United States District Court, D. New Mexico
NATALIA M. QUEVEDO, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand or Reverse Administrative Agency Decision, filed
August 11, 2017. Doc. 21. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b), this matter has been referred to me for a
recommended disposition. Doc. 23. Having reviewed
the parties' submissions, the relevant law, and the
relevant portions of the Administrative Record, the Court
recommends that Plaintiff's Motion be denied.
Natalia Quevedo (“Plaintiff”) filed applications
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act for supplemental
security income (“SSI”) and under Title II for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), both on
October 21, 2010. Administrative Record
(“AR”) at 83, 69; see also AR at 166-71,
172-75. In both applications Plaintiff alleged a disability
onset date of January 1, 2007. AR at 166, 172. The Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) addressed the
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”)
denied Plaintiff's application for SSI on November 22,
2010, citing spousal income as the reason for denial. AR at
83-90. While Plaintiff adamantly denies that she is married
(see Doc. 22 at 9-12), her application states,
“I live with Francis Fabian Romero. We present
ourselves to others as husband and wife.” AR at 166.
Her application also lists Mr. Romero's income as $3, 000
monthly (AR at 168), which SSA used to determine that
Plaintiff's income exceeds eligibility limits for SSI. AR
at 83. The notice of denial informed Plaintiff of her right
to appeal, and the 60-day time limit for an appeal. AR at
84-85; see also 20 C.F.R § 416.1409. Plaintiff
never appealed this initial determination.
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
addition to her SSI application, Plaintiff had earlier filed
an application for DIB on October 21, 2010 (AR at 69), with
an alleged onset date of January 1, 2007 (AR at 172) and a
date last insured of December 31, 2011. AR at 79. On July 20,
2011, SSA initially denied Plaintiff's application
because her “condition is not severe enough to keep
[her] from working.” AR at 91; see also AR at
69-70. The notice of initial determination informed Plaintiff
of her right to appeal and of the 60-day time limit to
appeal. AR at 91-92; see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.909(a). On June 13, 2012, well outside the 60-day time
limit, Plaintiff filed a request for reconsideration (AR at
95-96, 123) with a statement alleging good cause for her
untimely appeal. AR at 98-100. On August 13, 2012, SSA
granted the request (AR at 212), but upon reconsideration
affirmed the initial denial of DIB benefits. AR at 71-82,
November 14, 2012, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). AR at 108-09.
ALJ Frederick Upshall held a hearing on March 31, 2014 (AR at
33), and on August 12, 2014, he issued an unfavorable
decision. AR at 12. Using the five-step sequential evaluation
process (see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4);
Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir.
2009)), the ALJ determined that, “through the date last
insured, considering the [Plaintiff's] age, education,
work experience, and residual functional capacity, the
[Plaintiff] was capable of making a successful adjustment to
other work that existed in significant numbers in the
national economy.” AR at 26. Plaintiff requested review
by the Appeals Council on October 4, 2014. AR at 11. The
Appeals Council denied the request for review on August 27,
2015 (AR at 4), making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Doyal v. Barnhart, 331
F.3d 758, 759 (10th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff filed the instant
Complaint on July 25, 2016. Doc. 1.
Motion to Remand, Plaintiff does not make any arguments
challenging the Commissioner's denial of her DIB
claim. See generally Doc. 22. Instead,
Plaintiff's Motion to Remand focuses solely on the SSI
claim. She argues that SSA should not have denied her SSI
application based on spousal income and that her SSI claim
should now be reopened. See generally Docs. 22;
Plaintiff did not appeal her SSI claim, the SSI claim was not
before the ALJ, and there is no final decision for this Court
first asserts that her SSI application should not have been
denied based on her “spouse's” income when
she does not have a spouse. Doc. 22 at 9-12.
Plaintiff provides a long list of places in the record, such
as statements in medical records and her testimony, where she
refers to Mr. Romero as her boyfriend, not her husband.
Doc. 22 at 9-12. Before the Court can consider such
an argument, however, Plaintiff must show that she exhausted
her administrative remedies; in the absence of that showing,
this Court lacks jurisdiction to address the SSI claim.
sole statutory grant of district court jurisdiction to review
a denial of social security benefits by the Secretary is 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).” Bartlett v. Schweiker,
719 F.2d 1059, 1060 (10th Cir. 1983). Section 405(g) provides
that “[a]ny individual, after any final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing to which
he was a party . . . may obtain a review of such decision by
civil action . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). What
constitutes a “final decision” is further defined
by regulation. See Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U.S.
749, 766 (1975).
administrative steps an SSI applicant must follow before
seeking judicial review are set forth in 20 C.F.R. §
416.1400(a). First, the SSA issues an initial Doc.
22 at 13-14. Plaintiff fails to develop whether this
argument challenges the ALJ's determination of her DIB
claim or her SSI claim, but the quoted section lies within
other paragraphs discussing only the SSI claim. In her Reply,
Plaintiff makes clear that this argument is in reference to
her SSI claim, not DIB. See Doc 26 at 7 (“By
failing to address the error that amounted in her ...