Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

TUSTIN v. HECKLER

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY


July 12, 1984

GALE TUSTIN, ISMAEL SOTO, MILTON RUIZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MARGARET HECKLER, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: BARRY

BARRY, District Judge

 The legal principles applicable to this case are easily stated and applied. On other levels, however, the case is difficult. In recent years, the Social Security Administration has had its share of problems, many of which have been the product of an earlier time and others which are the result of the profusion of social security claims filed and thereafter adjudicated both at the administrative level and in the courts. Determined and genuine efforts are now being undertaken to restore the agency to full compliance with its mandate of efficient and effective yet compassionate management of social welfare programs.

 Indeed, the very ruling by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services which is the subject of this case, which temporarily restored disability benefits to a large class of persons, indicates that identifiable efforts are being made to implement that mandate. This court does not believe it appropriate to intrude into agency affairs, and is reluctant to do so. Nonetheless, this court has an independent obligation to assure itself that the efforts being made are in full compliance with constitutional principles. There is not compliance here.

 * * * *

 This is an action for declaratory and injunctive relief in which the named plaintiffs, Gale Tustin, Milton Ruiz and Ismael Soto, have brought on motions for certification of a nationwide class and for a mandatory preliminary injunction that would, in effect, temporarily restore terminated Social Security disability benefits to those persons who have appeals of terminations pending before United States courts. The defendant, Margaret Heckler, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services ("the Secretary") has suspended the Social Security Administration's periodic continuing disability review procedures and restored disability benefits to certain classes of persons whose benefits were terminated but who have not yet exhausted their administrative appeals, pending the anticipated passage of amendments to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 402 et seq. ("the Act"), and the promulgation of concomitant regulations. The Secretary has declined to restore such benefits to persons who have exhausted their administrative appeals and have timely filed actions in District Courts seeking restoration of benefits, and plaintiffs complain on equal protection grounds. For the reasons stated below, the court will grant the preliminary injunction and will certify a nationwide class.

 I

 The Secretary is required by Section 221(i) of the Act to review every three years the continuing entitlement to disability benefits under Title II and to supplemental social security income benefits under Title XVI of the Act of all beneficiaries, except those determined to have a permanent impairment. *fn1"

 These periodic reviews have been controversial, principally because of the standard of review that has been employed by the Secretary. From 1954 until 1976, the Secretaries of Health, Education and Welfare would not find that disability had stopped unless medical evidence showed that a benefits recipient's condition had improved since it was last determined that he or she had a disability. In 1976, the then-Secretary adopted a policy of finding that disability had stopped if it were found, based on new evidence, that the person was not disabled, as defined in law. In other words, the then-Secretary's position in determining that a disability had ceased became akin to an initial finding of no disability. Kuzmin v. Schweiker, 714 F.2d 1233, 1236 & n. 1 (3rd Cir. 1983). This policy came to be known as the "current disability standard," and was the policy being applied at the time defendant Secretary promulgated the ruling at issue here.

 A number of courts have held that the "current disability standard" is an improper standard for determining when a disability ceases. See, for example, DeLeon v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 734 F.2d 930 (2d Cir. 1984) (Secretary's "not currently disabled" standard not authorized by Act or regulations; "medical improvement" standard of finding that recipient's condition has improved to point that he is no longer disabled or that initial finding of disability was erroneous is proper); Kuzmin v. Schweiker, supra (in termination proceeding, once claimant has introduced evidence that her condition remains essentially the same as it was at the time of earlier determination, claimant has benefit of presumption that her condition remains disabling; Secretary then has burden of going forward with evidence of medical improvement to rebut presumption); Dotson v. Schweiker, 719 F.2d 80 (4th Cir. 1983) (initial determination of disability by Secretary gives rise to presumption at time of second hearing that claimant still disabled and Secretary required to come forth with evidence to rebut such presumption). *fn2"

  While these cases contain subtle distinctions, all are variations on a theme, i.e. that to terminate disability benefits, the Secretary had to compare the claimant's condition at the time of review with the condition that existed at the time benefits were awarded and could not merely consider "current medical evidence" concerning the claimant.

 Congress took note of the conflict between the courts and the Secretary and both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed bills which incorporate the "medical improvement" standard. The House passed the Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984, H.R. 3755 on March 27, 1984. The Senate passed the Social Security Disability Amendments of 1984, S. 476, on May 14, 1984. The two bills have been referred to a conference committee, which presumably will attempt to reconcile differences when Congress reconvenes several weeks hence.

