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Rodriguez v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

April 4, 2019

IRMA RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION

          IRMA CARRILLO RAMIREZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         By Special Order No. 3-251, this case was automatically referred for determination of non-dispositive motions and issuance of findings, conclusions and recommendation. Before the Court for recommendation is Defendant's Opposed Motion to Reverse and Remand, filed December 26, 2018 (doc. 19). Based on the relevant filings, evidence, and applicable law, the motion should be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On August 31, 2015, Irma Rodriguez (Plaintiff) applied for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act (Act), alleging disability beginning on August 20, 2015. (doc. 13-1 at 173-75.)[1] Her claim was denied initially on October 29, 2015, and upon reconsideration on March 7, 2016. (Id. at 86-87.) On March 11, 2016, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Id. at 112.) On January 9, 2017, Plaintiff requested that the ALJ issue a subpoena and interrogatories to her examining physician, Mark E. Cartwright, Ph.D. (Id. at 25, 249.) On January 26, 2017, the ALJ issued a subpoena to Dr. Cartwright along with interrogatories for his “review and completion, in lieu of appearance at the scheduled hearing . . . .” (Id. at 164, 465-67.) On February 1, 2017, Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing. (Id. at 39-76.) Dr. Cartwright did not appear at the hearing but did send his responses to the interrogatories. (Id. at 25, 465-67.)

         By written opinion dated April 18, 2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe impairments including depression and anxiety, but still had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a full range of light work at all exertional levels, but with non-exertional limitations. (Id. at 25-34.) The ALJ concluded that based on her age, education, work experience, and RFC, Plaintiff was capable of performing jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy, and that she was not disabled from the alleged onset date through the date of the decision. (Id. at 32-33.) After a timely appeal, the Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ's decision and denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner). (Id. at 5.)

         On July 16, 2018, Plaintiff filed this action against the Commissioner, seeking reversal of the ALJ's unfavorable disability determination. (See doc. 1.) After filing an answer, but before filing a responsive brief, the Commissioner filed a motion to reverse and remand this case under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (doc. 19.) Plaintiff does not oppose reversal and remand of this action, but she seeks “an order identifying the regulatory time-frame for issuing and following up with a subpoena request.” (doc. 21 at 1-2.) The Commissioner's motion is now ripe for recommendation.

         II. MOTION TO REMAND

         The Commissioner argues that this case should be reversed and remanded for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (doc. 19.) Although the Commissioner states that its motion is opposed, Plaintiff's response expressly states that she “does not oppose the reversal and remand.” (doc. 21 at 2.)[2]

         The Supreme Court has identified two exclusive methods for remanding social security cases under § 405(g). See Shalala v. Shaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 296-97 (1993); Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89, 97-98 (1991). The first method arises under “[t]he fourth sentence of § 405(g) [that] authorizes a court to enter ‘a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the [Commissioner], with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.'” Melkonyan, 501 U.S. at 98 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). A sentence four remand “requires the district court to enter a decision on the merits before remanding a case to the Commissioner.” Schriner v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., No. 3:08-CV-2042-N, 2010 WL 2941120, at *15 (N.D. Tex. June 22, 2010), adopted by, 2010 WL 2944782 (N.D. Tex. July 22, 2010) (citing Melkonyan, 501 U.S. at 98).

         The second method arises under the sixth sentence of § 405(g) and “may be ordered in only two situations: where the [Commissioner] requests a remand before answering the complaint, or where new, material evidence is adduced that was for good cause not presented before the agency.” Shaefer, 509 U.S. at 297 (citing § 405(g); Melkonyan, 501 U.S. at 99-100). Under sentence six, “[t]he district court does not . . . rule in any way as to the correctness of the administrative determination. Rather, the court remands” the case for reconsideration if the “new evidence might have changed the outcome of the [] proceeding.” Melkonyan, 501 U.S. at 98; McKenzie v. Astrue, 442 Fed.Appx. 161, 162 (5th Cir. 2011). The “[i]mmediate entry of judgment (as opposed to entry of judgment after post-remand agency proceedings have been completed and their results filed with the court) is the principal feature that distinguishes a sentence-four remand from a sentence-six remand.” Chelette v. United States Comm'r of Soc. Sec, No. 1:11-CV-1860, 2012 WL 2870842, at *2 (W.D. La. June 12, 2012), adopted by, 2012 WL 2873635 (W.D. La. July 12, 2012) (citing Shaefer, 509 U.S. at 296-7 and Istre v. Apfel, 208 F.3d 517, 520 (5th Cir. 2000)).

         Here, both parties agree that this action should be reversed and remanded for further administrative proceedings. (See docs. 19; 21.) “The Supreme Court has held that a remand for further administrative proceedings, like the remand requested in the case at bar, is a fourth sentence remand under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).” Doskocil v. Berryhill, No. 3:17-CV-2434-L-BK, 2018 WL 2422049, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 26, 2018) (citing Sullivan v. Finkelstein, 496 U.S. 617, 625-26 (1990)), adopted by, 2018 WL 2414986 (N.D. Tex. May 29, 2018). Accordingly, this case should be reversed and remanded for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of § 405(g). See id.[3]

         III. RECOMMENDATION

         The Commissioner's motion should be GRANTED, and this case should be REVERSED and REMANDED for further administrative proceedings.

         SO ...


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