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Supreme Court hears case on Social Security benefits for select retired National Guard employees

Babcock v. Kijakazi arguments wrapped up Wednesday in the nation’s highest court, with a decision still to be finalized.
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 3:56 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The legal battle over Social Security benefits for some former military employees is now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wednesday morning, the court’s justices heard arguments from attorneys for the retired Michigan National Guardsman bringing the case, David Babcock, and the federal government.

At the center of this case is whether some former civilian employees of the military, who also served in a military role, are entitled to the same benefits as full-time military personal.

Lawyers for Babcock argued their client should be receiving full social security benefits, but right now those benefits being reduced because of a pension he also receives.

Counsel for the petitioner, Neal Katyal, told the justices, “He [Babcock] wore the U.S. Army uniform day in, day out, teaching people how to fly Blackhawk helicopters and the like.”

Nicole Frazer Reaves, Assistant to the Solicitor General argued for the government. She said the law is clear that a waiver, which gives some former uniformed military members access to full social security benefits, does not apply to people like Babcock.

Frazer Reaves said, “There are a lot of textual clues in the statute and in related statutes that indicate our reading is the better one.”

The military employs reservists in civilian roles, they’re referred to as dual-status technicians. Those who started working between 1968 and 1984 didn’t pay social security tax, instead they paid into a civil service pension.

It’s that group which this case could impact, and Frazer Reaves said that is around 50,000 people.

There are conflicting lower court rulings and lawyers for Babcock wrote in their filings that they set an uneven standard across the country. They argued had their client lived in Minnesota instead of Michigan, he would be receiving his full Social Security benefits because of the government’s response to the conflicting court rulings.

It’s unclear when the Supreme Court could issue its final ruling on this case.

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