 The Secretary was, of course, well-aware of the adverse court decisions in termination cases and of the progress of H.R. 3755 and S. 476. On April 13, 1984, she announced a temporary suspension of the periodic continuing disability review process under both Title II and Title XVI of the Act and the continuation of benefits to all those affected by the suspension. On May 22, 1984, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security issued a ruling entitled "Titles II and XVI: Temporary Suspension of the Present Periodic Continuing Disability Review Process." The announced purpose of this ruling as stated in the ruling was

 

To implement the Secretary's policy concerning a temporary suspension of continuing disability reviews pursuant to section 221(i) of the Social Security Act (the Act), the continuation or restoration of benefits, as appropriate, to those who have not received an Appeals Council decision or notice denying a request to have the Appeals Council review the administrative law judge decision on their periodic review claim and who have such claims properly pending in the Department and to those who, as of the effective date of this policy, have received an agency determination under section 221 (i) which can still be appealed to the next administrative review level.

 The ruling went on to state that, in addition to suspending its reviews, the Social Security Administration would rescind determinations of disability cessation for medical reasons of individuals who had not received a ruling from the highest administrative review decisional body, the Appeals Council, or a notice denying a request for review by the Appeals Council of a decision made by an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on periodic review claims and who have such claims pending at the administrative level.

 The ruling went on to further state that those who still had time, as of April 13, 1984, to appeal to the next administrative review level the determination to stop their benefits would also have those determinations rescinded and benefits continued. The explanation, as contained in the ruling, was that:

 

Such individuals have not had the opportunity to pursue their periodic review claims through all administrative review levels. The absence of such an opportunity and of a final agency decision by the Appeals Council, coupled with the highly unusual circumstances surrounding the periodic review process, make the continuation or restoration of such benefits particularly justified. The policy in this Ruling is consistent with the Secretary's objective of administering the periodic review process in the humane and fair way that the Department and the Congress intended.

 The Acting Commissioner's ruling reiterated the distinction between classes of cases affected or not affected by the Secretary's policy of restoring retroactively terminated benefits and stated the justification for that distinction:

 

. . . No new continuing reviews will be instituted; reviews of cases pending administratively, i.e. those at the reconsideration, hearing and Appeals Council levels and those in the 60-day period for requesting appeal to any of these levels will be suspended and benefits will be continued or restored retroactively, as appropriate, to those who have not received an Appeals Council decision or notice denying a request to have the Appeals Council review the administrative law judge decision and who have claims properly pending at any of these stages. Individuals who received an Appeals Council decision or notice denying review and those whose claims were not properly pending administratively (i.e. the time limitations, exhaustion and other administrative appeal requirements have not been satisfied) as of the effective date of this policy will not be continued in or restored to benefit status pursuant to this Ruling. This is because the decisions in their cases have become final administrative determinations since they either did not exercise their right to appeal, they did not appeal timely, or they exhausted all appropriate administrative appeals. Similarly, cases pending in the Federal courts for review of a final agency decision or where the individual did not timely exhaust administrative remedies are not subject to the Secretary's policy even if a court has remanded the case for further administrative action. In such instances, an individual has either pursued his periodic review claim through all steps of the administrative appeals process or had such an opportunity but failed to exercise his administrative appeal rights properly or timely.

 The same policy of restoring benefits to those who had not exhausted administrative remedies but denying restoration of benefits to those who had exhausted and now have cases before a Federal court was to apply to class members in currently-pending class-action lawsuits, including those involving the periodic review process.

 The Acting Commissioner emphasized that the Secretary's policy of temporarily restoring benefits would apply only to cases being reviewed pursuant to § 221(i) of the Act and not to those cases which are reviewed pursuant to a scheduled medical reexamination, the so-called "medical diary" cases. The ruling stated that

 

The impairments of people scheduled for a continuing disability review pursuant to a reexamination diary are different from those selected for periodic review. Medical reexamination diary cases involve people who have impairments from which SSA expects them to recover in a short time, and who were told to expect the review as of a specified month. The medical reexamination process has been in place since the beginning of the program and has not been controversial. Not looking at the claims of people who are fully expected to recover would be shirking SSA's stewardship responsibility. One of the factors that led Congress to require periodic review was its concern that SSA did not always process medical reexamination diary cases timely. This left some people on the rolls who did not meet the definition of disability. SSA believes it is appropriate to continue to process medical reexamination diaries for that group of beneficiaries who were scheduled for review when they were placed on the disability rolls to determine if expected medical recovery did occur. SSA will exercise great care to ensure that only people properly scheduled for medical reexamination are reviewed.

