In The

Supreme Court of the United States




Decided June 24, 1988

Justice O’Connor, For the Court


Schweiker v. Chilicky, 487 U.S. 412 (1988), was a United States Supreme Court decision that established limitations on implied causes of action. The Court determined that a cause of action would not be implied for the violation of rights where the U.S. Congress had already provided a remedy for the violation of rights at issue, even if the remedy was inadequate.

In this case, seriously disabled people were wrongfully being denied federal benefits (although, on appeal to an Administrative Law Judge, two-thirds had their payments restored). Although Congress provides for the return of back-pay, no provision is made for pain and suffering or other economic losses. The injured parties sued responsible agency personnel, under the theory that pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents they could allege a private right of action for deprivation of due process.

The Court examined whether Congress intended a private right of action under these circumstances, and concluded that if Congress has created a meaningful remedy – even if it is incomplete – then no Bivens-type remedy is available.

Topic: Economic Activity*Court vote: 6–3
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Holding: A condemned man can bypass the procedural bar on successive federal habeas corpus petitions if he shows that 'a constitutional violation has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent'.
Citation: 487 U.S. 412 Docket: 86–1781Audio: Listen to this case's oral arguments at Oyez

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JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case requires us to decide whether the improper denial of Social Security disability benefits, allegedly resulting from violations of due process by government officials who administered the Federal Social Security program, may give rise to a cause of action for money damages against those officials. We conclude that such a remedy, not having been included in the elaborate remedial scheme devised by Congress, is unavailable.



Under Title II of the Social Security Act (Act), the Federal Government provides disability benefits to individuals who have contributed to the Social Security program and who, because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, are unable to engage in substantial gainful work. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(a), (d) (1982 ed. and Supp. IV). A very similar program for disabled indigents is operated under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. (1982 ed. and Supp. IV), but those provisions are technically not at issue in this case. Title II, which is administered in conjunction with state welfare agencies, provides benefits only while an individual's statutory disability persists. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 421(a), 423(a)(1) (1982 ed. and Supp. IV). In 1980, Congress noted that existing administrative procedures provided for reexamination of eligibility "only under a limited number of circumstances." H.R.Conf.Rep. No. 96-944, p. 60 (1980); see also S.Rep. No. 96-408, pp. 60-61 (1979). Congress responded by enacting legislation requiring that most disability determinations be reviewed at least once every three years. Pub.L. 96-265, § 311(a), 94 Stat. 460, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 421(i) (1982 ed. and Supp. IV). Although the statute did not require this program for "continuing disability review" (CDR) to become effective before January 1, 1982, the Secretary of Health and Human Services initiated CDR in March, 1981. See Pub.L. 96-265, § 311(b), 94 Stat. 460, note following 42 U.S.C. § 421; Brief for Petitioners 10.

The administration of the CDR program was at first modeled on the previous procedures for reexamination of eligibility. Under these procedures, an individual whose case is selected for review bears the burden of demonstrating the continuing existence of a statutory disability. The appropriate state agency performs the initial review, and persons who are found to have become ineligible are generally provided with administrative review similar to the review provided to new claimants. See 42 U.S.C. § 421(i) (1982 ed. and Supp. IV); Brief for Petitioners 10. Cf. Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U. S. 319, 424 U. S. 335 -339 (1976). Under the original CDR procedures, benefits were usually terminated after a state agency found a claimant ineligible, and were not available during administrative appeals. See H.R.Conf.Rep. No. 98-1039, p. 33 (1984).

