SCOTUS: Social Security Overreach - and Clear Rules Urged from SCOTUS

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC: Today, Southeastern Legal Foundation filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Valent v. Saul, a case involving extraordinary government overreach. The Commissioner of Social Security imposed over $126,000 in sanctions against a disabled woman who did not report that she did unpaid volunteer work. The Commissioner reasoned that volunteering counted as “work activity” under the Social Security Act, and thus the woman was disqualified from receiving disability benefits.

This is just one instance of many where executive agencies interpret legislative statutes in a way that benefits them. Under the Supreme Court doctrine established in Chevron v. NRDC, courts must defer to these agency decisions if (1) the congressional statute is ambiguous and (2) the agency’s interpretation of the statute is reasonable. This doctrine violates separation of powers principles because it lets agencies engage in statutory interpretation—something that should solely be the role of the judiciary.

SLF supports overruling Chevron altogether. But if the Supreme Court does not overrule the doctrine, it should at least provide stricter guidelines to lower courts about how to interpret statutes. Without more guidance from the Supreme Court, lower courts will continue to accept agency interpretations unquestioningly, paving the way for even more expansive bureaucracy.

Click here for SCOTUS amicus brief

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