 II

 In a declaration dated June 21, 1984, plaintiff Tustin states that she is a resident of subsidized housing in New Brunswick, New Jersey and applied for and was granted disability and SSI benefits effective June 2, 1972. She was notified in 1982 that her entitlement to these benefits would cease in November, 1982. She challenged the termination and continued to receive benefits of $320 per month until April, 1984. Her disability benefits then stopped entirely, but she received $21.40 in SSI benefits in May. She no longer has the medical coverage available to disability recipients and states that she is still unable to work, is without any source of income, and has had to borrow from friends in May and June to meet her rent and grocery expenses. She also asserts that she has no money to meet her daily expenses. Plaintiff Tustin's benefits were terminated as the result of a periodic review and her individual appeal from the Secretary's decision is pending before a court of this District.

 In a declaration dated June 20, 1984, plaintiff Ruiz states that he is a resident of Perth Amboy, New Jersey and applied for and was granted disability benefits effective September 2, 1977. He was notified in January, 1983 that he was no longer entitled to disability benefits, contested that determination, and continued to receive benefits until January, 1984. He is still under the treatment of two New Brunswick physicians, but since the termination of his disability benefits has had no medical coverage. Ruiz adds that he is still unable to work and is "in a bad financial situation" necessitating the borrowing of money. Ruiz's benefits were terminated as the result of a periodic review and his individual appeal from the Secretary's decision is pending before this court.

 In a declaration dated June 20, 1984, plaintiff Soto states that he resides with his wife and two minor children in Perth Amboy and applied for and was granted disability benefits effective January 29, 1979. He was notified in 1980 that his benefits would cease and they, in fact, ceased in or about July, 1981. He asserts an inability to return to work and reliance upon his wife's income, which has been reduced by a decrease in her work week to two to three days per week, resulting in a worsening family financial situation. Soto's benefits were terminated as the result of a medical diary reexamination and his individual appeal from the Secretary's decision is pending before a court of this District.

 The standard in this Circuit for determining whether a preliminary injunction should issue is clear:

 

A preliminary injunction is not granted as a matter of right. Eli Lilly & Co. v. Premo Pharmaceutical Laboratories, Inc., 630 F.2d 120, 136 (3rd Cir.), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1014, [66 L. Ed. 2d 473, 101 S. Ct. 573] (1980). It may be granted, however, if the moving party demonstrates both a reasonable probability of eventual success in the litigation and that the party "will be irreparably injured pendente lite." Kennecott Corp. v. Smith, 637 F.2d 181, 187 (3rd Cir. 1980). The trial court may also consider the possibility of harm to other interested persons from the grant or denial of the injunction, as well as harm to the public interest. Eli Lilly & Co., 630 F.2d at 136. The grant or denial of a preliminary injunction is committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge, who must balance all of these factors in making a decision. Penn Galvanizing Co. v. Lukens Steel Co., 468 F.2d 1021, 1023 (3rd Cir. 1972).

 Kershner v. Mazurkiewicz, 670 F.2d 440, 443 (3rd Cir. 1982).

 Here, plaintiffs seek a mandatory preliminary injunction. The Third Circuit has recognized that it is appropriate to issue such an injunction "in a case in which the status quo 'is a condition not of rest, but of action' . . ." United States v. Price, 688 F.2d 204, 212 (3rd Cir. 1982) quoting Toledo, A.A. & N.M. Ry. Co. v. Pennsylvania, 54 F. 730, 741 (C.C., N.D. Ohio 1893). In a passage in Toledo, quoted approvingly in Price, the court instructed that

 

The office of a preliminary injunction is to preserve the status quo until, upon final hearing, the court may grant full relief. Generally this can be accomplished by an injunction prohibitory in form, but it sometimes happens that the status quo is a condition not of rest, but of action, and the condition of rest is exactly what will inflict the irreparable injury upon complainant . . . In such a case courts of equity issue mandatory writs before the case is heard on its merits.