Finding that benefits were too often being improperly terminated by state agencies, only to be reinstated by a federal administrative law judge (ALJ), Congress enacted temporary emergency legislation in 1983. This law provided for the continuation of benefits, pending review by an ALJ, after a state agency determined that an individual was no longer disabled. Pub.L. 97-455, § 2, 96 Stat. 2498; see also Pub.L. 98-118, § 2, 97 Stat. 803. In the Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984 (1984 Reform Act), Congress extended this provision until January 1, 1988, and provided for a number of other significant changes in the administration of CDR. Pub.L. 98-460, §§ 2, 7, 98 Stat. 1794-1796, 1803-1804, 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(f)-(g) (1982 ed. and Supp. IV). In its final form, this legislation was enacted without a single opposing vote in either Chamber. See 130 Cong.Rec. 26000, 26145-26146 (1984); see also id. at 6621; id. at 13247.

The problems to which Congress responded so emphatically were widespread. One of the cosponsors of the 1984 Reform Act, who had conducted hearings on the administration of CDR, summarized evidence from the General Accounting Office as follows:

[T]he message perceived by the State agencies, swamped with cases, was to deny, deny, deny, and, I might add, to process cases faster and faster and faster. In the name of efficiency, we have scanned our computer terminals, rounded up the disabled workers in the country, pushed the discharge button, and let them go into a free [f]all toward economic chaos.

Id. at 13218 (Sen. Cohen). Other legislators reached similar conclusions. See, e.g., id. at 13234 (Sen. Moynihan) ("[T]he Social Security Administration has tried to reduce program cost by terminating the benefits of hundreds of thousands of truly disabled Americans"); id. at 6583 (Rep. Rostenkowski) (alluding to "massive number of beneficiaries who have lost their benefits over the last 3 years even though they are truly disabled and unable to work"). Such conclusions were based, not only on anecdotal evidence, but on compellingly forceful statistics. The Social Security Administration itself apparently reported that about 200,000 persons were wrongfully terminated, and then reinstated, between March, 1981, and April, 1984. Id. at 25979 (Sen. Levin); see also id. at 25989 (Sen. Byrd); id. at 6588 (Rep. Conte). In the first year of CDR, half of those who were terminated appealed the decision, and "an amazing two-thirds of those who appealed were being reinstated." Id. at 25979 (Sen. Levin); see also id. at 25986 (Sen. Heinz); id. at 13244 (Sen. Glenn); S.Rep. No. 98-466, p. 18 (1984).

Congress was also made aware of the terrible effects on individual lives that CDR had produced. The chairman of the Senate's Special Committee on Aging pointed out that

[t]he human dimension of this crisis -the unnecessary suffering, anxiety, and turmoil -has been graphically exposed by dozens of congressional hearings and in newspaper articles all across the country.

130 Cong.Rec. 25986 (1984) (Sen. Heinz). Termination could also lead to the cut-off of Medicare benefits, so that some people were left without adequate medical care. Id. at 13321-13322 (Sen. Durenberger); see also id. at 6590 (Rep. Hammerschmidt). There is little doubt that CDR led to many hardships and injuries that could never be adequately compensated. See, e.g., id. at 6588-6589 (Rep. Regula).


Respondents are three individuals whose disability benefits under Title II were terminated pursuant to the CDR program in 1981 and 1982. Respondents Spencer Harris and Dora Adelerte appealed these determinations through the administrative process, were restored to disabled status, and were awarded full retroactive benefits. Respondent James Chilicky did not pursue these administrative remedies. Instead, he filed a new application for benefits about a year and a half after his benefits were stopped. His application was granted, and he was awarded one year's retroactive benefits; his application for the restoration of the other six months' benefits is apparently still pending. See Brief for Petitioners 18, and n. 13; Brief for Respondents 3. Because the terminations in these three cases occurred before the 1983 emergency legislation was enacted, respondents experienced delays of many months in receiving disability benefits to which they were entitled. All the respondents had been wholly dependent on their disability benefits, and all allege that they were unable to maintain themselves or their families in even a minimally adequate fashion after they were declared ineligible. Id. at 7-8. Respondent James Chilicky was in the hospital recovering from open-heart surgery when he was informed that his heart condition was no longer disabling. Id. at 7.

