SSR 83-42a: SECTION 202(a) (42 U.S.C. 402(a)) OLD-AGE INSURANCE BENEFITS -- FIRST MONTH OF ENTITLEMENT

20 CFR 404.311

SSR 83-42a

When the claimant, who was born on September 10, 1919 applied for old-age insurance benefits (OAIB) in June 1981, he stated that he would retire at the end of August 1981. In accordance with section 202(a) of the Social Security Act (the Act), the Social Security Administration (SSA) notified the claimant, in July 1981, that he was entitled to OAIB effective September 1981, the month in which he attained age 62. In August 1981, Public Law 97-35 amended section 202(a) of the Act to provide that the first month of entitlement to OAIB, for an individual who attains age 62 after August 1981, can be no earlier than the first month throughout which he or she is age 62. In October 1981, therefore, SSA notified the claimant that his first month of entitlement to OAIB was not September but October 1981. The claimant appealed, contending that if he had known about the change in the law he would have continued working until the end of September 1981. An administrative law judge (ALJ) found that the claimant had relied on the July 1981 notice of his entitlement when he retired at the end of August 1981 and that to deny him benefits for September 1981 would be against "equity and good conscience." The Appeals Council (AC) found, however, that there is no statutory or regulatory basis for paying benefits based on "equity and good conscience" and that to pay the claimant a benefit for September 1981 would be in violation of section 202(a) of the Act. Consequently, the AC held that the claimant's first month of entitlement to OAIB was October 1981.

The issue in this case is the claimant's first month of entitlement to OAIB.

The claimant, who was born on September 10, 1919, applied for OAIB on June 2, 1981. On his application, he stated that he would retire at the end of August 1981. On July 16, 1981, SSA notified the claimant that he was entitled to OAIB effective September 1981, the month in which he would attain age 62. On October 20, 1981, SSA notified him that his first month of entitlement to OAIB was not September but October 1981, because of a change in the law. The claimant appealed, contending that he would have continued working until the end of September 1981 if he had known about the change in the law. An ALJ found that the claimant had relied on the July 1981 notice when he retired at the end of August 1981 and that to deny him benefits for September 1981 would be against "equity and good conscience." Therefore, the ALJ decided that the claimant was entitled to benefits for September 1981.

When the claimant filed his application for OAIB, section 202(a) of the Act provided, in pertinent part, that --

"Every individual who --
(1) is a fully insured individual (as defined in section 214(a)),
(2) has attained age 62, and
(3) has filed application for old-age insurance benefits or was entitled to disability insurance benefits for the month preceding the month in which he attained the age of 65, shall be entitled to an old-age insurance benefit for each month, beginning with the first month after August 1950 in which such individual becomes so entitled to such insurance benefits and ending with the month preceding the month in which he dies."

On August 13, 1981, Public Law 97-35 amended section 202(a) of the Act to provide that the first month of entitlement to OAIB, for an individual who attains age 62 after August 1981, can be no earlier than the first month "throughout which" he or she is age 62. Therefore, the AC found that to pay the claimant benefits for September 1981 would be contrary to the clear meaning of the statute. "Equity and good conscience" is defined in ยง 404.509 of Regulations No. 4 and applies only to waiver of recovery of an overpayment. Therefore, the AC found that there is no statutory or regulatory basis for paying benefits based on "equity and good conscience." Consequently, the AC concluded that the claimant's first month of entitlement to OAIB was October 1981.


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