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TREIRES v. FOLSOM

August 9, 1957

Helen I. TREIRES, Plaintiff,
v.
Marion B. FOLSOM, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MADDEN

This action is, in effect, an appeal from an administrative ruling by the Social Security Administration brought under Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g) to review a determination by that body that the widow, plaintiff here, Helen I. Treires, was not entitled to monthly benefits as the widow of Louis J. Treires, sometimes known as Louis J. Herman, and hereinafter referred to as the husband or wage earner, because the plaintiff was not 'living with' him at the time of his death, as required by the Act.

A stipulation of facts has been entered of record by both plaintiff and defendant and both have moved for summary judgment thereon and filed briefs in support thereof. There is only one question for determination by the court: i.e., Was there substantial evidence to support the finding of fact and the legal conclusion that the plaintiff-widow was not living with the husband at the time of his death under the provisions of the Act as interpreted by the cases?

 Before beginning a review of the facts it might be well to point out the particular section of the Act involved, namely, Section 216(h)(2) (42 U.S.C.A. § 416(h)(2)) which provides, as follows:

 'A wife shall be deemed to be living with her husband if they are both members of the same household, or she is receiving regular contributions from him toward her support, or he has been ordered by any court to contribute to her support; and a widow shall be deemed to have been living with her husband at the time of his death if they were both members of the same household on the date of his death or she was receiving regular contributions from him toward her support on such date or he had been ordered by any court to contribute to her support.'

 The plaintiff here admits that she does not come within the provisions of the Act that she was physically living in the same household or that he was actually contributing regularly to her support but rests her argument solely upon the claim that she comes within the provisions and interpretation of, 'he had been ordered by any court to contribute to her support.'

 The facts briefly stated are: plaintiff and wage earner were married October 12, 1952; October 10, 1953, a son, John Louis, was born. Plaintiff and husband lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania until November 11, 1954 at which time, at the direction of the husband, plaintiff left their home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with the child and went to reside with her parents at Vineland, New Jersey. Thereafter the husband refused to contribute to the support of either plaintiff-wife or the child.

 Around the middle of February, 1955 plaintiff here filed suit for absolute divorce in the County Courts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania alleging residence in Philadelphia and setting forth her grounds, i.e., indignities to the person. The suit did not seek support, maintenance or alimony. No responsive pleading was filed by the husband and during the pendency of the divorce proceedings the husband died April 21, 1955 at Philadelphia. Plaintiff has not remarried and has taken all necessary administrative steps to process her application and claim and review thereon (an award was granted for benefits of the child, John Louis, but is not involved in this matter).

 The position of plaintiff is clearly set forth in paragraph 10 of the Stipulation:

 '10. Although the deceased wage earner, Louis J. Treires, was not under a court order to contribute to the support of the plaintiff at the time of his decease, the right of the plaintiff to seek an order for alimony and support would have continued up to the time of the hearing for divorce and for three months thereafter, and by reason of the death of the deceased wage earner, Louis J. Treires, plaintiff was prevented from filing such petition for alimony and support for her.'

 It has been said so often that it should not need repeating, that the findings of the Administrator as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. Ferenz v. Folsom, 3 Cir., 1956, 237 F.2d 46; Livingstone v. Folsom, 3 Cir., 1956, 234 F.2d 75; and more recently Goldman v. Folsom, 3 Cir., 246 F.2d 776, opinion by Judge Kalodner, wherein it was said:

 'Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended provides:

 "* * * The findings of the Administrator as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive * * *'

 'By virtue of the provisions of the section cited as well as the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C.A. § 1001 et seq.) we are charged with the duty of ascertaining whether on the record as a whole there is substantial evidence to support the Secretary's findings of fact. Ferenz v. Folsom, 3 Cir., 1956, 237 F.2d 46.

 'In discharging that duty we must keep in mind, as adjured by the Supreme Court, that 'courts must now assume more responsibility for the reasonableness and fairness' of decisions of federal agencies 'than some courts have shown in the past' and 'Reviewing courts must be influenced by a feeling that they are not to abdicate the conventional judicial function.' Universal Camera ...


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