Sullivan v. Zebley

LOCATION:Doby’s Motel Court

DOCKET NO.: 88-1377
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 493 US 521 (1990)
ARGUED: Nov 28, 1989
DECIDED: Feb 20, 1990

Edwin S. Kneedler – on behalf of the Petitioner
Richard P. Weishaupt – on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Sullivan v. Zebley

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 28, 1989 in Sullivan v. Zebley

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – February 20, 1990 in Sullivan v. Zebley

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 88-1377, Sullivan against Zebley will be announced by Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This case is here from the Third Circuit, concerns supplemental security income benefits for children.

The Social Security Act authorizes this for a child who suffers from an impairment of “comparable severity” to one that would render an adult disabled.

An adult is disabled if he is prevented from engaging in any substantial gainful activity.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services has created a five-step test to determine adult disability that the third step, a claimant may be found to be disabled if medical evidence matches or is equal to anyone of at number of listed impairments.

If this does not work for the adult claimant, he still may qualify at the fourth and fifth steps.

In contrast, the Secretary’s test for a child claimant ends with what he equates to the adult’s third step.

The respondent child here was denied benefits and brought a class action challenging the child disability regulations.

The District Court granted summary judgment for the Secretary.

The Court of Appeals vacated that judgment for it found the regulatory scheme inconsistent with the Act.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we agree that the child disability regulations are inconsistent with the statutory statement of comparable severity and we affirm the Court of Appeals judgment.

Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion and is joined therein by the Chief Justice.