Astrue v. Capato

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: March 18, 2012
  • Case #: 11-159
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 631 F.3d 626 (3rd Cir. 2011)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether a child conceived after a biological parent's death is eligible for Social Security survivor benefits.

Respondent gave birth to twins 18 months after the death of the biological father through in vitro fertilization. Claiming that the agency must apply state intestacy law, first the Social Security Administration then an administrative law judge denied the application for surviving child's insurance benefits reasoning that because the applicable state law would not confer intestacy rights in that context the children were not entitled to survivor benefits under the Act. The District Court affirmed the ALJ's findings and interpretation of the Social Security Act. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated the District Court's interpretation, holding that the biological children of the deceased wage earner were within the Social Security Act's insurance benefits provision.

Under the Act a child is simply defined as "the child or legally adopted child of an individual; and a person qualifies as a child of the deceased wage earner if they can earn intestate rights in the wage earner's state of domicile at time of death.

On appeal, the petitioner argues the court of appeals erred in failing to defer to SSA's 70-year-old interpretation that a child born after the death of the wage earner who is ineligible to inherit under state intestacy law is also ineligible for survivor benefits and that the SSA’s interpretation is entitled to deference under Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. NRDC, 467 U.S. 837 (1984).

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