Holding: The Social Security Administration interprets the Social Security Act to allow children conceived after their father’s death to qualify for Social Security survivors benefits only if they could inherit from their father under state intestacy law. That reading, the Court held, is better attuned to the statute’s text and its design to benefit primarily those supported by the deceased wage earner in his or her lifetime. Moreover, even if the SSA’s longstanding interpretation is not the only reasonable one, it is at least a permissible construction entitled to deference under Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
Plain English Summary: A child conceived and born after a parent’s death cannot rely solely on a genetic connection to the deceased parent in order to qualify for Social Security survivors benefits. Siding with the Social Security Administration’s interpretation of the law, the Court held that all children, including those born via assisted reproduction technology, must either demonstrate that they would be eligible to inherit from their late parent under state law or satisfy one of the statutory alternatives to that requirement. The SSA’s interpretation was more consistent with the core purpose of the Act, which is to protect family members who depend on another family member’s income from hardship if that family member dies.
Judgment: Reversed and remanded, 9-0, in an opinion by Justice Ginsburg on May 21, 2012.
Merits Briefs for the Petitioner
Merits Briefs for the Respondents
Amicus Briefs in Support of the Respondents