United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE WHITEHURST
MEMORANDUM RULING AND ORDER
REBECCA F. DOHERTY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before this Court is the "Defendant's Motion to
Amend Judgment" [Doc. 26] filed by Carolyn W. Colvin,
the Acting Commissioner of Social Security. In her motion,
the Commissioner argues the Court's September 13, 2016
Judgment, which awarded benefits "commencing February
15, 2007, " is inconsistent with the provisions of the
Social Security Act and lacks a determination of disability
onset, which is essential for calculating when benefits are
properly payable. The motion is opposed by the appellant, Don
Factual and Procedural Background
February 17, 2016, the magistrate judge issued a Report and
Recommendation, in which she found the ALJ failed to properly
evaluate the opinions of the claimant's treating
physicians and the side effects of his medications associated
with the claimant's claims of disabling narcolepsy.
Specifically, the magistrate judge determined the ALJ erred
in not determining that the appellant's sleep problems
were severe at step two of his sequential evaluation; by not
evaluating the opinions of two treating physicians under
factors set forth in Myers v. Apfel, 23 8 F.3d 617,
621 (5th Cir. 2001); by not making a determination
that the appellant could hold whatever job he finds for a
significant period of time; and by not considering the side
effects of the appellant's medications. After
consideration of the record, the magistrate judge recommended
that this Court reverse the decision of the ALJ and award
"appropriate benefits commencing February 15,
defendant filed the instant Motion to Amend Judgment, arguing
because the Court's judgment awarding benefits
"commencing February 15, 2007" is not tied to an
onset of disability and does not apply a subsequent waiting
period, the order does not comport with the Act's
provision that benefits are payable following a five-month
waiting period, measured from the first day of the month in
which the wage earner became disabled. See 42 U.S.C.
§423(c)(2); Sanchez v. Schweiker, 656 F.2d 966,
967 (5th Cir. 1981); 20 C.F.R.
§404.315(a)(4). The Commissioner argues additional
findings of fact are necessary to determine the date of
disability onset and requests a remand to the Commissioner
pursuant to the fourth sentence of 42 U.S.C. §405(g) for
further administrative proceedings.
appellant opposes the Commissioner's motion, arguing in
his disability application, Mr. Romero alleged a disability
onset date of February 15, 2007 (Tr. 11), as that was the day
after he resigned from work due to his physical and mental
impairments. The appellant also argues on June 24, 2010, ALJ
Kim Fields issued a partially favorable decision finding Mr.
Romero was disabled from February 15, 2007 through April 19,
2009, which recognizes an onset date of February 15, 2007.
Finally, the appellant notes the finding of Dr. Bouillon, who
opined that on "May 29, 2007, . . . [the] claimant had
reached the point where he was no longer able to function at
his job and agency (Tr. 475)." The appellant argues the
foregoing "belies the Commissioner's arguments
regarding the barriers posed by the five-month waiting period
and excessive retroactive benefits, both of which are
adequately addressed by the court's language awarding
"appropriate benefits" (i.e. after the application
of relevant laws and regulations regarding payment)."
Court agrees the language contained in the Judgment - that
"appropriate benefits" be awarded - can be
construed to mean that the amount to be awarded takes into
account the date of disability onset and the waiting period
prescribed by 42 U.S.C. §423(c)(2) and 20 C.F.R.
§404.315(a)(4), as the Commissioner will have to
determine the amount of benefits after all statutory and
regulatory requirements have been considered. However, to the
extent the Judgment is not clear, it is equally proper for
this Court to remand the matter to the administrative level
for a determination of the date from which benefits should be
paid, and the amount to be paid, in light of this Court's
finding that the date of onset of disability was February 15,
2007, which the Court continues to find is the appropriate
date of disability onset. Because the Judgment could,
arguably, be construed as ambiguous concerning the date from
which benefits should be calculated, this Court believes the
appropriate remedy is to reverse this matter and remand to
the administrative level for an appropriate determination of
the amount of benefits to be paid, in light of the provisions
of 42 U.S.C. §423(c)(2) and 20 C.F.R.
the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that the "Defendant's
Motion to Amend Judgment" [Doc. 26] is GRANTED in the
following respects: This matter is REVERSED AND REMANDED to
the Commissioner pursuant to the fourth sentence of 42 U.S.C.
§405(g) for further administrative proceedings, and
specifically, a determination of the amount of benefits to be
paid, in light of the provisions of 42 U.S.C, §423(c)(2)
and 20 C.F.R. §404.315(a)(4), and further recognizing
this Court's finding that the date of onset of disability
was February 15, 2007.
DONE AND SIGNED.
See Report and Recommendation,
Doc. 20 at ...