United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT; DIRECTING REMAND PURSUANT TO SENTENCE FOUR OF 42
U.S.C. § 405(G) AND CLOSING FILE ECF NOS. 15,
K. DIMKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE COURT are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. ECF Nos. 15, 19. The parties consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 6. Plaintiff seeks
judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner
denying waiver of an overpayment of social security benefits.
The Court, having reviewed the administrative record and the
parties' briefing, is fully informed. For the reasons
discussed below, the Court grants Plaintiff's Motion (ECF
No. 15) and denies Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 19).
Court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g); 1383(c)(3).
district court's review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security is governed by 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The scope of review under § 405(g) is
limited; the Commissioner's decision will be disturbed
“only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or
is based on legal error.” Hill v. Astrue, 698
F.3d 1153, 1158 (9th Cir. 2012); Anderson v.
Sullivan, 914 F.2d 1121, 1122 (9th Cir. 1990)
(Commissioner's decision not to waive overpayment
“should be affirmed if supported by substantial
evidence and if the Secretary applied the proper
standard.”). “Substantial evidence” means
“relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept
as adequate to support a conclusion.” Hill,
698 F.3d at 1159 (quotation and citation omitted). Stated
differently, substantial evidence equates to “more than
a mere scintilla[, ] but less than a preponderance.”
Id. (quotation and citation omitted). In determining
whether the standard has been satisfied, a reviewing court
must consider the entire record as a whole rather than
searching for supporting evidence in isolation. Id.
evidence in the record “is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, [the court] must uphold the
ALJ's findings if they are supported by inferences
reasonably drawn from the record.” Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2012). Further, a
district court “may not reverse an ALJ's decision
on account of an error that is harmless.” Id.
An error is harmless “where it is inconsequential to
the [ALJ's] ultimate . . . determination.”
Id. at 1115 (quotation and citation omitted). The
party appealing the ALJ's decision generally bears the
burden of establishing that it was harmed. Shinseki v.
Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409-10 (2009).
Social Security Act authorizes the recovery of disability
benefit payments made as a result of an overpayment. The
Commissioner bears the burden of proving the fact of
overpayment by substantial evidence. McCarthy v.
Apfel, 221 F.3d 1119, 1124-25 (9th Cir. 2000). Thus,
“[t]o recover overpayments, the Commissioner must show
that the claimant actually received benefits beyond the
period of disability or in excess of the correct
amount.” Id. at 1124 (citing 42 U.S.C. §
404(a)). The Commissioner must establish: “(1) that
[the claimant] received Title II disability benefits [for the
designated period]; (2) that these benefits were in excess of
the amount to which [the claimant] was entitled; and (3) that
the overpayment was in the amount [alleged].”
Id. at 1124-25.
Social Security Act authorizes the recovery of the
overpayment by decreasing future payments to which the
claimant is entitled or requiring a refund:
With respect to payment to a person of more than the correct
amount, the Commissioner of Social Security shall decrease
any payment under this subchapter to which such overpaid
person is entitled, or shall require such overpaid person or
his estate to refund the amount in excess of the correct
amount, or shall decrease any payment under this subchapter
payable to his estate or to any other person on the basis of
the wages and self-employment income which were the basis of
the payments to such overpaid person, or shall obtain
recovery by means of reduction in tax refunds . . ., or shall
apply any combination of the foregoing.
42 U.S.C. § 404(a)(1)(A).
determining that an overpayment has been made, the Social
Security Administration's (“SSA”) practice is
“to notify the recipient of that determination, and
then to shift to the recipient the burden of either (i)
seeking reconsideration to contest the accuracy of that
determination, or (ii) asking the [Commissioner] to forgive
the debt and waive recovery . . . .” Califano v.
Yamasaki, 442 U.S. 682, 686 (1979); POMS: IS 02220.001.
Social Security Act provides for waiver of overpayments if
“(1) a claimant is without fault in receiving the
payment and (2) requiring repayment would either defeat the
purposes of Title II or would be against equity and good
conscience.” Quinli ...