Guard Member Loses Supreme Court Social Security Dispute (1)

Jan. 13, 2022, 3:08 PMUpdated: Jan. 13, 2022, 3:39 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the federal government in its dispute with a National Guard member over retirement benefits for so-called dual status workers categorized as both civilian and military employees.

The justices on Thursday ruled 8-1 that so-called dual-status workers are, unlike uniformed service members, not exempt from a rule that lowers Social Security benefits for government workers eligible for other federal retirement programs. Circuit courts were split on the question.

The ruling won’t likely have sweeping impacts, as the government told the justices it would only apply to certain dual status technicians hired between 1968 and 1984.

“The dispute is narrow,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote in her opinion for the court.

Longtime National Guard member David Babcock served as a military technician, a hybrid position that required him to wear a uniform even though he was classified as a civilian. Babcock was deployed to Iraq on active duty while in that job.

Babcock’s Social Security benefits are reduced by about $100 per month as a result of the court’s ruling.

Only Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented. “As the only dissenter on this narrow question of statutory interpretation, I confess trepidation,” he wrote in his dissent. “Still, I cannot help but find compelling the arguments advanced by the petitioner before us.

The case is Babcock v. Kijakazi, U.S., No. 20-480

(Updates with details from opinion.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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