In addition to pursuing administrative remedies, respondents (along with several other individuals who have since withdrawn from the case) filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. They alleged that petitioners -one Arizona [ Footnote 1 ] and two federal officials who had policymaking roles in the administration of the CDR program -had violated respondents' due process rights. The thrust of the complaint, which named petitioners in their official and individual capacities, was that petitioners had adopted illegal policies that led to the wrongful termination of benefits by state agencies. Among the allegations were claims that petitioners improperly accelerated the starting date of the CDR program; illegally refused to acquiesce in decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; failed to apply uniform written standards in implementing the CDR program; failed to give effect to dispositive evidence in particular cases; and used an impermissible quota system under which state agencies were required to terminate predetermined numbers of recipients. See 796 F.2d 1131, 1133-1134 (1986) (opinion below). Respondents sought injunctive and declaratory relief, and money damages for

emotional distress and for loss of food, shelter and other necessities proximately caused by [petitioners'] denial of benefits without due process.

Id. at 1134, n. 2.

The District Court dismissed the case on the ground that petitioners were protected by a qualified immunity. Their alleged conduct, the court concluded, did not violate " clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'" App. to Pet. for Cert. 16a (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U. S. 800, 457 U. S. 818 (1982)). Although the court discussed only the claims involving acceleration of the starting date for CDR and nonacquiescence in Ninth Circuit decisions, its qualified immunity holding apparently applied to respondents' other claims as well.

Respondents appealed, pressing only their claims for money damages against petitioners in their individual capacities. These claims, noted the Court of Appeals, are "predicated on the constitutional tort theory of Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U. S. 388... (1971)." 796 F.2d at 1134. Petitioners argued that the District Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the procedures set forth in 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which do not authorize judicial review in a case like this one, provide the exclusive means of judicial redress for actions "arising under" the relevant provisions of the Act. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, holding that subject matter jurisdiction existed because respondents' claims for emotional distress "arose under" the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, rather than under the statute. The Court of Appeals went on to affirm the District Court to the extent that it dismissed the claims involving acceleration of the CDR program and nonacquiescence in Ninth Circuit decisions. As to respondents' other claims, however, the Court of Appeals concluded that

[i]t cannot be determined as a matter of law that [respondents] could prove no state of facts... that resulted in violations of their due process rights and consequent damages.

796 F.2d at 1139. [ Footnote 2 ] The case was accordingly remanded for further proceedings, including a trial if necessary.

The petition for certiorari presented one question: "Whether a Bivens remedy should be implied for alleged due process violations in the denial of social security disability benefits." We granted the petition, 484 U.S. 814 (1987), and now reverse.



The Constitution provides that federal courts may be given original jurisdiction over

all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority.

U.S.Const., Art. III, §§ 1, 2. Since 1875, Congress has provided the federal trial courts with general jurisdiction over such cases. See Judiciary Act of March 3, 1875, § 1, 18 Stat. 470; 13B C. Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3561 (2d ed.1984); American Law Institute, Study of the Division of Jurisdiction between State and Federal Courts 162-163 (1969). The statute currently provides that the "district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

In 1971, this Court held that the victim of a Fourth Amendment violation by federal officers acting under color of their authority may bring suit for money damages against the officers in federal court. Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388. The Court noted that Congress had not specifically provided for such a remedy, and that

the Fourth Amendment does not in so many words provide for its enforcement by an award of money damages for the consequences of its violation.

Id. at 403 U. S. 396. Nevertheless, finding "no special factors counseling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress," and "no explicit congressional declaration" that money damages may not be awarded, the majority relied on the rule that

'where legal rights have been invaded, and a federal statute provides for a general right to sue for such invasion, federal courts may use any available remedy to make good the wrong done.'

Id. at 403 U. S. 396 -397 (quoting Bell v. Hood, 327 U. S. 678, 327 U. S. 684 (1946)).

