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Smuda v. Marten

United States District Court, District of North Dakota, Southwestern Division

December 15, 2014

Richard Allen Smuda and Linda Smuda, Plaintiffs,
Lynn Marten, Social Security, Assistant Regional Commissioner, Processing Center Operation, Defendant.


Charles S. Miller, Jr., Magistrate Judge

Plaintiffs initiated the above-entitled action with the submission of, amongst other things, an application to proceed in forma pauperis and proposed complaint. They subsequently filed a “Request to Get Information from Social Security.” This matter is now before the undersigned for initial review.[1]


Smuda is an inmate confined at the North Dakota State Penitentiary. He and his mother, Linda, initiated the above-entitled action against the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) on November 4, 2014, with the submission of a proposed complaint, an application to proceed in forma pauperis, and supplemental materials, including: a supporting “affidavit” signed by Smuda’s mother, correspondence from the SSA to Smuda and his mother, and a copy of an SSA Appeals Council decision dated April 15, 2011.

A. Supplemental Materials

1. Appeals Council Decision

The Appeals Council issued a decision in Smuda’s favor on April 15, 2011. From its decision the court is able to glean the following. Smuda was imprisoned at the North Dakota State Penitentiary (“NDSP”) from June 11, 2001, until April 23, 2004, following a conviction in state district court on stolen property and assault charges. (Docket No. 2-2).[2] Thereafter, he was civilly committed on the grounds that he was a sexually dangerous person as defined by state statute. (Docket No. 2-2). In 2007, the Commissioner determined that Smuda was no longer eligible for benefits beginning June 2001 on account of his imprisonment and subsequent court-ordered commitment and that he had received an overpayment of benefits. (Id.). He denied Smuda’s request for reconsideration. (Id.). His decision was affirmed by an administrative law judge. (Id.). However, upon further review, the Appeals Council concluded the Commissioner had erred to the extent that Smuda was in fact eligible to receive benefits in May 2004, the month after his term of imprisonment had ended. (Id.). Consequently, it directed that Smuda’s benefits be reinstated effective May 2004, that his overpayment be recalculated, that his past due benefits be used to offset/satisfy the overpayment, and any remainder be released to him. (Id.). However, as a caveat, it added that the SSA should consider whether Smuda’s benefits should be suspended effective April 2011 given information provided by the NDSP’s records department that Smuda had “returned to [the NDSP] on April 1, 2011, for conviction on a charge of simple assault and will remain there for that offense until June 29, 2015.” (Id.).

2. Linda Smuda’s supporting “Affidavit”

Linda stated the following in the affidavit filed in support of Smuda’s complaint:

In the matter of Ricky Allen Smuda; I have been his Social Security Payee since he was 8 years old, when his father past away in 1974! Then in 1983 when Ricky was 18 he became Mentally Ill. I then continued to receive benefits from his father’s Social Security for Ricky’s care and only Parent! Then in 2006 the Social Security Office in Jamestown North Dakota cut me off from being Ricky’s Payee. Then they had Progress Enterprise be his Payee for one month, while the Doctors signed papers for Ricky to be the Payee of his own benefits, while in the State Hospital in 7/05/2006! Within a year they cut him off of his benefits and billed him an overpayments of $69, 102.00 and then it was $66, 643.00 and then $67, 102.00. However it was my responsibility as his Payee at the time of the overpayments. So I filed Bankruptcy in February 24, 2011. James Sandsmarck out of Fargo North Dakota was the Attorney and we had a hearing in Fergus Falls Minnesota and the Case Number 11-60174 was assigned to Judge Dennis D. O’Brien. When the hearing was held everyone knew including the Social Security Office in Fergus Falls Minnesota Representative Rick Elles the Field Office Manager. That this Case was for the overpayments in his father Raymond Eugene Smuda Social Security Security file for the care of Ricky Smuda Claiming his fathers Social Security No . . . . because he does not have funds in his own file No ..... I Linda Smuda also told the Courts my Social Security No. Upon information and belief the full amount of the overpayments of the $67, 102.00 n June 1, 2011 is not in the correct Social Security File Claim Number . . . . I sent letters with no response.

(Docket No. 2-1) (errors in original).

3. SSA’s correspondence with Smuda’s mother

As noted above, correspondence from the SSA to Smuda’s mother was submitted for the court’s review. One of these letters, dated December 29, 2009, provided in relevant part the following:

Below is the new repayment withholding schedule we will use to collect the overpayment of Social Security benefits paid to you.


Amount you will receive

Amount withheld

Balance you owe


$ 0.00

$ 459.00

$66, 643.00



$ 88.00

$ 0.00



$ 0.00

$ 0.00

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