplete. U p o n consideration of the Defendant's Motion (Doc. #25) and the statements of the p a rties at the hearing on the Motion, it is O R D E R E D that the Commissioner's Motion to Supplement the Transcript (Doc. #25) is DENIED; and that the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED f o r further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. 405(g), for the reasons set f o rth in this Order and adduced at the hearing described herein. A separate judgment will issue. D O N E this 20th day of October, 2008. / s / Wallace Capel, Jr. W A L L A C E CAPEL, JR. U N IT E D STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 3

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