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4th Circuit says posthumously conceived child can’t get benefits

BOSTON — A child conceived through in vitro fertilization six years after her father’s death is not entitled to survivors’ benefits under the Social Security Act, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in affirming judgment.

The plaintiff’s husband deposited sperm samples with a long-term storage facility before his death in 1993. The couple’s daughter was conceived through in vitro fertilization in 1999 and born in 2000.

The plaintiff subsequently applied for surviving child benefits on behalf of her daughter.

The Social Security Administration denied the claim, concluding that the daughter was not a “child” for purposes of the Social Security Act because she could not inherit from her father under state intestacy law.

The 4th Circuit decided that the denial of benefits should be upheld, explaining that “the agency’s view best reflects the statute’s text, structure, and aim of providing benefits primarily to those who unexpectedly lose a wage earner’s support. And even if the agency’s interpretation were not the only reasonable one, it falls well within the range of permissible readings entitled to deference under Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984).”

The case is Schafer v. Astrue, No. 10-1500, filed April 12, 2011.