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TRAHAN v. REGAN

November 16, 1982

Ava P. Trahan, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Donald T. Regan, Secretary of the Treasury, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH

 GASCH, District Judge:

 Now pending before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss this action seeking to prevent the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") from releasing the tax return information of plaintiffs and others similarly situated to the Social Security Administration ("SSA"). For the reasons stated hereinafter, the Court concludes that under the circumstances of this case, plaintiffs' action must be dismissed pursuant to Rules 12(b) (1) and 12(b) (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP).

 Background

 On February 4, 1981, the General Accounting Office ("GAO") reported to Congress that:

 
More than $100 million was overpaid for each fiscal year 1977, 1978 and 1979 to Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") recipients who owned assets valued in excess of what is allowed under the program. These overpayments, estimated at $125 million during fiscal year 1979, primarily concerned the value and ownership of bank accounts and real property other than the recipients' home . . . the Internal Revenue Service has information that would provide SSA a more effective method for identifying bank account ownership and help reduce the overpayments.

 Report of the Comptroller General to the United States Congress of February 4, 1981, HRD 81-4 p. i. (hereinafter "1981 GAO Report"). GAO further recommended that:

 
. . . the Secretary should require the Commissioner of Social Security to
 
-- initiate steps to have SSI applicants and recipients sign tax information consent forms and provide these forms to IRS for purposes of obtaining information needed to verify SSI income and resource records.

 1981 GAO Report at ii. In January 1981, GAO reiterated its concern to Congress regarding the obtention of such records. Report of the Comptroller General to the United States Congress of January 12, 1982, HRD 82-9. In May 1982, the Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") implemented the plan twice recommended by GAO by mailing more than four million notices to SSI recipients between May 19, 1982 and May 29, 1982. These notices apprised SSI recipients that HHS wanted to have IRS release:

 
all tax information from any information return relating to your receipt of income other than wages for all tax years beginning January 1, 1980, and subsequent.

 The notice further informed SSI recipients that:

 
You have a choice about signing the [consent] form. But we must have accurate information about your income and what you own to pay your Supplemental Security Income checks. If you do not sign the form, your Supplemental Security Income checks may be affected.

 Thereafter, on June 11, 1982, an action was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia attempting to enjoin the Secretary of HHS from pursuing the information returns. *fn1" On July 6, 1982, Judge Gesell of this Court entered summary judgment for the Secretary and dismissed the action for:

 
(1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Social Security Act and the Privacy Act;
 
(2) lack of merit of constitutional claims of denial of due process; and
 
(3) lack of a claim under the Administrative Procedures Act.

 See, Tierney, et al. v. Schweiker, Civil Action No. 82-1638 (D.D.C. July 6, 1982). *fn2"

 Following this dismissal, HHS conveyed to IRS many of the consents to disclosure that plaintiffs and other SSI recipients had executed. Affidavit of M. Eddie Hieronimus, para. 2. To date the IRS has not disclosed any of the requested information in response to those requests. Id. at P 3. The instant action was filed on October 21, 1982, at which time plaintiffs moved for a temporary restraining order and expedited discovery. On October 29, 1982, after a hearing on the ...


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