In Vitro Case

As a follow-up to my March 19 post, the Supreme Court has ruled as I suggested in a case that asked to what extent, under the Social Security Act, the social security administration can grant the benefits of a deceased beneficiary to children born from eggs fertilized after the death of that beneficiary. As I guessed, the Court denied benefits and suggested that Congress clarify the statute.

 From the New York Times.

“The case, Astrue v. Capato, No. 11-159, turned on the interpretation of provisions of the Social Security Act. “The technology that made the twins’ conception and birth possible, it is safe to say, was not contemplated by Congress” in 1939 and 1965, when those provisions were enacted, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court.
The law was designed, she wrote, “to benefit primarily those supported by the deceased wage earner in his or her lifetime.”
Its key provision, Justice Ginsburg wrote, was one calling for the Social Security Administration to look to state laws concerning inheritance “in determining whether an applicant is the child” of the parent in question.
The Capatos lived in Florida, and Mr. Capato’s will was signed there. Under Florida law, a child born after a parent’s death may inherit property from the parent only if conceived during the parent’s lifetime.
State laws take varying approaches to that question, meaning that whether such children are entitled to survivors’ benefits under Social Security will also vary. Justice Ginsburg said that looking to state law to decide eligibility for Social Security benefits was “a workable substitute for burdensome case-by-case determinations whether the child was, in fact, dependent on her father’s earnings.”
Congress remains free to adopt a different approach, Justice Ginsburg concluded.”