JOHNSON v. US RAILROAD RETIREMENT BOARD
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE MICHAEL M. BAYLSON ON 10/10/17. 10/10/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLAINTIFF.(rf, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CHERYL B. JOHNSON
US RAILROAD RETIREMENT BOARD
OCTOBER 10, 2017
Plaintiff Cheryl B. Johnson brings this lawsuit against the U.S. Railroad Retirement
Board because she believes she is entitled to disability payments. She seeks to proceed in forma
pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court will grant plaintiff leave to proceed in forma
pauperis and dismiss her complaint.
It appears from the complaint that plaintiff is claiming she was terminated from a job with
the government in 1986, although she also indicates on her complaint that the events giving rise
to her claims occurred on June 12, 1991. Plaintiff describes the basis for her claims as follows:
Dr. Orr wanted an employee meeting to dismiss employee. I left because I was sick.
Then received about twenty (20) letters in the mail. I open[ed] one (1) letter and said
return on administrative leave. Did not return because of sickness. Dr. Orr put
employee out of job. Disability needed chronic sickness since 1986 born with mental
health did not work 10 years less than six months in a year.
(Compl. at 3, ¶ III.C.)
The Court understands plaintiff to be seeking disability payments from the Railroad
Retirement Board in the amount of $277 per month since January of 1986, to supplement her
social security disability payments. 1 Although the complaint suggests that plaintiff is entitled to
payments because she was a government employee, the complaint also indicates that she is
entitled to payments as the child of someone who worked for a railroad.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court grants plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that she is
incapable of prepaying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, which requires the Court to dismiss the complaint if it fails to state a
claim. To survive dismissal, a complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quotations omitted). Vague and conclusory statements do not suffice to state a claim.
Id. Furthermore, “[i]f the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction,
the court must dismiss the action.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). As plaintiff is proceeding pro se,
the Court construes her allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att’y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir.
If plaintiff believes that she is entitled to benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board, she
must file a claim with that agency under the appropriate procedures. Notably, the Railroad
Retirement Board maintains a website that provides information to assist individuals seeking
Plaintiff’s request for relief is not entirely clear. Although the complaint could be read to mean
that plaintiff would like social security benefits in the amount of $1,095 per month, her in forma
pauperis application reflects that she already receives benefits in that amount. Prior in forma
pauperis applications plaintiff filed in this district also reflect that she has been receiving
disability benefits for some time. See, e.g., Johnson v. Our Lady of Lourdes Hosp., E.D. Pa. Civ.
A. No. 13-5317 (ECF No. 1); Johnson v. South Jersey Behavior Health, E.D. Pa. Civ. A. No. 123925; Johnson v. 1986 Until Age Date Crime, E.D. Pa. Civ. A. No. 11-6504. Accordingly, the
Court understands her to be seeking supplemental payments from the Railroad Retirement
benefits. See U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, Benefits, https://www.rrb.gov/Benefits (last
accessed Sept. 26, 2017). If plaintiff submitted a claim that was rejected and is seeking review
of the Railroad Retirement Board’s final decision, this Court lacks jurisdiction over her case
because only the Courts of Appeals have authority to review final decisions of the Railroad
Retirement Board. See 45 U.S.C. § 355(f). As plaintiff must proceed before the agency in the
first instance and then, if unsuccessful, seek review before the appropriate court of appeals, this
Court lacks jurisdiction to hear her claims.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. The dismissal is without prejudice to plaintiff pursuing her benefits claims before
the Railroad Retirement Board and/or the appropriate United States court of appeals. An
appropriate order follows.
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