Heckler v. Day - 467 U.S. 104 (1984)
U.S. Supreme Court
Heckler v. Day, 467 U.S. 104 (1984)
Heckler v. Day
Argued December 5, 1983
Decided May 22, 1984
467 U.S. 104
The Social Security Act (Act) and implementing regulations provide a four-step process for the administrative review and adjudication of disputed disability benefit claims under Title II of the Act. First, a state agency determines whether the claimant has a disability and the date it began or ceased. Second, if the claimant is dissatisfied with that determination, he may request a de novo reconsideration, and in some cases a full evidentiary hearing. Third, if the claimant receives an adverse reconsideration determination, he is entitled to an evidentiary hearing and de novo review by an administrative law judge. Finally, if the claimant is dissatisfied with the administrative law judge's decision, he may appeal to the Appeals Council of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Respondents brought an action in Federal District Court on behalf of a statewide class of claimants in Vermont, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from delays encountered in steps two and three that allegedly violated their right under 42 U.S.C. § 405(b) (1976 ed., Supp. V) to a hearing within a reasonable time. Holding that delays of more than 90 days in making reconsideration determinations, and delays of more than 90 days in granting a hearing request, were unreasonable and violated claimants' statutory rights, the District Court issued an injunction in favor of the statewide class requiring the Secretary of HHS in the future to issue reconsideration determinations within 90 days of requests for reconsideration, to conduct hearings within 90 days of requests for hearings, and to pay interim benefits to any claimant who did not receive a reconsideration determination or hearing within 180 days of the request for reconsideration or who did not receive a hearing within 90 days of the hearing request. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: The District Court's injunction constituted an unwarranted judicial intrusion into the pervasively regulated area of claims adjudication under Title II. The legislative history shows that Congress, in striking the balance between the need for timely disability determinations and the need to ensure the accuracy and consistency of such determinations in the face of heavy workloads and limited agency resources, has concluded that mandatory deadlines for adjudication of disputed disability
claims are inconsistent with the Act's primary objectives. In light of Congress' continuing concern that mandatory deadlines would subordinate quality to timeliness, and its recent efforts to ensure the quality of agency determinations, it hardly could have been contemplated that courts should have authority to impose judicially the very deadlines Congress repeatedly has rejected. Pp. 467 U. S. 111-118.
685 F.2d 19, vacated and remanded.
POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 467 U. S. 120.