Smith v. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: May 28, 2019
  • Case #: 17-1606
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: SOTOMAYOR, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
  • Full Text Opinion

A dismissal for untimeliness by the Social Security Administration’s Appeals Council is a “final decision . . . made after a hearing” for purposes of allowing judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §405(g).

Petitioner sought judicial review for the dismissal of an “untimely” appeal by the Social Security Administration (SSA) Appeals Council, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which states that judicial review will be provided for “any final decision of the [SSA] made after a hearing.” The district court dismissed the complaint and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the dismissal by the Appeals Council on grounds of untimeliness was not a “final decision” that was subject to review. The Supreme Court interprets the text, “any final decision,” as expansive and holds that it is satisfied by the Appeals Council’s dismissal of Petitioner’s claim. (emphasis added). The Court stated that the Appeals Council was created for purposes of overseeing and reviewing decisions of Administrative Law Judges and that Petitioner’s claims satisfy the remaining terms of the statute. The Court reasoned that the context of the statute is satisfied and weighs in favor of Petitioner, stating that the SSA is a large enterprise that can make mistakes. While Petitioner has limited resources by comparison, the statute is intended to be “unusually protective of claimants,” leaving them with recourse to the courts if a mistake does occur. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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