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Veltcamp v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 4, 2017

KATHLENE FREIDA VELTCAMP, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (Doc. 1)

          Gary S. Austin UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          I. INTRODUCTION

         Pro se plaintiff, Kathlene Freida Veltcamp (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint (the “complaint”) on April 26, 2017, challenging a denial of her Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. (“SSD”). (Doc. 1). As discussed below, the complaint will be dismissed with leave to amend because Plaintiff has not stated a claim and it is not clear that jurisdiction is proper. Plaintiff will be granted leave to file a first amended complaint to correct these deficiencies.

          II. DISCUSSION

          A. Screening Standard

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct an initial review of the complaint to determine whether it “state[s] a claim on which relief may be granted, ” is “frivolous or malicious, ” or “seek[s] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, it must be dismissed. Id. Leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not. Id. at 678.

         To determine whether a complaint states an actionable claim, the Court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). Pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (holding that pro se complaints should continue to be liberally construed after Iqbal).

          B. Plaintiff's Allegations

         In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she collected SSD from 1992-1998. She subsequently stopped receiving benefits when she moved from Nevada to California. She applied to reinstate her benefits in 2003, but her application was denied. (Doc. 1, pg.6). She acquired additional evidence and reapplied for benefits again on February 12, 2013. She had a hearing on October 14, 2015, and her application was denied by way of a letter dated April 6, 2017. Plaintiff seeks back payment of her SSD benefits.

         C. Analysis

          1.Rule 8(a)

         As Rule 8(a) states, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim.” The rule expresses the principle of notice-pleading, whereby the pleader need only give the opposing party fair notice of a claim. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Rule 8(a) does not require an elaborate recitation of every fact a plaintiff may ultimately rely upon at trial, but only a statement sufficient to “give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Id. at 47. As noted above, detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (2009).

         In this case, although Plaintiff asserts that her applications were wrongfully denied, she has not identified any errors in the decision. Also, as described below, in order for this Court to have jurisdiction, Plaintiff needed to exhaust her administrative remedies, which includes appearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) for a hearing and appealing any adverse decision to the Appeals Council. If Plaintiff wishes to pursue her claim in this Court, any pleading must identify specific errors in the ALJ's decision ...


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