FACT CHECK; Jolly Was Correct about Social Security

Article excerpt

Byline: Carole Fader

Times-Union readers want to know:

In a debate between Alex Sink and David Jolly before the special election for Florida's 13th Congressional District, Jolly said that Social Security isn't guaranteed according to the Supreme Court. Is that true?

PolitiFact.com, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-finding project of the Tampa Bay Times, looked into the law books to see how courts have ruled on Social Security.

A case referenced by Jolly in the debate was Flemming vs. Nestor, a 1960 case about Bulgarian immigrant Ephram Nestor who was deported in 1956 for having been a member of the Communist Party between 1933 and 1939. Nestor was not a citizen, but had been in the United States since 1913, PolitiFact.com reported.

Nestor paid into Social Security for 19 years before he retired in 1955. When he was deported, his benefits were terminated under amended provisions of the Social Security Act of 1935.

Nestor sued the federal government, specifically Arthur S. Flemming, the secretary of health, education and welfare during President Dwight Eisenhower's administration.

The suit claimed that the benefits constituted a contract and that Nestor should receive them after so many years of contributing to the system.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that there was no contractual obligation for the government to pay Social Security benefits to Nestor. The ruling meant payments into the Social Security system could not be considered a person's property rights if that person violated a rule set forth by Congress, UCLA law professor Katherine Stone told PolitiFact.com Florida.

In Nestor's case, Congress had made rules against belonging to the Communist Party (even though the law didn't exist when Nestor actually was in the party). …