Supreme Court Rules Against Social Security Survivors’ Benefits

Aug 22, 2014 | Social Security Disability

Astrue v. Capato:  The Supreme Court unanimously rules against Social Security survivors’ benefits for posthumously conceived twins.

In an uncommon moment of agreement, the US Supreme Court decided 9-0 that twins born via in vitro fertilzation using the deceased father’s frozen sperm were not entitled to survivor benefits based on the father’s SSA earnings record.   Karen Capato gave birth to twins conceived with her late husband Robert’s frozen sperm 18 months after he passed away. Mr. Capato was a Florida resident when he died.  See

The Social Security Administration denied the twin’s mother’s claim for survivor benefits since under Florida’s law, children born after a parent’s death may only inherit property if they were conceived while the parent was living.  According to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Florida law was written “to benefit primarily those supported by the deceased wage earner in his or her lifetime.”

Since the Social Security Administration looks to each state’s inheritance laws, the Justices might have ruled differently if another state’s laws were involved.

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