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Court rejects claim of National Guard member in dispute over retirement benefits

The Supreme Court sided with the federal government on Thursday in an arcane dispute over the reduction of Social Security benefits for certain members of the National Guard who are categorized both as civilians and military employees.

In an 8-1 decision in Babcock v. Kijakazi, the court rejected the arguments of David Babcock, who worked as a dual-status technician from 1975 to 2009. In that role, he worked as a test pilot and pilot instructor and also served in the National Guard.

After he retired, the government cut his Social Security benefits by about $100 per month under a statutory rule – known as the “windfall elimination provision” – that reduces the benefits of retirees who receive separate pensions based on certain types of employment. Babcock received a pension for his work as a civilian technician, and the government concluded that the pension triggered the windfall-elimination provision.

Babcock argued that the pension fell under an exception for pension payments that are “based wholly on service as a member of a uniformed service.”

In an opinion by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court held that the exception does not apply to dual-status technicians like Babcock.

“Babcock’s civil-service pension payments fall outside the Social Security Act’s uniformed-services exception because they are based on service in his civilian capacity,” Barrett wrote.

Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented.

Check back soon for in-depth analysis of the opinion.

Recommended Citation: James Romoser, Court rejects claim of National Guard member in dispute over retirement benefits, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 13, 2022, 11:29 AM),