  The same balancing test that is used in considering whether a prohibitory injunction shall issue is used when it is a mandatory injunction that is being considered. Id. As one scholarly commentator put it

 

Emphasis on preserving the status quo is a habit without a reason. To freeze the existing situation may inflict irreparable injury on a plaintiff deprived of his rights or a defendant denied the right to innovate. The status quo shibboleth cannot be justified as a way to limit interlocutory judicial meddling, because a court interferes just as much when it orders the status quo preserved as when it changes it. The test is not even easy to apply, since it eddies off into conundrums about what status is decisive.

 

Aversion to mandatory injunctions, like the solicitude for the status quo from which it grew, has continued to make judicial opinions. Although judges should consider how seriously an injunction restricts the defendant's lawful freedom of action, the restriction cannot be measured by whether the injunction compels or forbids action. The distinction between requiring action and prohibiting action is mainly a verbal one unrelated to the likelihood of irreparable loss to the defendant.

 Leubsdorf, The Standard for Preliminary Injunctions, 91 Harvard Law Review 525, 546 (footnotes omitted).

 Moreover, the fact that an injunction may require the payment or expenditure of money does not necessarily foreclose the possibility of equitable relief. United States v. Price, supra at 212-213; U.S.W.A. v. Fort Pitt Steel Casting, 598 F.2d 1273, 1280 (3rd Cir. 1979). Accordingly, the court may consider here the four factors traditionally considered by courts of equity in determining whether preliminary injunctive relief should be made available. See A.O. Smith Corp. v. F.T.C., 530 F.2d 515, 525 (3rd Cir. 1976).

 Plaintiffs argue that they will suffer irreparable harm because they have been financially dependent on disability payments for long periods and the termination of these benefits has severely impaired their ability to provide themselves with basic needs such as housing, food and health care. They are, they argue, unable to perform any substantial gainful employment and are without another sufficient source of income. Defendant retorts that it is well-established that "the temporary loss of income, ultimately to be recovered, does not usually constitute irreparable injury." Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 90, 39 L. Ed. 2d 166, 94 S. Ct. 937 (1974). She quotes from Oburn v. Shapp, 521 F.2d 142, 151 (3rd Cir. 1975) for the proposition that:

 

Mere injuries, however substantial, in terms of money, time and energy necessarily expended in the absence of a stay are not enough. The possibility that adequate compensatory or other corrective relief will be available at a later date, in the ordinary course of litigation, weighs heavily against a claim of irreparable harm.

 Plaintiffs respond that they are on a very different footing than the plaintiff in Sampson, an unlawful discharge case. While the Sampson plaintiff had been earning a livelihood up to the time of discharge and continued to be employable, plaintiffs argue that they "are not only without any income due to the cutoff of benefits, but because of their continued disability, they are without any means of procuring the necessities of life." Plaintiffs' Reply Brief at 7. *fn3"

 Professor Leubsdorf's writings are illuminating on the question of whether there can ever be irreparable injury where the party seeking injunctive relief could, at some point, be compensated with money:

 

The concept of irreparable injury takes on different meanings in different contexts. At trial, it refers to injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law. At the interlocutory hearing, it denotes injury for which there is no adequate remedy -- legal or equitable -- at final judgment. Even in the first context, the conclusion that an injury is irreparable involves considerations of policy apart from the feasibility of computing damages. Today, factors including the need for a jury trial, the relative burdens of damages and injunctions, and the substantive law's concern with changing conduct or compensating victims help to shape the remedial choice. If necessary, any injury can be stated in money terms. The courts have often enjoined illegal strikes on the theory that they cause irreparable injury, but when Congress created a damage action for strikes in breach of contract, it proved possible to estimate damages.

 

A finding of irreparable injury in the preliminary injunction context is still farther removed from any equation of irreparability with quantifiability. Injury may be ascertainable but still irreparable, as when the law immunizes a state officer against liability for acts committed before they were clearly unconstitutional. On the other hand, injury may be unascertainable but nevertheless reparable when final injunctive relief can remove it. To decide whether a final remedy is good enough to warrant forgoing an immediate injunction calls for thinking, not just counting.

