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Shelton v. Secretary of Health

decided: June 4, 1970.

AGATHA SHELTON
v.
SECRETARY OF HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WELFARE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLANT



Kalodner and Van Dusen, Circuit Judges, and Fullam, District Judge.

Author: Kalodner

Opinion OF THE COURT

KALODNER, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare from an Order denying the Secretary's motion for summary judgment; reversing the Secretary's decision not to reopen a prior final decision denying claimant disability insurance benefits; and remanding the cause to the Secretary with directions to grant claimant the relief she sought.

The record discloses that claimant, Agatha Shelton, first filed an application to establish a period of disability and for disability benefits under the Social Security Act*fn1 on April 2, 1958. At that time, claimant reported her birthdate to be August 5, 1907, and stated that she had been unable to work due to severe heart and sight impairments since November 6, 1957. Following an investigation, the Social Security Administration ("Administration") determined that claimant had fulfilled all requirements for disability insurance, including disability as of November 30, 1957, but advised her she had failed to affirmatively establish that she had attained age 50, as then required by Section 223(a) (1) (B) of the Social Security Act.*fn2

Unable to obtain a birth certificate, claimant attempted to establish her age by providing a statement from her sister that claimant was born on August 5, 1907, and explained that a different and later date on her marriage record had been erroneously entered by her husband. However, a 1945 voter registration uncovered by an Administration employee showed claimant's birthdate as August 5, 1911, which was consistent with the date on her marriage record.

Claimant also stated that a family Bible in the possession of a nephew, Onrie Geter (or Jeter), would establish her correct birthdate. When Administration efforts to obtain a copy of the Bible, or to otherwise verify claimant's birthdate, proved unsuccessful, claimant was notified on February 21, 1959, that although she had satisfied all other requirements for entitlement, "The evidence submitted by you is not sufficient to establish your attainment of age 50. Therefore, no benefits may be paid to you at this time."

No action was taken by claimant to obtain review of this initial determination and, pursuant to Social Security Administration regulations, it became the final disposition of the matter.*fn3

Thereafter, on September 29, 1960, claimant filed a second application for disability benefits after Congress, in that same month, amended Section 223 of the Act to delete the age 50 requirement. Other than a second statement from her sister, claimant offered no new evidence to establish her date of birth.*fn4 Claimant asserts that at the time she filed her second application, she was advised by an Administration employee that she would receive back benefits for the period July 1958*fn5 to October 1960, in the total amount of $1988.00, at "anytime" that she could verify her birthdate.

In a statement filed December 7, 1960, claimant reported that she was unable to supply evidence of her date of birth "at the present time," and requested that her application be processed under the congressional amendment dispensing with the age qualification.*fn6 On January 10, 1961, claimant submitted a second statement in which she reported that she was unable to secure additional proof of her age, and asked that her "claim" be processed "effective 11/60 for now."

Claimant was notified on March 15, 1961, that she would receive benefits retroactive to November 1960, the effective date of the amendment. No reconsideration of this decision was sought by claimant, and she began receiving, and continues to receive, monthly benefits under her second application.

There the matter remained until June 1967, when claimant submitted a 1910 census record which showed only that one Henrietta Jeter, then six years old, was a boarder in the Liles household. Additionally, claimant submitted a photocopy of a page from the Jeter family Bible, which showed a birthdate of August 5, 1904, beside an illegible name. On October 24, 1967, the Administration advised the claimant that on the basis of this "evidence" it had established her date of birth as August 5, 1904.

Claimant thereupon requested payment of benefits from July 1958 to October 1960, based upon her 1958 application and the newly submitted evidence of her date of birth.*fn7 On December 13, 1967, the Administration advised claimant that her request for reconsideration had been denied, stating that:

"Although you have presented evidence in 1967 that establishes your date of birth as August 5, 1904, more than four years have passed since February 21, 1959, and March 15, 1961, and the ...


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