Reeves v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable James R. Marschewski on November 14, 2014. (rg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
FORT SMITH DIVISION
CHARLES H. REEVES
CIVIL NO. 14-3052
CAROLYN W. COLVIN1, Commissioner
Social Security Administration
Charles Reeves, (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking
judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying his application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental
security income (“SSI”). ECF No. 1. On November 12, 2014, prior to filing an Answer and upon
the recommendation of the Appeals Council, the Commissioner filed a motion to remand pursuant
to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §405(g). ECF No. 10. The Commissioner requests that remand be
granted "so that Defendant may review the case de novo, further develop the record, conduct further
administrative proceedings, and issue a new decision." ECF No. 10-1.
Section 405(g), which governs judicial review of final decisions made by the Commissioner,
authorizes only two types of remand orders: (1) those made pursuant to sentence four, and (2) those
made pursuant to sentence six. See Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89, 98–99,(1991); Hafner v.
Sullivan, 972 F.2d 249, 250–51 (8th Cir. 1992). Sentence four, by its terms, authorizes a court to
enter “a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Secretary, with or without
remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). A sentence four remand is therefore
Carolyn W. Colvin became the Social Security Commissioner on February 14, 2013. Pursuant to Rule
25(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Carolyn W. Colvin has been substituted for Commissioner Michael
J. Astrue as the defendant in this suit.
proper only when the district court makes a substantive ruling regarding the correctness of a decision
of the Commissioner and remands the case in accordance with such a ruling. See Melkonyan, 501
U.S. at 98, 111 S.Ct. 2157; Buckner v. Apfel, 213 F.3d 1006, 1010 (8th Cir. 2000).
Sentence six, in contrast, authorizes a remand in only two limited situations: (1) where the
Commissioner requests a remand for good cause shown before answering the complaint of a
claimant seeking reversal of an administrative ruling, or (2) where new and material evidence is
adduced that was for good cause not presented during the administrative proceedings. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 297 n. 2, 113 S.Ct. 2625, 125 L.Ed.2d 239 (1993);
Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1215 (8th Cir.1993). The first of these situations distinguishes a
sentence six remand from a sentence four remand based on timing, while the second situation does
so based on substance. See Sullivan v. Finkelstein, 496 U.S. 617, 626 (1990) (noting that sentence
six authorizes an “entirely different kind of remand” than sentence four).
In the present case, the Commissioner has neither filed an answer nor an administrative
transcript, providing the Court with nothing upon which to base its review. Further, she asks that
the court bypass its plenary review by relying on her representation that the denial decision is not
supported by substantial evidence, clearly taking the matter outside the realm of a sentence four
remand. See Ramos v. Astrue, 2010 WL 5572969 , *2 (N.D. Ohio 2010) (denying defendant's
motion for remand pursuant to sentence for where no transcript had been filed and the record lacked
development to facilitate a substantive review); Guidry v. Barnhart, 2006 WL 2583312, *2 (M.D.
La. 2006) (holding motion for remand made prior to the filing of answer and admitting that ALJ
made legal error will be deemed as one pursuant to sentence six); Hanson v. Chater, 895 F. Supp.
1279, 1284-1285 (N. D. Iowa 1995) (sentence four remand inappropriate where both parties agree
to remand care for further administrative proceedings); Tucunango v. Sullivan, 810 F. Supp. 103,
105 (S.D.N.Y.1993) (sentence four remand inappropriate where Secretary acknowledges errors of
law prior to filing answer); Correa v. Sullivan, 1992 WL 367116 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 23, 1992) (same);
Fernandez v. Sullivan, 809 F.Supp. 226, 228–29 (S.D.N.Y.1992) (same).
On the other hand, the Commissioner has made a motion for remand for further proceedings
before filing her answer, meeting the first and second requirements of sentence six. See Tucunango
810 F. Supp. at 105. With respect to the third requirement, the requirement that good cause be
shown, other courts have found good cause in the Secretary's assertion that errors of law were
committed by the ALJ. See id. (ALJ failed to comply with the treating physician rule of this circuit
and failed to identify evidence on which he relied); Fernandez v. Sullivan, 809 F. Supp. at 228 (“The
improper legal standard applied in assessing the opinion of Fernandez's physician warrants remand
of the case and demonstrates good cause.”); Cummings v. Sullivan, 950 F.2d 492, 499 (7th Cir.1991)
(error in refusing to consider emotional impairment constitutes good cause for remand); Rivera
Sanchez v. Secretary of HHS, 786 F. Supp. 147, 149 (D.P.R.1992) (same). And we agree. We find
that the legal error asserted by the Commissioner constitutes good cause to support a remand
pursuant to sentence six.
Therefore, the Commissioner’s motion to remand is GRANTED IN PART and the case
remanded to the Commissioner for further administrative action pursuant to “sentence six” of
DATED this 14th day of November 2014.
/s/ J. Marschewski
HON. JAMES R. MARSCHEWSKI
CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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