So-called " Bivens actions" for money damages against federal officers have subsequently been permitted under § 1331 for violations of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, Davis v. Passman, 442 U. S. 228 (1979), and the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment, Carlson v. Green, 446 U. S. 14 (1980). In each of these cases, as in Bivens itself, the Court found that there were no "special factors counseling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress," no explicit statutory prohibition against the relief sought, and no exclusive statutory alternative remedy. See 442 U.S. at 442 U. S. 246 -247; 446 U.S. at 446 U. S. 18 -20.

Our more recent decisions have responded cautiously to suggestions that Bivens remedies be extended into new contexts. The absence of statutory relief for a constitutional violation, for example, does not by any means necessarily imply that courts should award money damages against the officers responsible for the violation. Thus, in Chappell v. Wallace, 462 U. S. 296 (1983), we refused -unanimously -to create a Bivens action for enlisted military personnel who alleged that they had been injured by the unconstitutional actions of their superior officers and who had no remedy against the Government itself:

The special nature of military life -the need for unhesitating and decisive action by military officers and equally disciplined responses by enlisted personnel -would be undermined by a judicially created remedy exposing officers to personal liability at the hands of those they are charged to command.... Also, Congress, the constitutionally authorized source of authority over the military system of justice, has not provided a damages remedy for claims by military personnel that constitutional rights have been violated by superior officers.Any action to provide a judicial response by way of such a remedy would be plainly inconsistent with Congress' authority in this field. Taken together, the unique disciplinary structure of the Military Establishment and Congress' activity in the field constitute 'special factors' which dictate that it would be inappropriate to provide enlisted military personnel aBivens -type remedy against their superior officers.

462 U.S. at 462 U. S. 304 (emphasis added; citation omitted). See also United States v. Stanley, 483 U. S. 669, 483 U. S. 681 (1987) (disallowing Bivens actions by military personnel "whenever the injury arises out of activity incident to service'").

Similarly, we refused -again unanimously -to create a Bivens remedy for a First Amendment violation

aris[ing] out of an employment relationship that is governed by comprehensive procedural and substantive provisions giving meaningful remedies against the United States.

Bush v. Lucas, 462 U. S. 367, 462 U. S. 368 (1983). In that case, a federal employee was demoted, allegedly in violation of the First Amendment, for making public statements critical of the agency for which he worked. He was reinstated through the administrative process, with retroactive seniority and full backpay, but he was not permitted to recover for any loss due to emotional distress or mental anguish, or for attorney's fees. See id. at 462 U. S. 371, 462 U. S. 372, and nn. 8-9; id. at 462 U. S. 390 -391 (MARSHALL, J., concurring). Concluding that the administrative system created by Congress

provides meaningful remedies for employees who may have been unfairly disciplined for making critical comments about their agencies,

id. at 462 U. S. 386 (footnote omitted), the Court refused to create a Bivens action even though it assumed a First Amendment violation and acknowledged that "existing remedies do not provide complete relief for the plaintiff," 462 U.S. at 462 U. S. 388. See also id. at 462 U. S. 385, n. 28 (no remedy whatsoever for short suspensions or for adverse personnel actions against probationary employees). The Court stressed that the case involved policy questions in an area that had received careful attention from Congress. Id. at 462 U. S. 380 -388. Noting that the Legislature is far more competent than the Judiciary to carry out the necessary "balancing [of] governmental efficiency and the rights of employees," we refused to

decide whether or not it would be good policy to permit a federal employee to recover damages from a supervisor who has improperly disciplined him for exercising his First Amendment rights.

Id. at 462 U. S. 389, 462 U. S. 390.

In sum, the concept of "special factors counseling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress" has proved to include an appropriate judicial deference to indications that congressional inaction has not been inadvertent. When the design of a Government program suggests that Congress has provided what it considers adequate remedial mechanisms for constitutional violations that may occur in the course of its administration, we have not created additional Bivens remedies.


