United States District Court, D. Maine
REPORT AND RECOMMENDED DECISION
C. Nivison, U.S. Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff’s application for supplemental security
income benefits under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social
Security Act (the Act), Defendant, the Social Security
Administration Commissioner, found that Plaintiff had assets
above the statutory limit of $2, 000. Defendant, therefore,
denied Plaintiff’s request for disability benefits.
Plaintiff filed this action to obtain judicial review of
Defendant’s final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
a review of the record, and after consideration of the
parties’ arguments, I recommend the Court affirm the
filed his application for SSI benefits with a protective
filing date of April 14, 2016. (R. 144.) His claim was denied
initially and on reconsideration. (R. 144, 135.) Plaintiff
subsequently requested a hearing. (R. 134.) The
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that during the period
under review, Plaintiff’s countable income was never
below the resource limit of $2, 000. (R. 13.) The
Commissioner’s final decision is the April 4, 2018,
decision of the ALJ. (ALJ Decision, R. 12-14.)
found Plaintiff to have received income in the form of
workers’ compensation benefits in the amount of $268,
on September 3, 2014; that Plaintiff made withdrawals
totaling $153, 610 from various bank accounts from September
8, 2014 through November 12, 2015, but Plaintiff failed to
submit sufficient evidence as to how the withdrawn money was
spent; that sum, therefore, was properly counted as a cash
resource; that Plaintiff thus had income in excess of the
resource limit of $2, 000; and that the Plaintiff was not
eligible to receive SSI payments for any month following his
application date. (R. 13-14.)
must affirm the administrative decision provided the decision
is based on the correct legal standards and is supported by
substantial evidence, even if the record contains evidence
capable of supporting an alternative outcome.
Manso-Pizarro v. Sec’y of HHS, 76 F.3d 15, 16
(1st Cir. 1996) (per curiam); Rodriguez Pagan v.
Sec’y of HHS, 819 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1987).
Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a finding. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Rodriguez v.
Sec’y of HHS, 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981).
“The ALJ’s findings of fact are conclusive when
supported by substantial evidence, but they are not
conclusive when derived by ignoring evidence, misapplying the
law, or judging matters entrusted to experts.”
Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999).
eligible for SSI benefits, a claimant must meet all the basic
requirements for eligibility under the Act. A claimant must
provide information to the Social Security Administration
upon its request to “show [the SSA] necessary documents
or other evidence to prove that [he or she] meets these
requirements.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.200.
the Social Security Act (the Act) and the regulations
promulgated pursuant to the Act, an unmarried individual is
not eligible for SSI benefits if the individual’s
resources and income exceed $2, 000.00. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1382(a)(1)(A), (a)(1)(B), (a)(3)(B); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.1205(a), (c). “Resources” is
defined as “cash or other liquid assets or any real or
personal property that an individual … owns and could
convert to cash to be used for his or her support and
maintenance.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.1201(a). Income is
“anything [an individual] receive[s] in cash or in
kind” that can be used to meet an individual’s
“needs for food or shelter.” 20 C.F.R. §
1102. Income includes both earned and unearned income,
subject to certain exceptions. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1104.
Earned income includes salaries, commissions, bonuses,
severance pay, and any other special payments received
because of an individual’s employment. 20 C.F.R. §
416.1110(a)(1). Unearned income includes workers’
compensation benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1121(a).
argues the ALJ erred when she found that Plaintiff did not
provide evidence to establish how he spent his workers’
compensation proceeds and thus erred when she found that
Plaintiff was not eligible to receive benefits based on his
resources during the period under review.
Plaintiff submitted bank statements showing balances below
the allowable resource limit as of April 2016, (see
R. 66, 106 & 129), he could not explain the purpose of
numerous transfers and withdrawals from the various
accounts. (See R. 183-89.) Furthermore,
while Plaintiff also submitted receipts dating from August
2017, totaling $128, 500 (R. 18-21), the ALJ accurately noted
that Plaintiff submitted no contemporaneous receipts;
instead, the receipts had been prepared specifically for the
hearing. (R. 13, 18-21.) The ALJ also noted that
although at the end of the hearing she requested that
Plaintiff provide tax returns for 2014, 2015 and 2016, a
sworn statement from the person from whom he leased his
residence and to whom many of the proceeds were purportedly
paid, and a copy of any written rental agreement, Plaintiff
failed to do so. (R. 13; see R. 193-94.)
failure to account adequately for his workers’
compensation proceeds is similar to the claimant’s
failure to prove eligibility in the recent case of King
v. Berryhill, No. 18-11426, 2019 WL 2524762 (D. Mass.
June 18, 2019). In King, the claimant had received
$50, 000 in pension payouts and workers’ compensation
proceeds. 2019 WL 252476, at *1 & n.2. At the
administrative hearing, the claimant submitted bank records
showing cash withdrawals totaling approximately $30, 000.
Id. at *2. The claimant testified that he had spent
the funds on food, clothing and paying bills; he did not,
however, offer any documentation to support his assertions.
Id. The claimant also did not submit any documents
following the hearing, although the ALJ held the record open
for the claimant to do so. Id. The ALJ denied
claimant’s request for benefits, concluding that the
claimant was not eligible. In upholding the ALJ’s