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Wirth v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

April 15, 2015

JAMES WIRTH, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER ON MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM COURT'S ORDER

MARSHA J. PECHMAN, District Judge.

The above-entitled Court, having received and reviewed

1. Defendant's Motion for Relief from Court's Order (Dkt. No. 33),
2. Plaintiffs' Response to Defendant's Motion for Relief from Court's Order (Dkt. No. 35),

all attached exhibits and declarations, and relevant portions of the Administrative Record (Dkt. No. 25; "AR"), rules as follows:

IT IS ORDERED that Defendant's motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART:

1. The Court WITHDRAWS its previous order (Dkt. No. 32).
2. The Court REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner that (a) Plaintiffs were at fault in causing the overpayment at issue and (b) that Plaintiffs are liable for repayment of the full amount of the overpayment.
3. The Court orders that, good cause appearing, recovery of the SSI overpayment from Plaintiffs is WAIVED.

Background

This case came before the Court on appeal from a determination of overpayment of SSI benefits to Plaintiffs' daughter and a rejection of Plaintiffs' request for a waiver of the overpayment. Magistrate Judge James Donohue issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") to affirm the finding of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") rejecting Plaintiffs' request for a waiver of the recovery of their overpayment. (Dkt. No. 29.) Upon review of the R&R, this Court declined to adopt the recommendation and instead issued an order remanding the matter to the ALJ for redetermination in light of the Court's finding that Plaintiffs were misinformed about the way that their income would be calculated for eligibility purposes and the nature of their obligation to report income which potentially exceeded their eligibility levels and overpayments of their benefits. This matter was ordered to be stayed pending reconsideration by the ALJ. (Dkt. No. 32.)

The Government filed a "Motion for Relief from Court's Order" (Dkt. No. 33) which was essentially a motion for reconsideration. The motion made two arguments:

1. That relief from the obligation to repay required a finding that Plaintiffs were without fault and that there were other circumstances suggesting that (even if they had been initially misinformed) they were not blameless in the three-year period of overpayments which they received.
2. That the Court's attempt to retain jurisdiction by merely staying this matter while the ALJ reconsidered her finding was not permitted by federal statute (specifically, 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g)).[1] Defendant asserted that the Court was required to issue a judgment and did not have the authority to stay the matter. (Defendant is correct, and the Court conceded ...

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