The administrative structure and procedures of the Social Security system, which affects virtually every American, "are of a size and extent difficult to comprehend." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U. S. 389, 402 U. S. 399 (1971). Millions of claims are filed every year under the Act's disability benefits programs alone, and these claims are handled under "an unusually protective [multi]-step process for the review and adjudication of disputed claims." Heckler v. Day, 467 U. S. 104, 467 U. S. 106 (1984).

The steps provided for under Title II are essentially identical for new claimants and for persons subject to CDR. An initial determination of a claimant's eligibility for benefits is made by a state agency, under federal standards and criteria. See 42 U.S.C. § 421(a) (1982 ed. and Supp. IV); see also 20 CFR §§ 404.1588-404.1599 (1987). Next, a claimant is entitled to de novo reconsideration by the state agency, and additional evidence may be presented at that time. §§ 404.907-404.922. If the claimant is dissatisfied with the state agency's decision, review may then be had by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through a federal ALJ; at this stage, the claimant is again free to introduce new evidence or raise new issues. 42 U.S.C. § 421(d) (1982 ed., Supp. IV); 20 CFR §§ 404.929-404.965 (1987). If the claimant is still dissatisfied, a hearing may be sought before the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration. §§ 404.967-404.983. Once these elaborate administrative remedies have been exhausted, a claimant is entitled to seek judicial review, including review of constitutional claims. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 421(d) (1982 ed. and Supp. IV); Heckler v. Ringer, 466 U. S. 602, 466 U. S. 615 (1984); Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. at 424 U. S. 332 ; Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U. S. 749, 422 U. S. 762 (1975). The Act, however, makes no provision for remedies in money damages against officials responsible for unconstitutional conduct that leads to the wrongful denial of benefits. As respondents concede, claimants whose benefits have been fully restored through the administrative process would lack standing to invoke the Constitution under the statute's administrative review provision. See Brief for Respondents 32-33.

The case before us cannot reasonably be distinguished from Bush v. Lucas. Here, exactly as in Bush, Congress has failed to provide for "complete relief:" respondents have not been given a remedy in damages for emotional distress or for other hardships suffered because of delays in their receipt of Social Security benefits. Compare Bush, 462 U.S. at 462 U. S. 372, n. 9, with 796 F.2d at 1134, n. 2 (opinion below). The creation of a Bivens remedy would obviously offer the prospect of relief for injuries that must now go unredressed. Congress, however, has not failed to provide meaningful safeguards or remedies for the rights of persons situated as respondents were. Indeed, the system for protecting their rights is, if anything, considerably more elaborate than the civil service system considered in Bush. The prospect of personal liability for official acts, moreover, would undoubtedly lead to new difficulties and expense in recruiting administrators for the programs Congress has established. Congressional competence at "balancing governmental efficiency and the rights of [individuals]," Bush, 462 U.S. at 462 U. S. 389, is no more questionable in the social welfare context than it is in the civil service context. Cf. Forrester v. White, 484 U. S. 219, 484 U. S. 223 -224 (1988).

Congressional attention to problems that have arisen in the administration of CDR (including the very problems that gave rise to this case) has, moreover, been frequent and intense. See, e.g., H.R.Rep. No. 98-618, pp. 2, 4 (1984); S.Rep. No. 98-466, pp. 10, 17-18 (1984). Congress itself required that the CDR program be instituted. Within two years after the program began, Congress enacted emergency legislation providing for the continuation of benefits even after a finding of ineligibility by a state agency. Less than two years after passing that law, and fully aware of the results of extensive investigations of the practices that led to respondents' injuries, Congress again enacted legislation aimed at reforming the administration of CDR; that legislation again specifically addressed the problem that had provoked the earlier emergency legislation. At each step, Congress chose specific forms and levels of protection for the rights of persons affected by incorrect eligibility determinations under CDR. At no point did Congress choose to extend to any person the kind of remedies that respondents seek in this lawsuit. Cf. 130 Cong.Rec. 6585-6586 (1984) (Rep. Perkins) (expressing regret that the bill eventually enacted as the 1984 Reform Act did not provide additional relief for persons improperly terminated during the early years of CDR). Thus, congressional unwillingness to provide consequential damages for unconstitutional deprivations of a statutory right is at least as clear in the context of this case as it was in Bush.

