Califano v. Webster

430 U.S. 313 (1977)


The Social Security Act computed old-age insurance benefits on the basis of the wage earner's 'average monthly wage' earned during his 'benefit computation years' which are the 'elapsed years' (reduced by five) during which the wage earner's covered wages were highest. Until a 1972 amendment, 'elapsed years' depended upon the sex of the wage earner. This case started as a review under § 205(g) of the Social Security Act from a denial, after hearing, of appellee's request that a more favorable formula be used to compute his benefits. The court held that the statutory scheme violated equal protection in that to give women who reached age 62 before 1975 greater benefits than men of the same age and earnings was irrational, and that the 1972 amendment was to be construed to apply retroactively, because construing the amendment to give men who reach age 62 in 1975 or later the benefit of the 1972 amendments but to deny older men the same benefit would render the amendment irrational, and therefore unconstitutional.