Supreme Court to Review Social Security for the Disabled
The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to hear a case to decide whether disabled Americans who return to work within 12 months should receive Social Security disability benefits, the AP/Riverside Press-Enterprise reports. The court agreed to hear an appeal from the Bush administration, which said that a December 2000 ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could cost the federal government $80 billion over the next 10 years. The Supreme Court must decide whether the disability provisions of the 1965 Social Security Act "intended help for people with long-term impairments" or only the "long-term inability to work." In the case, the appeals court ruled that the Social Security Administration must provide benefits to Cleveland Walton, a Virginia teacher diagnosed with schizophrenia. The agency had denied his application for benefits, citing a job that he had obtained at grocery within a year of his diagnosis (Holland, AP/Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/25). The appeals court ruled that the definition of disability in the Social Security Act "applied to someone impaired 12 months or more -- even if the person was able to work during that period" (Ritter, Dow Jones Business News, 9/25). However, lawyers for the Bush administration said that the appeals court decision "fundamentally misconstrues the [statute], converting programs that were intended to address long-term disabilities into short-term disability programs," adding that "millions of claims have been turned down since 1965 because of [the] 12-month threshold." They also said that the appeals court ruling would "dramatically increase" the number of Social Security claims paid by the federal government (AP/Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/25). An attorney for Walton dismissed the government's cost estimates as "vague and unsubstantiated" and said that other courts have agreed with the appeals court's interpretation of the Social Security statute. The Supreme Court will hear Massanari v. Walton early next year (Dow Jones Business News, 9/25).