 91 Harvard L. Rev. at 551-552.

 The example of anti-strike injunctions, despite a readily available money damage remedy, exemplifies a broader principle, to wit: "A future injury of uncertain date and incalculable magnitude is irreparable harm, and protection from such an injury is a legitimate end of injunctive relief." Phillips v. Crown Central Pet. Corp., 602 F.2d 616, 630 (4th Cir. 1979). See also Celotex Corp, Pittston P., Harding Pa. v. Oil, C. & A.W., etc., 516 F.2d 242 (3d Cir. 1975).

 The same principle has been applied by a number of district courts. For example, in Albert Price, Inc. v. Metzner, 574 F. Supp. 281 (E.D.Pa. 1983), a copyright infringement case, plaintiff held the certificate of registration for a wood duck card box, while defendants marketed a strikingly similar box. Plaintiff was awarded a preliminary injunction barring defendants from selling their version of the box. The court stated, at 289, that

 

. . . Price has shown that it will be irreparably harmed if an injunction is not entered. This irreparable harm would result from the serious, long-lasting, and incalculable harm to Price's competitive position vis-a-vis the defendants if the defendants were allowed to continue marketing their infringing duck card boxes.

 It should be noted that in Phillips and Price, the courts were not merely exercising the long familiar equitable intervention to prevent a multiplicity of suits, see Jerome v. Ross, 7 John. Ch. R. 315 (1823), 2 Story, Commentaries on Equity Jurisprudence as Administered in England and America §§ 930-933 (1843); rather, the courts were concerned for the very survival of the corporate persons. See also Lee v. Winston, 551 F. Supp. 247 (E.D.Va. 1982) (irreparable harm to plaintiff's dignity if state allowed to remove bullet from his body); Hall v. University of Minnesota, 530 F. Supp. 104 (D. Minn. 1982) (irreparable harm to student's plans to be professional basketball player in defendant's refusal to admit him to degree program).

 It has been said by Professor Zachariah Chafee that equity is "a set of effective and flexible remedies admirably adapted to the needs of a complex society." Quoted in Re, Cases and Materials on Remedies xxii (1982). It is well established that "Flexibility rather than rigidity has distinguished [equity]. The qualities of mercy and practicality have made equity the instrument for nice adjustment and reconciliation between the public interest and private needs . . ." Hecht Co. v. Bowles, 321 U.S. 321, 329, 88 L. Ed. 754, 64 S. Ct. 587 (1944). In order for equity to be truly effective, it must always look to the reality of private needs when carrying out the balancing process.

  It is readily apparent to this court that plaintiffs face a "future injury of uncertain date and incalculable magnitude" if their terminated benefits are not restored. Plaintiffs are not seeking the proverbial pot of gold but merely restoration of the minimal disability benefits they received until recently, benefits which made their lives tolerable. To plaintiffs, whose impecuniousness is aggravated by an inability -- actual or merely perceived -- to return to the job market, the loss of even the relatively small amount of money that they were receiving has further extended their marginality. Not only can one expect that, when plaintiffs no longer have recourse to borrowed funds, they will face the loss of housing and the ability to maintain proper nutritional standards, but they also will be unable to access continuing medical care through the social security system.

 Assuredly, if irreparable harm inheres in the risk created by an infringer to a corporation's ability to continue to market its wooden duck boxes, or the risk that prisoner's dignity will be offended by the removal of a bullet, or the risk to a potential sports professional in not being admitted to college, irreparable harm also inheres in this case. There is a clear likelihood that, without the relief sought, a realistic danger exists that the plaintiffs seeking relief will be without the means to avail themselves of the basic needs of food, shelter, or medical care, much less the means to be self-sustaining. I "do not think that it is necessary for [plaintiffs] to show that without an injunction 'rigor mortis [would] set in forthwith. '" Rockwell Intern. Systems, Inc. v. Citibank, N.A., 719 F.2d 583, 586 (2d Cir. 1983) (quoting Studebaker Corp. v. Gittlin, 360 F.2d 692, 698 (2d Cir. 1966)). Thus, irreparable harm will accrue to plaintiffs if injunctive relief is withheld.