Respondents nonetheless contend that Bush should be confined to its facts, arguing that it applies only in the context of what they call "the special nature of federal employee relations." Brief for Respondents 40. Noting that the parties to this case did "not share the sort of close, collaborative, continuing juridical relationship found in the federal civil service," respondents suggest that the availability of Bivens remedies would create less "inconvenience" to the Social Security system than it would in the context of the civil service. See Brief for Respondents 44, 46-48. The Solicitor General is less sanguine, arguing that the creation of Bivens remedy in this context would lead to "a complete disruption of [a] carefully crafted and constantly monitored congressional scheme." Reply Brief for Petitioners 15.

We need not choose between these competing predictions, which have little bearing on the applicability of Bush to this case. The decision in Bush did not rest on this Court's belief that Bivens actions would be more disruptive of the civil service than they are in other contexts where they have been allowed, such as federal law enforcement agencies ( Bivens itself) or the federal prisons ( Carlson v. Green, 446 U. S. 14 (1980)). Rather, we declined in Bush

'to create a new substantive legal liability... ' because we are convinced that Congress is in a better position to decide whether or not the public interest would be served by creating it.

462 U.S. at 462 U. S. 390 (citation omitted). That reasoning applies as much, or more, in this case as it did in Bush itself.

Respondents also suggest that this case is distinguishable from Bush because the plaintiff in that case received compensation for the constitutional violation itself, while these respondents have merely received that to which they would have been entitled had there been no constitutional violation. See Brief for Respondents 20, n. 26 ("Bush's reinstatement was a remedy for the alleged abuse, not just a restoration of something to which he was entitled..."); see also id. at 11 (failure to create a Bivens remedy "would give respondents precisely the same thing whether or not they were victims of constitutional deprivation, and would thus leave respondents with no post-deprivation remedy at all for the constitutional violations they allege"). The Bush opinion, however, drew no distinction between compensation for a "constitutional wrong" and the restoration of statutory rights that had been unconstitutionally taken away. Nor did it suggest that such labels would matter. Indeed, the Court appeared to assume that civil service employees would get "precisely the same thing whether or not they were victims of constitutional deprivation." Ibid.; see Bush, 462 U.S. at 462 U. S. 386 (civil service statute "provides meaningful remedies for employees who may have been unfairly disciplined for making critical comments about their agencies") (emphasis added; footnote omitted). Bush thus lends no support to the notion that statutory violations caused by unconstitutional conduct necessarily require remedies in addition to the remedies provided generally for such statutory violations. Here, as in Bush, it is evident that, if we were "to fashion an adequate remedy for every wrong that can be proved in a case... [the complaining party] would obviously prevail." Id. at 462 U. S. 373. In neither case, however, does the presence of alleged unconstitutional conduct that is not separately remedied under the statutory scheme imply that the statute has provided "no remedy" for the constitutional wrong at issue.

The remedy sought in Bush was virtually identical to the one sought by respondents in this case: consequential damages for hardships resulting from an allegedly unconstitutional denial of a statutory right (Social Security benefits in one instance and employment in a particular government job in the other). In light of the comprehensive statutory schemes involved, the harm resulting from the alleged constitutional violation can in neither case be separated from the harm resulting from the denial of the statutory right. Respondents' effort to separate the two does not distinguish this case from Bush in any analytically meaningful sense.

