United States District Court, D. Colorado
MARY L. LUYK, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
ENTERED BY MAGISTRATE JUDGE KRISTEN L. MIX
Kristen L. Mix United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on the Social Security
Administrative Record [#14],  filed October 11,
2016, in support of Plaintiff's Complaint [#1] seeking
review of the decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill,
Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,
(“Defendant” or “Commissioner”)
denying Plaintiff's claim for disability insurance
benefits and disabled widow's benefits pursuant to Title
II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), 42
U.S.C. § 401 et seq., and for supplemental security
income benefits pursuant to Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1381 et seq. On November 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed an
Opening Brief [#21] (the “Brief”). Defendant
filed a Response [#22] in opposition, and Plaintiff filed a
Reply [#23]. The Court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c). The Court has reviewed the
entire case file and the applicable law and is sufficiently
advised in the premises. For the reasons set forth below, the
decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
complicated procedural history of this lawsuit is crucial to
its resolution, and the Court therefore first provides that
time line in detail. Plaintiff alleges that she became
disabled at the age of fifty-two on March 22, 2007. Tr.
As a result, on June 18, 2008, Plaintiff filed an application
for disability insurance benefits and widow's insurance
benefits under Title II and an application for supplemental
security income under Title XVI. Tr. 209-24. On December 3,
2010, an Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”)
issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 13-22. On May 18, 2012,
the Appeals council denied Plaintiff's Request for Review
of Hearing Decision. Tr. 5-9.
18, 2012, Plaintiff filed new Title II and Title XVI
applications, alleging a disability onset date of May 19,
2012. Tr. 1157-70. Meanwhile, on October 2, 2012, she also
filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court seeking
review of the Commissioner's decision to deny her first
set of applications. See generally Civil Action No.
1:12-cv-02610-WJM. After receiving initial denials by the
Administration on her second set of applications, Plaintiff
filed a request on February 20, 2013 to have a hearing before
an ALJ on those applications. Tr. 1060.
October 16, 2013, the District Court issued an Order
Reversing Administrative Law Judge's Decision and
Remanding to the Commissioner in connection with
Plaintiff's first set of applications. Tr. 781-809.
Thereafter, the Commissioner filed a Motion to Alter or Amend
Judgment Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), which the District
Court granted on May 30, 2014, in its Order Granting Motion
to Amend Judgment and Affirming Decision of the
Administrative Law Judge. Tr. 815-24.
27, 2014, the Appeals Council, apparently unaware that the
District Court had amended its judgment to affirm the
ALJ's decision on Plaintiff's first set of
applications, issued an Order remanding Plaintiff's case
to the ALJ. Tr. 812-13. In that Order, the Appeals Council
The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Denver
(Civil Action Number 1:12-cv-02610-WJM) has remanded this
case to the Commissioner of Social Security for further
administrative proceedings . . . .
The claimant filed electronic subsequent claims for a Period
of Disability/Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental
Security Income on June 18, 2012. The Appeals Council's
action with respect to the present electronic claims renders
the subsequent claims duplicate or causes it to involve an
overlapping period of time. Therefore, the [ALJ] will
consolidate the claims, create a single electronic record and
issue a new decision on the consolidated claims . . . .
Therefore, the Appeals Council vacates the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security and remands this case to
an [ALJ] for further proceedings consistent with the order of
In compliance with the above, the [ALJ] will offer the
claimant the opportunity for a hearing, take any further
action needed to complete the administrative record and issue
a new decision.
Tr. 812-13. Thus, in short, the ALJ was directed to
simultaneously consider Plaintiff's first and second sets
of applications. Tr. 812-13.
November 13, 2014, a different ALJ held another hearing on
Plaintiff's applications. Tr. 690-758. On January 23, 2015,
the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 666-80. On June
6, 2016, the Appeals Council issued a decision in connection
with Plaintiff's request for review of the January 23,
2015 ALJ decision. Tr. 639-43. In part, the Appeals Council
realized its error regarding Plaintiff's first set of
applications and sought to correct that mistake. Tr. 639-43.
On January 23, 2015, the [ALJ] found that the claimant was
not under a disability from March 22, 2007 through the date
of the decision . . . and that she is not entitled to
benefits and payments based on the applications dated June
18, 2008. On February 23, 2015, the claimant submitted
written exceptions to the [ALJ's] decision.
On April 27, 2016, the Appeals Council notified the claimant
that it had assumed jurisdiction of this case . . . . In that
notice, it proposed to vacate the subject decision as the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security for the
applications dated June 18, 2008. It further proposed to
vacate its remand order dated June 27, 2014. It also proposed
to adopt the subject decision's findings, apply those
findings to the applications dated June 18, 2012, and to
issue a decision finding that the claimant is not entitled to
or eligible for benefits and payments based on the
applications dated June 18, 2012 and a disability onset date
of December 4, 2010. The Appeals Council advised the claimant
that it would consider written statements submitted within 30
days from the date of the notice.
On May 4, 2016, the claimant submitted a written response
indicating her understanding of the need to vacate the
[ALJ's] January 23, 2015 decision. However, she objected
to the Appeals Council issuing an unfavorable decision based
on the subject decision's findings. She contended that
she is entitled to a new hearing and a new decision based on
the 2012 applications and her request for hearing dated
February 28, 2013.
For the reasons discussed below, the Appeals Council does not
agree. . . .
The Appeals Council adopts the [ALJ's] statements
regarding . . . the issues in the case, its evidentiary
facts, and its findings to the extent that those statements,
issues, facts and findings refer to disability beginning