January 23, 2022

Security guard loses social security dispute at Supreme Court (1)

The US Supreme Court sided with the federal government in its dispute with a member of the National Guard over retirement benefits for so-called dual-status workers who qualify as both civilian and military employees.

The judges ruled 8-1 on Thursday that so-called dual-status workers, unlike uniformed service workers, are not exempt from a rule that reduces Social Security benefits for government employees who qualify for other federal retirement programs. Circuit courts were divided on the question.

The ruling is unlikely to have significant implications, as the government told judges it would only apply to certain dual-status technicians hired between 1968 and 1984.

“The dispute is narrow,” Judge Amy Comey Barrett wrote in her advice to the court.

David Babcock, a longtime member of the National Guard, served as a military technician, a hybrid position that required him to wear a uniform even though he was classified as a civilian. Babcock was deployed to Iraq on active duty during that job.

As a result of the court ruling, Babcock’s Social Security benefits will be cut by about $100 per month.

Only Judge Neil Gorsuch disagreed. “As the sole dissident on this narrow issue of legal interpretation, I confess that I have trepidation,” he wrote in his dissent. “However, I cannot help but find the arguments presented for us by the petitioner convincing.

The case is Babcock v. Kijakazi, USA, No. 20-480

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