Astrue v. Capato

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: November 14, 2011
  • Case #: 11-159
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 631 F.3d 626 (3rd Cir. 2011)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether a child conceived after his biological father's death and prohibited by state intestacy law from inheriting personal property is nonetheless eligible for child survivor benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.

After Mr. Capato was diagnosed with cancer and warned that chemotherapy might sterilize him, he deposited his semen in a sperm bank for frozen storage. Two years later Mrs. Capato gave birth to a naturally-conceived son, but Mr. Capato died before they could have any more children. In his will, Mr. Capato listed his beneficiaries as his son with Mrs. Capato and two children from a prior marriage. Eighteen months after her husband’s death, Mrs. Capato gave birth to twins conceived through in vitro fertilization, and one month later Mrs. Capato applied for surviving child’s insurance benefits for the twins based on her husband‘s earnings record. The Social Security Administration denied her claim and the District Court affirmed. Mrs. Capato appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit which affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded based on its interpretation of Title II of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq) which provides survivor’s benefits for children of a fully or currently insured individual who were “dependent upon the deceased individual at the time of his or her death.” The Supreme Court granted certiorari to answer the question, "whether a child who was conceived after the death of a biological parent, but who cannot inherit personal property from that biological parent under applicable state intestacy law, is eligible for child survivor benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq."

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