Jimenez v. Weinberger - 417 U.S. 628 (1974)


U.S. Supreme Court

Jimenez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628 (1974)

Jimenez v. Weinberger

No. 72-6609

Argued March 18, 1974

Decided June 19, 1974

417 U.S. 628

Syllabus

Under the Social Security Act, illegitimate children are deemed entitled to disability insurance benefits without any showing that they are, in fact, dependent upon their disabled parent if state law permits them to inherit from the wage-earner parent; if their illegitimacy results solely from formal, nonobvious defects in their parents' ceremonial marriage; or if they are legitimated in accordance with state law. An illegitimate child unable to meet any of the foregoing conditions can qualify only if the disabled wage-earner parent contributed to the child's support or lived with him prior to the parent's disability, 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(3)(B); if the child is unable to meet any of the foregoing conditions, the statute bars the child's benefits without any opportunity to establish entitlement thereto. Ramon Jimenez, a resident of Illinois (which does not allow nonlegitimated illegitimate children to inherit from their father), is a wage earner covered by the Act who became entitled to disability benefits in October, 1963. Thereafter, Jimenez applied for insurance benefits for appellants, two of his nonlegitimated illegitimate children who were born after the onset of disability. The claims were denied since the children did not meet the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(3)(B) or the other qualifying provisions of the Act. Appellants brought this action for review of the denial of benefits. A three-judge District Court upheld the statutory classification as being rationally related to the proper governmental interest of avoiding spurious claims.

Held: Title 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(3)(B), as part of the statutory scheme applicable to illegitimates, contravenes the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the equal protection of the laws guaranteed thereby. Pp. 417 U. S. 631-638.

(a) "[T]he Equal Protection Clause [is violated by] discriminatory

Page 417 U. S. 629

laws relating to status of birth where . . . the classification is justified by no legitimate state interest, compelling or otherwise." Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 406 U. S. 164, 406 U. S. 176. Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U. S. 471, distinguished. Pp. 417 U. S. 631-634.

(b) The primary purpose of the contested provision of the Act is to provide support for dependents of a disabled wage earner and is not, as appellee contends, to replace only that support actually enjoyed before the onset of disability. Pp. 417 U. S. 634-635.

(c) The complete statutory bar to disability benefits imposed upon nonlegitimated after-born illegitimates in appellants' position, is not reasonably related to the valid governmental interest of preventing spurious claims. The potential for spurious claims is the same as to both. Even if children might rationally be classified on the basis of whether they are dependent upon their disabled parents, the Act's definition of two subclasses of illegitimates is "overinclusive" in that it benefits some children who are legitimated, or entitled to inherit, or illegitimate solely because of a defect in the marriage of their parents, but who are not dependent on their disabled parent. Conversely, the Act is "underinclusive" in that it conclusively excludes some illegitimates in appellants' subclass who are, in fact, dependent upon their disabled parent. Pp. 417 U. S. 635-637.

(d) The judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to provide appellants an opportunity to establish their claim to eligibility as "children" of the claimant eligible for benefits under the Act. Pp. 417 U. S. 637-638.

353 F.Supp. 1356, vacated and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 417 U. S. 638.

Page 417 U. S. 630



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