On Monday August 29, 2011 the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit decided Beeler v. Astrue, No 10-1092. In that case, Bruce Beeler was diagnosed with leukemia a few months before his planned wedding to Patti Beeler. Learning that his upcoming chemotherapy treatments could cause sterility, he banked semen at a fertility clinic. Bruce later learned that chemotherapy would not effectively treat his cancer, and Bruce and Patti moved up their wedding date. One month after their wedding Bruce learned that he was not likely to survive cancer even with a bone marrow transplant. Bruce still desired to have Patti have his children, and he signed a form bequeathing his semen to Patti and expressing his desire that she be artificially inseminated with his sperm. The form provided that Bruce agreed to accept and acknowledge paternity and child support responsibility for any resulting child.
Bruce died 4 months later. Patti did not conceive a child with Bruce’s semen until a little over a year after Bruce’s death. Their child was born just a few days short of the two-year anniversary of Bruce’s death.
Patti applied for social security benefits for their child. The district court granted the benefits, but the 8th Circuit reversed. The Court stated:
The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) interprets the Act to provide that a natural child of the decedent is not entitled to benefits unless she has inheritance rights under state law or can satisfy certain additional statutory requirements. We conclude that the Commissioner’s interpretation is, at a minimum, reasonable and entitled to deference, and that the relevant state law does not entitle the applicant in this case to benefits. We therefore reverse the district court’s contrary judgment.