LOCATION: C and P Telephone Baltimore Headquarters
DOCKET NO.: 77-1511
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CITATION: 442 US 682 (1979)
ARGUED: Mar 19, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1979
Peter Buscemi - for petitioner, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court
Stanley E. Levin - for respondents
Facts of the case
Media for Califano v. Yamasaki
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 19, 1979 in Califano v. Yamasaki
Warren E. Burger:
We'll hear arguments first this morning in 1511, Califano against Elliot.
Mr. Buscemi, you may proceed whenever you're ready.
Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.
This case involves a challenge to the procedures employed by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in recovering overpayments to the beneficiaries of social security, old age, survivors, and disability insurance.
The principal question presented is whether a beneficiary is entitled to an evidentiary hearing before, rather than after, his monthly benefits are reduced to recover a previous overpayment.
The case is here for the second time on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
In 1976, in response to the Secretary's petition for review, this Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded for reconsideration in light of the decision in Mathews against Eldridge.
The Court of Appeals adhered to its initial result and the Secretary, again, sought certiorari.
There were two suits consolidated in the Court of Appeals: One, from the Western District of Washington, Buffington case and, the other, from the District of Hawaii, Elliot.
Buffington is a nationwide class action on behalf of recipients of old age and survivors benefits.
Elliot is limited to persons living in Hawaii but it includes disability beneficiaries as well as old age beneficiaries.
The procedures attacked by respondents begin with the Secretary's determination that an overpayment has occurred.
In many cases, this determination is based on an annual earnings report filed by the beneficiary himself.
Other times, the initial determination is based on the Secretary's independent discovery of some administrative error or a fact or event that affects a recipient's continuing eligibility for benefits.
When the Secretary concludes that an overpayment has occurred, he notifies the beneficiary of his determination.
Respondents' complaints in the District Courts challenge the adequacy of the notice provided, and the District Courts ordered that the Secretary provide a more detailed information about the reasons for the overpayment and the availability of administrative review.
The Court of Appeals affirmed and the Secretary did not seek further review of this aspect of the Court's decision.
Instead, he has developed more elaborate notice forms that the Social Security Administration is now using in notifying beneficiaries that they've received overpayments.
There's apparently still some squabbling in the Court of Appeals over whether the new forms comply with the Court of Appeals' decision, but that question is not presented here.
What question, specifically, is not presented?
The question of the adequacy of the new notice forms that the Secretary has developed in response to the Court of Appeals' decision.
William H. Rehnquist:
Whether those forms comply with the Court of Appeals' decision.
Is a matter for the Court of--
-- appeals are now being controverted in the Court of Appeals.
The Secretary's notice informs the beneficiary of the date and the amount of the overpayment and the way in which it occurred.
The local Social Security officers are instructed to make sure that the explanation is kept in simple and non-technical terms.