United States District Court, D. New Jersey
OPINION & ORDER
MICHAEL VAZQUEZ, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on the motion of Defendant, the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”), to dismiss the Complaint of
Plaintiff Kimberly Steele for failure to exhaust her
administrative remedies pursuant to Section 205(g) of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). D.E. 16.
Plaintiff is proceeding pro se. The motion was
decided without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 78 and Local Civil Rule 78.1. The Court has
considered the parties' submissions and grants
Defendant's motion to dismiss.
October 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed her Complaint. D.E. 1.
Plaintiff alleges that the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) improperly reduced her supplemental
security income (“SSI”). Id. at 2-4. In
response, on April 20, 2018, the Commissioner filed the
current motion, arguing that Plaintiff did not exhaust her
administrative remedies. D.E. 16.
support of her motion, the Commissioner attaches a
declaration from the Acting Chief of Court Case Preparation
and Review Branch 2 of the Office of Appellate Operations
(“Acting Chief”), Office of Disability
Adjudication and Review, Social Security Administration. D.E.
16-1. The declaration attached a July 6, 2017 letter from the
SSA to Plaintiff. Id. at 4-19. The letter indicates
that Plaintiff's monthly SSI payment was being reduced
from $766.25 to $534.31 due to a change in Plaintiff's
“situation.” Id. at 4. Specifically, the
letter explained, Plaintiff's living arrangements
resulted in the decrease. Id. at 5, 10, 12. The July
letter continued that the monthly SSI payments could change
in the future if her situation changes, that Plaintiff has a
right to review the information in SSA's records, and
that Plaintiff may be entitled to an increase if she is
paying a share of the household expenses. Id. at 6.
SSA's letter further notified Plaintiff of her appeals
rights, specifying as follows:
• You have 60 days to file an appeal in writing
• The 60 days start the day after you receive this
letter. We assume you received this letter 5 days after the
date on the letter.
• You must have a good reason for waiting more than 60
days to file an appeal.
Id. at 7. The July 6, 2017 letter also informed
Plaintiff that she could file an appeal with any Social
Security office and provided the address of the office
nearest Plaintiff. Id. at 8, 10. The Acting Chief
indicates that that “[t]here is no indication in the
file that the plaintiff filed a written appeal of the
determination.” Id. at 3.
has written to the Court on numerous occasions, both before
and after the filing of the Commissioner's motion. D.E.
10, 11, 14, 20, 22, 23,  26, 27, and 28. For the most part,
however, Plaintiff does not address the Commissioner's
contention that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her
administrative remedies. To be sure, Plaintiff indicates in
conclusory fashion that she exhausted her administrative
remedies, D.E. 26 at 7. The only specific claim that
Plaintiff makes, however, is that she requested an appeal
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”).
Id. at 8. Plaintiff provides no proof in support of
this contention. At the same time, Plaintiff asserts that
persons within SSA, an ALJ, and “Virginia state appeals
court judges” instructed her not to file any additional
appeals. Id. at 7. Plaintiff again provides no
evidence to support this contention.
Plaintiff's filings after the Commissioner's motion
focus on requests for additional SSI payments and changed
circumstances. She also appears to raise new claims.
Plaintiff indicates that she is now living on her own and
takes issue with an additional SSA letter dated May 11, 2018.
D.E. 27 at 2, D.E. 27-1 at 1. She adds that she is entitled
to a voucher for an air conditioner, D.E. 26 at 1, 3, and
cost of living increases, id. at 9. She also
indicates that she is entitled to greater monthly SSI
payments than she was receiving before the reduction that led
to the current suit. D.E. 23.
Legal Standard and Analysis
Court has jurisdiction to review claims arising under the
Social Security Act as provided in 42 U.S.C. §§