The opinion of the court was delivered by: BECHTLE
In this action, plaintiff Deborah Darby seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the defendant, Secretary of Health and Human Services, from terminating her disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., prior to an evidentiary hearing.
Plaintiff asserts that the present procedure is in violation of the equal protection clause because recipients of disability benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., receive such a hearing prior to the termination of their benefits. Defendant has moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint. For the reasons which follow, the motion will be denied.
Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., provides social security disability insurance ("social security disability") to disabled workers. This program is financed by revenues from employer-employee payroll taxes and provides monthly benefits to disabled persons who have worked sufficiently long to have insured status as defined under 42 U.S.C. § 414. The benefits are paid irrespective of financial need.
Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., provides supplemental security income ("welfare disability") to disabled persons not qualifying for social security disability. This program provides a welfare system for the disabled, eligibility for which is based on financial need. A disabled person can receive disability benefits under both programs (social security and welfare) if that person's income, including any social security benefits to which they are entitled under the social security disability program, is below the welfare disability eligibility limit. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1100.
The social security and welfare disability programs are not entirely independent. An identical definition of disability is employed in both. Compare 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1) with § 1382c(a)(3) (1970 ed., Supp. III). Moreover, a claimant fully eligible under the medical and vocational standards of both programs does not have a choice of benefits. If the social security disability payments to which the claimant is entitled under his or her earnings record exceed the welfare disability eligibility limit, the claimant automatically receives payments under the social security program only. If the claimant's social security disability payments do not exceed the welfare disability eligibility limit, the claimant will receive both social security and welfare disability benefits.
Termination of social security disability or welfare disability benefits will occur if it is determined that the claimant is no longer disabled, or has returned to work. At the termination stage, there is an important distinction between the two disability programs. Recipients of either welfare disability alone, or a combination of welfare and social security disability, who receive notice of termination are entitled to full benefits pending an evidentiary hearing on the termination decision. Recipients of social security disability alone, however, are not entitled to full benefits, after receiving notice of termination, while awaiting an evidentiary hearing. The proffered reason for this procedural difference is that eligibility for social security disability is not based on financial need, whereas eligibility for either welfare disability or welfare and social security disability together is based on financial need.
The complaint charges that while recipients of welfare disability benefits or recipients of combined welfare and social security disability benefits continue to receive benefits after notice of termination but before an evidentiary hearing, "needy" recipients of social security disability alone who receive notice of termination do not receive similar continuation of benefits prior to an evidentiary hearing. For "needy" social security disability beneficiaries it is claimed that this practice violates equal protection.
A "needy" beneficiary is one whose income, after termination of social security disability benefits, would make him or her eligible for welfare disability. In other words, without their social security disability benefits, "needy" beneficiaries are, from a financial perspective, eligible for welfare disability. Because, however, the identical definition of disability is employed in the welfare disability and social security disability programs, a "needy" beneficiary whose social security disability benefits are terminated is ineligible for welfare disability.
Plaintiff Darby is a social security disability recipient who had her social security disability benefits terminated and then reinstated after an evidentiary hearing held this past July 1982.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services has moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and plaintiff lacks standing. The ...