Appeal from a judgment and order of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, Curtin, J., declaring that Sections 2092(2)(b) and 209(3)(b) of the New York State Social Services Law are contrary to 20 C.F.R. § 416.2030(b) and therefore void insofar as they require a reduction of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for recipients residing solely with their minor children below the level for SSI recipients "living alone." Reversed.
Before Mulligan, Van Graafeiland and Meskill, Circuit Judges.
Appellee Samuel Termini, an elderly man living with his two minor children, brought this lawsuit to challenge a determination of the Social Security Administration (SSA) classifying him under N.Y.Soc.Serv.Law § 209(3) as "living with others," rather than "living alone." The United States District Court for the Western District of New York reversed the SSA's determination, holding that the statutory classification as applied to Mr. Termini violated 20 C.F.R. § 416.2030(b).*fn1 The district court also ordered HEW to notify all local SSA offices in New York State of its decision. Defendant Blum has appealed. We reverse.
The Supplemental Security Income program was added to the Social Security Act in 1972. See Pub.L.No.92-603, (codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383c). The program provides benefits to aged, blind, and disabled individuals who have income and resources below certain statutory amounts. 42 U.S.C. § 1382. The statute establishes two benefit levels, one for eligible individuals and one for eligible spouses. Id. § 1382(b). Benefits are reduced by the amount of the recipient's actual, nonexcludable income.
States are encouraged to provide supplementary assistance to recipients of federal SSI benefits. Id. § 1382e(a). These state supplements may be administered by either the State or the Federal Government. However, because the Federal Government bears the administrative costs if federal administration is elected, Id. § 1382e(b), virtually all state supplements are administered by the SSA. A State that chooses federal administration of its optional supplements must agree to abide by HEW regulations respecting eligibility for or amount of supplementary payments, Id. § 1382e(b)(2), one such regulation being 20 C.F.R. § 416.2030(a)(2).
On November 30, 1973, New York State entered into an agreement with HEW providing for federal administration of New York's optional supplementary benefits. The agreement established five benefit levels based on different living arrangements, including one payment level for recipients "living alone" and a lower level for recipients "living with others." N.Y.Soc.Serv.Law § 209(2). "Living alone" is defined as "living in a private household composed of one eligible individual or one eligible couple." Id. § 209(3)(a). "Living with others" is defined as follows:
"(b) "Living with others' shall mean living in a private household composed of an eligible individual or couple and at least one other person; or, with respect to any child who is not the head of a household and who is under the age of eighteen, or under the age of twenty-two if attending school, any living arrangement." Id. § 209(3)(b).
Mr. Termini, seventy-six years of age, resided in Cattaraugus County, New York, with his two minor children, aged fourteenth and sixteen. His income consisted of social security retirement benefits, a small civil service pension, and his SSI benefits. The SSI program provided him with monthly payments in an amount equal to the difference between his income from non-SSI sources and $205.98, the standard of need established by state law for those "living with others." See N.Y.Soc.Serv.Law § 209(2)(b). Mr. Termini's eligibility for SSI payments also entitled him to medicaid coverage, emergency assistance coverage, and the exclusion of his income when determining his children's eligibility for the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. 42 U.S.C. §§ 602(a)(24), 1396a(10); N.Y.Soc.Serv.Law § 300. Appellee's children received a total of $105 per month in AFDC benefits, plus social security benefits of $50.20 per month.*fn2
On July 1, 1977, Mr. Termini received a cost-of-living increase in his social security benefits that increased his monthly non-SSI income to $206.11. Because this income then exceeded by 13 cents the SSI standard of need for recipients "living with others," the SSA notified Mr. Termini that he was no longer eligible for SSI. As a result, the Termini family's income was reduced substantially. Although the cost-of-living increase more than offset the lost SSI cash payments, the household's AFDC grant fell to $10.20 per month because appellee's income was no longer excluded in calculating his children's eligibility for AFDC.
Mr. Termini appealed the SSA's determination through the administrative appeals process provided by statute, but without success. He then sought judicial review under 42 ...