 Plaintiffs argue that they have a strong likelihood of success on the merits because the governmental classification here penalizes the exercise of a basic liberty, reasonable access to the courts. Such a penalty, if shown, would, of course, require this court's strict scrutiny of the government's attempt to show that the classification is necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest. See Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 86 L. Ed. 1655, 62 S. Ct. 1110 (1942). In their Reply Brief, however, plaintiffs acknowledge that the ruling in question here does not specifically impede access to the courts, as did the Illinois law that required criminal defendants to pay a fee in order for their cases to be reviewed by an appellate court and that was held to be unconstitutional in Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, 100 L. Ed. 891, 76 S. Ct. 585 (1966). Rather, plaintiffs argue that they are being penalized for taking their cases to the District Court.

 While the distinction made by the Secretary between persons who have and those who have not exhausted their administrative appeals may have the effect of denying benefits to those who have elected to press their claims in the federal courts, I cannot conclude that plaintiffs have demonstrated that the government was motivated, in promulgating its ruling, by a desire to deny a valuable government benefit to them because they have exercised a fundamental right. See, generally, Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 50 L. Ed. 2d 471, 97 S. Ct. 568 (1977). Judicial inquiry into government motivation is appropriate in instances of discretionary governmental action. See Ely, Legislative and Administrative Motivation in Constitutional Law, 79 Yale L.J. 1205, 1269 (1970). Because plaintiffs do not constitute a protected class and have not shown that their exercise of a right of access to the courts was the cause of the government's distinction, the court will not engage in strict scrutiny of the government's action. See Schweiker v. Wilson, 450 U.S. 221, 230, 67 L. Ed. 2d 186, 101 S. Ct. 1074 (1981).

 However, the challenged ruling may still be tested to determine whether it classifies the persons it affects in a manner rationally related to legitimate governmental objectives. Mathews v. DeCastro, 429 U.S. 181, 185, 97 S. Ct. 431, 50 L. Ed. 2d 389 (1976). *fn4" This "rational relation" test is not a toothless standard. Mathews v. Lucas, 427 U.S. 495, 510, 49 L. Ed. 2d 651, 96 S. Ct. 2755 (1975). As has been perceptively observed, the right to equal protection of the law requires "'some rationality in the nature of the class singled out, ' with 'rationality' tested by the classification's ability to serve the purposes intended by the legislative or administrative rule: 'The courts must reach and determine the question whether the classifications drawn in a statute are reasonable in light of its purpose . . .'" Tribe, American Constitutional Law (1978) at 995, quoting Rinaldi v. Yeager, 384 U.S. 305, 308-309, 16 L. Ed. 2d 577, 86 S. Ct. 1497 (1966) and McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184, 191, 13 L. Ed. 2d 222, 85 S. Ct. 283 (1964).

 The Secretary contends that the classification here has a rational basis and, because it is equitable and administratively manageable, serves a legitimate governmental interest in finding administratively efficient means for regulating social welfare programs. See Weinberger v. Salfi, supra at 781 (nine-month duration-of-relationship requirement for one to be considered "widow" or "child" in order to obtain Social Security benefits designed to prevent "sham marriages" not denial of equal protection). The distinction that the Secretary defends here is between those claimants and beneficiaries who have not yet had a judicially reviewable "final decision" of the Secretary and those who have already received such a decision and have exercised their right to judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The latter category, according to the government, see Brief at 11, "will have a judicial determination of their claims in relatively short order," and the fact of "final decision" at the administrative level is the sole rationale offered for the differing treatment.

 The question that must be answered in the negative for plaintiffs to demonstrate a reasonable probability of success on the merits is this: does the exclusion of plaintiffs from defendant's policy of temporarily restoring terminated benefits bear a rational relationship to the Secretary's interest in restoring benefits to those who have not yet had a final decision rendered on their claim to benefits.

 Separate and apart from the critical fact that the "final decision" plaintiffs received was under a standard no longer being applied, this question, at least theoretically, would have to be answered in the affirmative. Reality, however, has widely diverged from theory in the application of the Social Security disability benefits law and regulations. Information supplied to this court by an official of the Social Security Administration indicates that during fiscal 1983, district courts rendered 5,986 "Final Court Decisions", that is, decisions that affirm or reverse a "final decision" of the Secretary or that dismiss a case. Of these "Final Court Decisions", 5717 or 95 percent were "Disability Final Court Decisions." The breakdown of these disability decisions is as follows: Program Aff'd Rev'd Dis'd Total Title II 2362 1225 221 3808 Title XVI 369 137 40 546 Concurrent 968 318 77 1363 (Titles II & XVI) Total 3699 1680 338 5717

19840712

© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.



Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.