United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
William L. Campbell, Jr. Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Alistair E. Newbern United States Magistrate Judge.
Honorable William L. Campbell, Jr., District Judge
civil action, pro se and in forma pauperis Plaintiff
Amelia Bryant appeals the Social Security
Administration's decision to deny her disability
insurance benefits. (Doc. No. 1.) The Administration has
filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Bryant's appeal
is untimely. (Doc. No. 11.) The Magistrate Judge agrees and
will recommend that the Administration's motion be
granted and that this action be dismissed with prejudice.
Factual and Procedural Background
filed an application for disability insurance benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act on October 1, 2013,
asserting that she had been disabled since September 30,
2008. (Doc. No. 1-1.) Bryant alleges that, during the period
relevant to her application, she suffered from cataracts in
both eyes, Type 2 diabetes, diastolic dysfunction, ASA
chronic respiratory distress syndrome, atopic rhinitis,
hyperlipidemia, primary open angle glaucoma of both eyes,
nuclear sclerosis, chronic sinusitis, urticaria,
hypertension, hypothyroidism, and asthma. (Doc. Nos. 1, 1-1.)
August 2, 2016 decision, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
denied Bryant's application, finding that Bryant had
failed to establish that she was disabled prior to her last
insured date of September 30, 2008. (Doc. No. 13-1.)
Specifically, the ALJ concluded that, although Bryant
suffered from diabetes, hypertension, and chronic sinusitis
during the relevant time period, none of those ailments had
significantly limited her ability to perform basic
work-related activities for twelve consecutive months so as
to render Bryant disabled. (Id.) Bryant requested
review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council on
September 26, 2016, and included various treatment records
from 2009 through 2016. (Doc. No. 13-2.) The Appeals Council
denied Bryant's request on September 27, 2017, finding
that none of the evidence Bryant submitted was relevant to
the ALJ's determination that she was not disabled as of
September 30, 2008. (Id.) The Appeals Council mailed
Bryant a notice of its decision, which informed her of her
right to file a civil action challenging the ALJ's
decision and that she had sixty days from the date she
received the notice to do so. (Id.) The notice
further stated that Bryant could “ask the Appeals
Council to extend [her] time to file” if she were
unable to commence a civil action within the sixty allotted
days. (Id. at PageID# 176.)
mailed the Appeals Council a request for an extension on
November 10, 2017. (Doc. No. 13-3.) She stated that she had
received the Appeals Council's notice on September 30,
2017, but that she was unable to file a civil action due to
medical problems with her eyes, for which she had recently
received surgery. (Id.) The Appeals Council granted
Bryant's request for an extension in a letter dated
February 20, 2018, providing Bryant with an additional thirty
days to file a civil action. (Doc. No. 13-4.) The letter
explained that the thirty-day clock would begin when Bryant
received the letter and that, unless Bryant showed otherwise,
the Appeals Council would presume that Bryant received the
letter five days after February 20, 2018. (Id.) The
letter also explained that, if Bryant had any questions, she
could “call, write, or visit any Social Security
office.” (Id. at PageID# 180.)
did not file this civil action within thirty-five days of the
Appeals Council's February 20, 2018 letter, as she was
required to do. Bryant brought this action on May 30, 2018.
(Doc. No. 1.) The Administration thus argues in its motion to
dismiss that Bryant's complaint is untimely and therefore
subject to dismissal. (Doc. No. 11.) In support of its
motion, the Administration filed several documents, including
the declaration of Janay Podraza, the Acting Chief of Court
Case Preparation and Review Branch 3 of the Office of
Appellate Operations; Bryant's November 10, 2017 request
for an extension; and the Appeals Council's February 20,
2018 letter granting that request (Doc. Nos. 13-13-4).
did not respond to the Administration's motion, and the
Court ordered her to show cause why this action should not be
dismissed as untimely or due to her failure to prosecute her
claims. (Doc. No. 14.) Bryant responded that she had been
involved in a hit-and-run car accident in September 2018 and
had been receiving medical treatment over the following four
months. (Doc. No. 15.) In a subsequent order, the Court found
that Bryant's response to the show-cause order was
adequate given her pro se status and provided her with
additional time to respond to the Administration's
motion. (Doc. No. 22.) The Court also found that, because
Bryant's complaint neither included nor referenced any of
the documents that the Administration filed in support of its
timeliness argument, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d)
required that the Administration's motion to dismiss be
construed as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.
(Id.) The order provided that the Administration
could file any additional evidentiary materials by May 1,
2019, that Bryant could file any response in opposition and
supporting materials by May 29, 2019, and that the
Administration could file a reply by June 12, 2019.
Administration filed a notice on May 1, 2019, stating that it
“has no further material in support and relies on the
declaration and evidence” it had already submitted.
(Doc. No. 23.) Bryant responded in opposition on May 29,
2019. (Doc. No. 24.) In that filing, Bryant does not address
the Administration's argument that this action was
untimely filed and, instead, offers various medical records
spanning from March 2018 through February 2019.
U.S.C. § 405(g) governs judicial review of any decision
of the Administration to deny an individual disability
insurance benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). To obtain
review, a plaintiff must file a civil action “within
sixty days after the mailing to [her] of notice of [the final
decision of the Administration made after a hearing to which
she was a party] or within such further time as the
Commissioner of Social Security may allow.”
Id.; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.982
(allowing the Appeals Council to extend the deadline to file
a civil action in federal court upon a written showing of
good cause). This requirement is not jurisdictional; instead,
it serves as a statute of limitations the “dual
purpose” of which is to “eliminat[e] stale claims
and provid[e] ‘a mechanism by which Congress [is] able
to move cases to speedy resolution in a bureaucracy that
processes millions of claims annually.'”
Alexander v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 13-11696,
2015 WL 4429521, at *2 (E.D. Mich. July 20, 2015) (quoting
Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 481
(1986)). “Courts have strictly construed the statute of
limitations in Social Security appeals.” Id.
(collecting cases); see also Cook v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 480 F.3d 432, 437 (6th Cir. 2007) (holding that
Social Security appeal filed one day past the § 405(g)
deadline was untimely).
with Rule 12(d), the Administration's motion to dismiss
will be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.
That rule provides that “[t]he court shall grant
summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In
determining whether the moving party has met its burden, a
court must view the factual evidence and draw all reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Stiles ex rel. D.S.
v. Grainger Cty., 819 F.3d 834, 848 (6th Cir. 2016).
However, to preclude summary judgment, the nonmoving party
must go beyond the pleadings and present specific facts
demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue for trial.
Shreve v. Franklin Cty., 743 F.3d 126, 132 (6th Cir.
2014) (citations omitted). “A mere scintilla of
evidence by the nonmoving party is insufficient to defeat
summary judgment; ‘there must be evidence on which the
jury could reasonably find for the [nonmoving
party].'” St. Clair Marine Salvage, Inc. v.
Bulgarelli, 796 F.3d 569, 574 n.2 (6th Cir. 2015)
(alteration in original) (quoting Anderso ...