The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the Social Security claim of a member of the National Guard who served as a technician with two statuses, categorized as both a civilian and a military employee.
The U.S. government had cut its retirement benefits by about $100 a month under a legal rule known as the “windfall provision,” which dictates that the benefits of retirees who receive payments from separate work-based pensions that are not subject to Social Security taxes , are reduced. Plaintiff David Babcock disputed the cut, citing an exception for pension payments “based entirely on service as a member of a uniformed service.”
The question before the Supreme Court was whether Babcock’s technician work was considered service “as” a member of the National Guard. The Court, denying this claim, reasoned that “as” is most naturally read as “[i]n the role, capacity or function of.” And the Social Security Act defines the role of a technician as a citizen. This classification is further supported by the legal context that does not subject technicians to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and gives them clear civil rights, such as seeking an appeal against workplace discrimination, collecting workers’ compensation and disability benefits, and compensatory free time for overtime. These rules make a consistent distinction between the employment of a technician and the service of the National Guard.
Further, the Court held that this distinction is true, even though Babcock has served with the National Guard in other capacities. His civil servant pension is not based on his military service, for which he received separate military retirement benefits, and which is exempt from the windfall elimination rule.
Judge Neil Gorsuch disagreed, opining that dual-status military technicians have “a unique position in federal employment” and because their job requires them to remain members of the National Guard, they serve the country and should be appointed as such. honored by the pension benefits owed.