In the end, respondents' various arguments are rooted in their insistent and vigorous contention that they simply have not been adequately recompensed for their injuries. They say, for example:

Respondents are disabled workers who were dependent upon their Social Security benefits when petitioners unconstitutionally terminated them. Respondents needed those benefits, at the time they were wrongfully withheld, to purchase food, shelter, medicine, and life's other necessities. The harm they suffered as a result bears no relation to the dollar amount of the benefits unjustly withheld from them. For the Government to offer belated restoration of back benefits in a lump sum and attempt to call it quits, after respondents have suffered deprivation for months on end, is not only to display gross insensitivity to the damage done to respondents' lives, but to trivialize the seriousness of petitioners' offense.

Brief for Respondents 11.

We agree that suffering months of delay in receiving the income on which one has depended for the very necessities of life cannot be fully remedied by the "belated restoration of back benefits." The trauma to respondents, and thousands of others like them, must surely have gone beyond what anyone of normal sensibilities would wish to see imposed on innocent disabled citizens. Nor would we care to "trivialize" the nature of the wrongs alleged in this case. Congress, however, has addressed the problems created by state agencies' wrongful termination of disability benefits. Whether or not we believe that its response was the best response, Congress is the body charged with making the inevitable compromises required in the design of a massive and complex welfare benefits program. Cf. Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U. S. 471, 397 U. S. 487 (1970). Congress has discharged that responsibility to the extent that it affects the case before us, and we see no legal basis that would allow us to revise its decision. [ Footnote 3 ]

Because the relief sought by respondents is unavailable as a matter of law, the case must be dismissed. The judgment of the Court of Appeals to the contrary is therefore



[ Footnote 1 ]

Petitioner William R. Sims is director of the Arizona Disability Determination Service, which participates in the administration of Title II under the supervision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. 42 U.S.C. § 421(a) (1982 ed. and Supp. IV). The Court of Appeals concluded, for jurisdictional purposes only, that Sims "was acting under color of federal law as an agent of the Secretary." 796 F.2d 1131, 1135, n. 3 (CA9 1986) (opinion below). We may assume, arguendo, that, if an action akin to the one recognized in Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388 (1971), would be available against the petitioners who were federal employees, it would also be available against Sims. In light of our disposition of the case, however, we need not decide the question.

[ Footnote 2 ]

The Court of Appeals described the remaining allegations as follows:

1. Knowing use of unpublished criteria and rules and standards contrary to the Social Security Act. 2. Intentional disregard of dispositive favorable evidence. 3. Purposeful selection of biased physicians and staff to review claims. 4. Imposition of quotas. 5. Failure to review impartially adverse decisions. 6. Arbitrary reversal of favorable decisions. 7. Denial of benefits based on the type of disabling impairment. 8. Unreasonable delays in receiving hearings after termination of benefits.

796 F.2d at 1138.

[ Footnote 3 ]

The Solicitor General contends that Congress has explicitly precluded the creation of a Bivens remedy for respondents' claims. Cf. Bivens, 403 U.S. at 403 U. S. 397. His argument rests on 42 U.S.C. § 405(h) (1982 ed., Supp. IV), which provides:

The findings and decision of the Secretary after a hearing shall be binding upon all individuals who were parties to such hearing. No findings of fact or decision of the Secretary shall be reviewed by any person, tribunal, or governmental agency except as herein provided. No action against the United States, the Secretary, or any officer or employee thereof shall be brought under sections 1331 or 1346 of title 28 to recover on any claim arising under [Title II].

Relying on Heckler v. Ringer, 466 U. S. 602, 466 U. S. 614 -616, 466 U. S. 620 -626 (1984), and Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U. S. 749, 422 U. S. 756 -762 (1975), the Solicitor General has previously argued that the third sentence of this provision prevents any exercise of general federal question jurisdiction under § 1331. See Bowen v. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, 476 U. S. 667, 476 U. S. 679 (1986). Without deciding the question, we noted that arguments could be made for and against the Solicitor General's position. Id. at 476 U. S. 679 -680. We continue to believe that the exact scope of the third sentence's restriction on federal question jurisdiction is not free from doubt; because we hold on other grounds that a Bivens remedy is precluded in this case, we need not decide whether § 405(h) would have the same effect.

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