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Coleman v. Wilson

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

April 2, 2018

BLAIR COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
HEATHER WILSON, Secretary of the Air Force, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBERT J. CONRAD, JR. JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Heather Wilson's (“Defendant's”) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction or Failure to State a Claim, (Doc. No. 6); her Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 6-1); Blair Coleman's (“Plaintiff's”) Response in Opposition, (Doc. No. 12); Defendant's Reply, (Doc. No. 14); and the Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation (“M&R”), (Doc. No. 15), recommending the Court grant Defendant's Motion. Both Defendant and Plaintiff have filed timely objections. (Doc. Nos. 16, 17). Defendant also filed a timely reply to Plaintiff's objection on March 30, 2018. (Doc. No. 18). The Motion is now ripe for the Court's consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         No party has objected to the Magistrate Judge's statement of the factual and procedural background of this case. Therefore, the Court adopts the facts as reproduced below.

         Plaintiff seeks an injunction pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq., awarding him a disability retirement pension. On October 24, 2005, Plaintiff was medically separated from the United States Air Force for an anxiety disorder. At the time, he was a staff sergeant on active duty. Plaintiff's medical condition arose from his deployment to Iraq in 2004, where he witnessed another service member being severely injured during a mortar attack.

         As a result, Plaintiff was entered into the Disability Evaluation System process. His claim was forwarded to an Informal Physical Evaluation Board (IPEB) to determine whether his diagnosis for anxiety disorder made him unfit for military duty. On September 9, 2005, the IPEB concluded that Plaintiff was unfit for military duty and assigned him a disability rating of ten percent.

         In 2008, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act which mandated retroactive consideration of earlier claims under new regulations related to post-traumatic stress disorder. These determinations were made by the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR).

         On April 16, 2011, Plaintiff requested a hearing before the PDBR, stating “I should have been medically retired. I was a career airman planning on making the Air Force my career. I feel 10% is unfair considering I'm still suffering from symptoms.” On May 17, 2012, the PDBR affirmed the ten percent rating and denied Plaintiff's claim.

         Plaintiff filed this action on June 8, 2017.

         On August 11, 2017, Defendant moved to dismiss arguing that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff is bringing a monetary claim and thus the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491; 5 U.S.C. § 702 (limiting APA relief to something “other than money damages”) provides an adequate remedy. The Court of Federal Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over such monetary claims against the United States where it is apparent on its face that the amount demanded exceeds $10, 000.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A district court may assign dispositive pretrial matters, including motions to dismiss, to a magistrate judge for “proposed findings of fact and recommendations.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) & (B). The Federal Magistrate Act provides that a district court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” Id. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). However, “when objections to strictly legal issues are raised and no factual issues are challenged, de novo review of the record may be dispensed with.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). De novo review is also not required “when a party makes general or conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations.” Id. Similarly, when no objection is filed, “a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72, advisory committee note).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff comes before the Court pursuant to the APA seeking an injunction mandating the PDBR correct his discharge records to reflect medical retirement by reason of permanent disability. (Doc. No. 1 at 14). Defendant, however, states that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and that it is the Court of ...


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