Both the Social Security Act and the statute setting forth eligibility for Medicare, Part A, read “shall be entitled.”  They are identical. 

There is absolutely nothing in the Social Security Act or the Medicare Act making Social Security benefits dependent upon enrollment in Medicare, Part A.  There is nothing in the Social Security Act that, in any way, indicates that a Social Security beneficiary will somehow be divested of those benefits if he fails to accept or otherwise seeks to “disenroll” from Medicare, Part A.  But through its Programs Operations Manual System (POMS), the Social Security Administration has begun requiring those who choose to opt out of Medicare to reimburse any Social Security benefits they have received, declaring them ineligible to receive their  monthly Social Security benefits.

Last week, a federal judge agreed, holding that because those receiving social security benefits are also “entitled” to begin receiving Medicare, if they fail to accept Medicare or otherwise seek to decline it, they somehow forfeit all of their social security benefits (which they paid into their whole life).   Again, nothing in either the Social Security Act or the Medicare Act justifies this result.  At bottom, the judge essentially ruled that the word “entitled” means “required to obtain.”

Interestingly, in September 2009, the same judge denied the Government’s Motion to Dismiss and asserted in a lengthy memorandum that the statutes were totally voluntary and that the agency’s POMS formed a completely independent and conflicting set of rules which harmed the Plaintiffs and were subject to judicial review.  Up until the most recent opinion was rendered, Judge Collyer repeatedly asserted the same conclusions in written opinions and orally in Court.  She did so as late as oral argument on November 18, 2010.  What happened is anybody’s guess.  

Perhaps she learned something from a fellow judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who recently held in a challenge to the ObamaCare law’s individual insurance mandate that “inactivity” in fact means “activity.” Have our federal courts entered the world of Alice in Wonderland, where judges emulate Humpty Dumpty, who told Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I chose it to mean”?