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Johnson v. Weinberger

October 29, 1975

PEARL R. JOHNSON, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
CASPAR WEINBERGER, SECRETARY OF HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WELFARE, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division; No. 73 C 1290 WILLIAM J. BAUER, Judge.

Fairchild, Chief Judge, Hastings, Senior Circuit Judge, and Campbell, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Hastings

HASTINGS, Senior Circuit Judge

We are basically concerned with the appeal of Pearl R. Johnson in which she claims that she was improperly denied certain benefits under relevant sections of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 402 and 423.

Appellant was born December 13, 1913, and presently resides in Elmhurst, Illinois. She was married to Steve A. Johnson July 13, 1946, and was divorced from him October 25, 1947. One son, Steven G. Johnson, was born during this marriage, September 15, 1946. The parties continued to live together after the divorce and another son, Keith K. Johnson, was born to them October 6, 1949. Steve Johnson made some contributions for the support of appellant and their sons and also maintained another household with several children from a prior marriage until he was killed in an airplane crash October 4, 1958. After Steve Johnson's death appellant applied for and eventually received survivor benefits on behalf of her two sons.

At the time of the divorce proceedings, appellant waived her right to alimony. She received $1,900 in cash and certain real estate which she subsequently used as her residence and as income producing property. She paid the expense of the divorce proceeding and outstanding debts of $569. Her husband was ordered to make monthly payments for the support and education of their minor child, Steven.

Following the death of her former husband, appellant received a settlement of $6,000 from his estate in a suit she brought against the estate alleging breach of contract to make a will, and a further sum of $4,000 which was to be paid in monthly payments for the support of the two minor sons. The estate also paid promissory notes cosigned by appellant and Steve Johnson. A whiplash injury to appellant in 1966 resulted in payment to her in 1970 of $7,000. She currently receives disability payments from the State of Illinois.

Appellant Pearl R. Johnson was 59 years of age in 1973. She had a sixth grade education and attended night school. She had worked in a supervisory job at Douglas Aircraft Company during World War II. She worked as a practical nurse in the 1930's. During the period 1961 through July 1967, she was employed as a domestic or housekeeper in private households, performing the usual tasks of that position. She stopped working in 1967 but continued to perform her own cooking and household duties. She did her own shopping, drove her car and her motor boat, and went fishing and boating.

Appellant's medically documented history as shown in the record reveals that she suffered spontaneous pneumothorax and collapse of the right lung in 1958, which was corrected by surgery. She may have had a similar occurrence in 1949. Her attending physician in 1958 stated that in 1959 he had indicated to the Illinois Public Aid Department that she should refrain from any work involving physical strain because of the prior lung collapses. He repeated this information to the state department on March 12, 1970. Another doctor reported to the department on February 12, 1971, that appellant came to see him in September 1970 regarding a foot injury and that on December 14, 1970, he diagnosed her condition as emphysema, angina pectoris and hypertension, and prescribed a low salt diet and medication to reduce her blood pressure. No clinical data was submitted by him in support of his diagnosis of angina pectoris or of emphysema. No medical or clinical data exists in the record on the 1966 whiplash injury. Other medical documentation was based on examination after appellant's subsequently determined disability date of March 9, 1971.

I.

Appellant filed an application on October 16, 1958, for surviving child insurance benefits on behalf of her two sons. Subsequently, the application was allowed for both children, and it is no longer an issue in this matter.

The administrative proceedings from this point on become a bit confusing and ambiguous because of the interchange of applications filed and the considerations thereof. However, as relevant to the issues on this appeal, the following is a realistic appraisal of the administrative record.

On November 5, 1965, appellant filed for survivor benefits on her own account. This claim was treated as a surviving divorced wife claim and was initially disallowed because appellant did not meet the statutory definition of a surviving divorced wife. Under 42 U.S.C. § 416 (d) (2), the term "surviving divorced wife" means a woman divorced from an individual who had died, but only if she had been married to that individual for a period of 20 years immediately before the divorce became effective. Appellant was so notified on January 7, 1966.

Reconsideration of this claim was granted on the additional grounds that appellant was the mother of Steve Johnson's two minor sons and that she had received support from him prior to his death. Upon reconsideration, her claim was treated as one for surviving divorced mother benefits. Although appellant came within the definition of a "surviving divorced mother," as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 416 (d) (3), her claim was again disallowed because she did not meet the support requirements of the then applicable statute, 42 U.S.C. § 402 (g) (1) (F). These requirements were that claimant had been receiving at least one-half of her support from the deceased worker, or had been receiving substantial contributions from him pursuant to a written agreement or that there have been a court order in effect for substantial contributions from him at the time of his death. Appellant was ...


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