The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert D. Morgan, District Judge.
This cause arose upon a complaint to review a final decision of
the defendant, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare,
denying plaintiff's claim for old-age social security benefits.
It is now before the Court upon cross motions of the respective
parties for summary judgment.
Plaintiff's claim of her entitlement to benefits rested upon
the payment of FICA taxes for her account upon moneys which she
received from three of her brothers in the years 1964 to 1967,
inclusive. She filed her claim on January 4, 1966.*fn1 That
claim, and a subsequent request by plaintiff for redetermination,
were both denied by the Secretary. That denial was based upon the
Secretary's determination that no valid employer-employee
relationship had existed between plaintiff and her brothers, and
that, therefore, she was not an insured individual within the
meaning of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 410(a).
Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing to review that
determination. Plaintiff and a brother, David Brashear, were the
only witnesses who testified before the hearing examiner upon the
ensuing hearing. Documentary evidence, received and incorporated
in the record by the examiner, included Domestic Service
Questionnaires signed by plaintiff and a second brother, Paul
Brashear, on January 4, 1966.
On April 21, 1967, the hearing examiner issued his decision
finding that a valid employer-employee relationship had existed
between plaintiff and her brothers, that plaintiff was a fully
insured individual within the meaning of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 410(a),
and that she was entitled to the benefits claimed,
effective as of April 1, 1967.
Upon its own motion, the Appeals Council of the Social Security
Administration reviewed the decision of the hearing examiner. On
July 28, 1967, the Council issued its decision, reversing the
hearing examiner, upon its findings that no bona fide
employer-employee relationship had existed, that plaintiff had
received no "wages" for social security purposes, and that she
was not entitled to receive the benefits which she claimed.
That decision became the final decision of the Secretary which
is now before this court for review. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The Court's review is subject to the established rule that the
decision of the agency must be sustained if it is supported by
substantial evidence. Brunenkant v. Celebrezze, 7 Cir.,
310 F.2d 355, cert. denied 373 U.S. 921, 83 S.Ct. 1522, 10 L.Ed.2d 421;
Carqueville v. Folsom, 7 Cir., 263 F.2d 875.
There is no dispute in the material facts.
Plaintiff and her husband were separated in 1936, and were
never thereafter reconciled. Plaintiff was left with an infant
daughter to support.
Plaintiff obtained employment as a housekeeper as a means of
supporting herself and her child. She worked for various
non-related families in, among other places, Peoria and Colfax,
Illinois. In 1938, or 1939, the critical time here involved,
plaintiff was, and had for some time been, working as a
housekeeper for a family at Colfax. She resided in the home and
received compensation of $4.00 or $5.00 per week for her
services, plus room and board for herself and her child.
Plaintiff had three bachelor brothers who rented and farmed
some 500 acres of land near Pontiac, Illinois. Until the late
1930's their mother lived with them and kept house for them. By
the latter time, the mother was elderly and in ill health. In
either 1938 or 1939 the brothers asked plaintiff to leave her
employment at Colfax and work as a housekeeper for them. She did
so. Until the mother's death in 1946, plaintiff assisted with the
housekeeping. Thereafter, she continued to live with the brothers
and to keep house for them until the time of the hearing before
the hearing examiner.
The initial arrangement between plaintiff and her brothers
provided for no specific cash remuneration to plaintiff for her
housekeeping services. The brothers agreed to provide room and
board for plaintiff and her child, to provide all of the
necessities for them, and to provide for the child's education.
The brothers paid the household bills. As the need arose, they
gave plaintiff money to buy clothing and other things necessary
for her own and her child's welfare. They paid the expenses of a
high school education for the child and continued ...