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Artificially Conceived Child Not a Child for SSA

September 30, 2011

Author: Louise M. Tarantino| Catherine M. Callery (Kate)

In March 2011, we reported on a January 2011 decision from the Third Circuit holding that twins born by artificial insemination after the death of their biological father were entitled to Social Security survivors’ benefits on his account.  Capato ex rel. B.N.C. v. Commissioner of Social Sec., 631 F.3d 626 (3rd Cir. January 4, 2011). The Third Circuit relied on Gillett-Netting v. Barnhart, 371 F.3d 593 (9th Cir. 2004) to find that the twins were the children of the insured within the meaning of the Social Security Act. [Note that Gillett-Netting has been adopted as Acquiescence Ruling (AR) 05-1(9) in the Ninth Circuit.] It found that it had no need to consider the intestacy laws of Florida, the state where the father died, under §416(h), since parentage was not in dispute in this case.

The same article referenced a similar case, which was pending before the Eighth Circuit.  The Eighth Circuit has now weighed in, holding that the daughter born to Patti Beeler by artificial insemination after her husband’s death is not entitled to benefits on his account.  Beeler v. Astrue, --- F.3d. ---, 2011 WL 3795103 (August 29, 2011).  Although there was no dispute as to paternity, the court found that a child’s eligibility under the Commissioner’s regulations is controlled by the applicable state laws governing intestacy. In so ruling, the court deferred to the Commissioner’s interpretation of the regulations in issue.

The Eighth Circuit expressed its disagreement with both the Ninth and Third Circuit outcomes, opining that the courts misread the legislative history.  It acknowledged the conflict in the circuits, citing Schafer v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 49 (4th Cir. 2011), in which the Fourth Circuit agreed with the Commissioner.  Note that is was the Commissioner who appealed in Beeler.

Ironically, the Iowa intestacy laws were amended while this action was pending to allow intestate succession rights to posthumously conceived children in certain circumstances.  The Court held, however, that the new law was not applicable to Beeler’s daughter.  Of note, New York laws have not been similarly amended.

 





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