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Greco v. Astrue

August 27, 2010

CALLY L. GRECO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

Electronically Filed

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Cally Greco ("Plaintiff"), brings the present action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b) seeking judicial review of an offset of his Social Security benefits based upon his New York State workers‟ compensation award. The Court‟s review focuses on the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), which waived the Social Security Administration‟s ("SSA") recovery of overpayment of disability insurance benefits ("DIB") in the amount of $2,085.50. The parties have submitted cross-motions for summary judgment on the record developed at the administrative proceedings. After careful consideration of the Administrative Law Judge‟s ("ALJ") decision, the parties‟ submissions, and the entire record, the Court will deny Plaintiff‟s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 15) and grant Defendant‟s Motion for Summary Judgment*fn1 . (Doc. No. 19).

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff has been receiving DIB and supplemental security income ("SSI") since 1997.

(R. at 229-30)*fn2 . Prior to receiving Social Security benefits, the New York State Workers‟ Compensation Board found that Plaintiff was entitled to workers‟ compensation benefits. (R. 529). Plaintiff prevailed on two workers‟ compensation claims. (R. 386). The New York State Insurance Fund ("SIF") was to pay $20,000.00 ($64.77 per week) and Travelers Insurance Company would pay $20,200.00 ($2,020.00 of which was allocated for reasonable future medical costs). (R. 386, 529).

In a letter from SSA dated December 9, 2002, Plaintiff was informed that a review of his record had revealed that SSA was taking a weekly offset in the amount of $129.54 ($64.77 per week for each claim). (R. 227). However, Plaintiff was only receiving $64.77 and medical assistance in worker‟s compensation benefits. (Id.). Plaintiff‟s Social Security benefits were "corrected and increased accordingly." (Id.).

On January 9, 2003, Plaintiff requested a hearing on the matter. (R. 229). A Social Security benefits hearing was held on November 6, 2003, in Syracuse, New York, before ALJ John R. Tarrant. (Id.). Plaintiff appeared and testified. (Id.). He waived representation. (Id.).

In a decision dated December 16, 2003, the ALJ found that Plaintiff‟s workers‟ compensation benefit was $64.77 for one claim and medical assistance for the other. (R. 229). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff‟s workers‟ compensation award had been incorrectly applied causing an underpayment of Social Security benefits. (R. 229-30). The ALJ decided that the underpayment had been corrected prior to the hearing and Plaintiff‟s claims for compensatory and punitive damages were beyond his authority as an ALJ. (R. 230).

Nearly five years later, on November 19, 2008, SSA advised Plaintiff that due to his workers‟ compensation settlement, he had been overpaid $2,085.80 in Social Security DIB. (R. 112-19). Plaintiff was advised he would have to repay the amount. (R. 112-13). Plaintiff contested this determination, and filed a written request for a hearing before an ALJ on December 19, 2008. (R. 332-34).

In a decision dated March 16, 2009, ALJ David G. Hatfield reached a decision favorable to Plaintiff based on the documentary evidence alone. (R. 60). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was without fault in receiving and accepting the overpayment. (R. 61). Furthermore, recovery of the overpayment would defeat the purpose of Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). (R. at 60-63). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that SSA waived recovery of the overpayment. (R. 63).

On December 1, 2009, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff‟s request for review, thereby making the ALJ‟s decision the Commissioner‟s final decision. (R. 5-7). On January 20, 2010, Plaintiff instituted the present action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner‟s final decision. (Doc. No. 1).

III. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

In a decision dated March 16, 2009, the ALJ made the ...


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