Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Eighteen months after her husband’s death, Karen Capato used her husband’s frozen sperm to give birth to twins through in vitro fertilization. Karen then applied for Social Security survivors benefits for the twins, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied her application.
The district court agreed with the SSA, holding that 42 U.S.C. § 416 indicates that the twins only qualified for benefits if they could inherit from the deceased wage earner under state intestacy law. Karen’s former husband was domiciled in Florida when he died, and Florida law does not qualify posthumously conceived children for inheritance through intestate succession. The Third Circuit reversed, concluding that under the §416(e) definition of children, undisputed biological children of an insured and his widow qualify for survivors benefits without regard to intestacy law.
On May 21, 2012, the Supreme Court reversed the Third Circuit, holding that the SSA’s reading is more consistent with the statute’s text and purpose of benefitting primarily those supported by the deceased wage earner in his or her lifetime.
See Astrue v. Capato, No. 11-159 (Oct. 2011).