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Dexter v. Colvin

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 30, 2013

Karen L. DEXTER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Carolyn W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security,[*] Defendant-Appellee.

Argued and Submitted May 8, 2013.

Page 978

Eitan Kassel Yanich, Law Office of Eitan Kassel Yanich, PLLC, Olympia, WA, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Jeffrey R. McClain (argued), Assistant Regional Counsel, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, Seattle, WA; Jenny A. Durkan, United States Attorney; Kerry Jane Keefe, Assistant United States Attorney; and David Morado, Regional Chief Counsel, Seattle Region X, for Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Robert J. Bryan, Senior District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 3:11-cv-05023-RJB.

Before: MICHAEL DALY HAWKINS, SIDNEY R. THOMAS, and JACQUELINE H. NGUYEN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

NGUYEN, Circuit Judge:

Ten years ago, Karen Dexter first applied for social security disability insurance benefits. After benefits were denied, Dexter requested a hearing. The Social Security Administration (" SSA" ) ruled her request untimely, and denied a subsequent application on the ground of res judicata, but it has never explained why it rejected Dexter's facially valid excuse for the delay in her hearing request. Dexter then sought review in federal district court, which dismissed her action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Because the administrative law judge (" ALJ" ) failed to consider whether her facially valid reasons constituted good cause excusing the delay, thus depriving Dexter of her due process right to a meaningful opportunity to be heard and to seek reconsideration of an adverse benefits determination, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I.

A

The administrative review process governing applications for social security benefits " consists of several steps, which usually must be requested within certain time periods and in [a particular] order." 20 C.F.R. § 404.900(a). If a dissatisfied applicant fails to take the next step within the stated time period, the applicant loses the right to further administrative or judicial review unless she can show that there was good cause for her failure to make a timely request for review. Id. § 404.900(b).

After an applicant files for social security benefits, the SSA makes an initial determination " about [the applicant's] entitlement or ... continuing entitlement to benefits or about any other matter ... that gives [the applicant] a right to further review." Id. § 404.900(a)(1). If the applicant is dissatisfied with the SSA's initial determination, she may request the SSA to reconsider it. Id. § 404.900(a)(2).

If the applicant is dissatisfied with the SSA's determination upon reconsideration, she may request a hearing before an ALJ, id. § 404.900(a)(3), who will either issue a decision, see id. § 404.953, or in certain cases, dismiss the request, see id. § 404.957. The applicant may then request that ...


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