Court, the Secretary's final decision was accurately calculated based on legitimate reductions in California's SSP by the State Legislature and thus was more than supported by substantial evidence in the record.
B. Meaningful Hearing
Plaintiff also claims his due process rights were violated because he did not receive a meaningful hearing. The Secretary concedes that SSA's administrative appeal process was not meaningful as a response to a state-initiated mass change; nevertheless, the Secretary was correct in finding that plaintiff's due process rights were satisfied.
Plaintiff relies on the procedural due process standards described in Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 25 L. Ed. 2d 287, 90 S. Ct. 1011 (1970) to show that his constitutional right has been violated; however the Goldberg standard applies to actions affecting individual, fact-based adverse actions, not to mass changes that affect an entire caseload of recipients. Goldberg applies to cases in which recipients have challenged proposed terminations based on incorrect or misleading premises or on misapplication of rules or policies to the facts of the particular cases. Id. at 269. Plaintiff has not alleged that any incorrect or misleading factual premises were used in making the Secretary's determination nor does he claim that the Secretary misapplied any rules or policies.
Instead, plaintiff is challenging a legislatively mandated substantive change in the scope of the entire SSI program. Just as a welfare recipient is not deprived of due process when the legislature adjusts benefit levels, see Atkins, 472 U.S. at 129, neither is a SSI recipient when a state legislature makes a statutory change in its SSP rate. When there is a legislatively mandated substantive change in the scope of an entire program, "the legislative determination provides all the process that is due." Id. This standard makes sense, because otherwise, SSA's resources would be consumed by hearing individual appeals from thousands of recipients who have had their SSP payments cut by the State. Because there is no evidence that California is not in compliance with § 1618 of the Social Security Act, the Secretary was correct in finding that SSA is required to uphold California's decision to reduce the California SSP rate for SSI benefits. Plaintiff's right to procedural due process has been met.
III. Reduction Despite Appeal within Ten Days
Plaintiff argues that SSA improperly reduced plaintiff's SSI payments even though plaintiff appealed the decision to reduce his benefits within 10 days. Plaintiff did not make this argument before the ALJ or the Appeals Council. Because the Court may only review the final decision of the Secretary, consisting of the hearings and decisions of the ALJ and the Appeals Council, the Court has no authority to rule on this matter.
Even if plaintiff had brought this claim before the ALJ or the Appeals Council, his argument is without merit. Plaintiff received the initial September 28, 1992 Notice which informed him that if he appealed within 10 days, his SSI benefits would not be changed. Tr. 19. Plaintiff did appeal within 10 days, so his benefit amount was frozen; however SSA issued a reconsideration decision on October 14, 1992, finding that the original decision to reduce plaintiff's monthly payments was correct. The October decision included no statement that continued appeal of plaintiff's claim would result in his benefits remaining the same. Because an adverse decision was made on plaintiff's appeal within the month of October, SSA reduced plaintiff's monthly benefits starting the next month, November 1992. SSA did not promise any more stays of the reduction in benefits beyond the first appeal; SSA acted properly and gave no more and no less than what it stipulated in its correspondence to plaintiff.
For the reasons set forth above, defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is DENIED. The Clerk of the Court shall close the file.
DATED: Nunc Pro Tunc
August 4, 1995
FERN M. SMITH
United States District Judge