United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
A. DICLERICO, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Hoon seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) of the Acting Commissioner's decision to terminate
her supplement security income (“SSI”) benefits.
Hoon contends that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) incorrectly counted her boyfriend's
income and bank account and a friend's checking account
as Hoon's resources. The Acting Commissioner moves to
review under § 405(g) “is limited to determining
whether the ALJ deployed the proper legal standards and found
facts upon the proper quantum of evidence.” Nguyen
v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999); accord
Seavey v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2001).
The court decides legal issues de novo but defers to the
ALJ's factual findings if they are supported by
substantial evidence. Ward v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 211 F.3d 652, 655 (1st Cir. 2000). Substantial
evidence is “more than a scintilla of evidence”
but less than a preponderance. Purdy v. Berryhill,
887 F.3d 7, 13 (1st Cir. 2018). The court must affirm the
ALJ's findings, even if the record could support a
different conclusion, when “a reasonable mind,
reviewing the evidence in the record as a whole, could accept
it as adequate to support [the ALJ's] conclusion.”
Irlanda Ortiz v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 955 F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991) (internal
quotation marks omitted); accord Purdy, 887 F.3d at 13.
Hoon began receiving SSI benefits on January 1, 2005. At that
time, she was living with her boyfriend, Wayne Shirkey, with
whom she had had a long-term relationship. In 2009,
Hoon's granddaughter came to live with them, and both
Hoon and Shirkey were the granddaughter's legal
April of 2014, the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) reviewed Hoon's case. Hoon reported
that she was the legal guardian of her granddaughter, who had
lived with Hoon and Shirkey since 2009. She explained that
Shirkey “comes and goes, ” and, for that reason,
he had put Hoon on his bank account so that she could pay
bills. Hoon also disclosed that a friend, Gabrielle Currier,
had put Hoon's name on her bank account for
“emergency purposes.” The SSA determined that
Hoon was not “holding out” as being married to
Shirkey, which would have changed her status for purposes of
and Hoon petitioned jointly to adopt Hoon's granddaughter
in 2014. Because they were not married, however, the court
would not approve their petition. Hoon then petitioned to
adopt her granddaughter by herself, and that petition was
granted. Hoon's granddaughter chose the last name Shirkey
reviewed Hoon's living situation again in June of 2015.
The SSA noted that Hoon and Shirkey had joint bank accounts
and jointly owned vehicles. The SSA also noted that
Hoon's granddaughter used both last names. Based on these
circumstances, the SSA determined that Hoon was deemed to be
married to Shirkey for purposes of SSI benefits.
sent Hoon a notice on August 18, 2015, that all of the SSI
benefits she had received between July of 2013 through June
of 2015 were overpayments because her resources exceeded the
limit for eligibility. The total overpayment was $7, 980.00.
Hoon states that on the same date she also received a notice,
which is not part of the Administrative Record, that showed
the month-by-month balances for the bank accounts the SSI
considered to be Hoon's resources.
received a second notice of overpayment on October 21, 2015,
for the period from July of 2015 through October of 2015.
That notice states that the overpayment determination was
based on “wages we did not know about.” Admin.
Rec. at 379. The total amount of that overpayment was all of
the SSI for that period, totalling $2, 932.00. By way of
further explanation, the SSA stated: “For the months(s)
listed below, the income on our records was wrong. Because we
didn't know about all the income, we paid you too much
SSI.” Admin. Rec. at 383. The wages the SSA was
referring to were actually Shirkey's wages.
requested waiver of the two overpayment periods and also
requested a hearing before an ALJ. Hoon was removed from
Shirkey's bank account and opened her own account
separately. She met with an SSA representative for a personal
conference in December of 2015. Hoon completed a Marital
Relationship Questionnaire during the conference, which asked
questions about her relationship with Shirkey. Hoon provided
additional information about her bank accounts and her
relationship with Shirkey.
first issued a notice that she would receive certain monthly
benefits, then issued a notice that her benefits would be
zero. The SSA denied her request to waive overpayment and
notified her that Shirkey was being counted as her
spouse.Hoon provided additional evidence of her marital
status and requested a hearing before an ALJ.
hearing was held on June 6, 2017. Hoon testified about her
relationship with Shirkey. She said that she only used the
name Hoon, that she introduced Shirkey by his first name,
Wayne, or as “my boyfriend, Wayne, ” and that
Shirkey introduced her by her first name. She said mail was
addressed to them separately, that Shirkey owned the house
where she lived but he had moved out, ...