20 CFR 416.542(b)
Smith v. Califano, 597 F.2d 152 (1979) (CERT.-DENIED (12/3/79))
CHOY, Circuit Judge:
Jeanine R. Smith, as successor in interest to Rosette V. Guidet, appeals from the district court's granting of summary judgment in favor of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (the Secretary). We affirm.
The parties are agreed on the essential facts. Ms. Smith's grandmother, Rosette V. Guidet, was born in 1895. She was widowed and suffered from a sight limitation and amputated leg. On January 1, 1974, Mrs. Guidet was placed in a board and care facility by Smith's husband with the assistance of the Sacramento County Welfare Department. Though it was understood that the costs of care would be paid by public assistance programs, Mr. Smith signed the admissions agreement, providing for payment of $250 a month in advance.
In late January and early February, Mrs. Guidet completed the necessary applications for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act), 42 U.S.C. § 1381. Mrs. Guidet died on March 6, 1974, before the Social Security Administration (SSA) completed its processing of her application. Without completing an eligibility determination, the SSA denied payment to Ms. Smith or her successors because:
Section 1631(b) of the Social Security Act provides that money due a supplemental security income recipient who dies may be paid only to the deceased individual's surviving husband or wife who was also a supplemental security income recipient in the month the deceased individual died. If there is no such surviving husband or wife, the payments due the deceased recipient cannot be made to anyone.
 Upon appeal, an administrative law judge (ALJ) concluded that Mrs. Guidet's benefits for January and February should be paid either to the health facility or "to another appropriate representative payee." The ALJ wrote:
The Appeals Council of HEW on its own motion reviewed the ALJ's decision. Rejecting the ALJ's conclusion, the Appeals Council wrote:
Ms. Smith then sought review of the Appeals Council's decision in the district court. Noting that the health facility had not yet received payment, Ms. Smith asked that the district court reverse the Appeals Council's decision as legally erroneous, invalidate those regulations that she asserted were inconsistent with a proper reading of the Act, direct the Secretary to pay Mrs. Guidet's benefits "to an appropriate representative payee," and award costs and attorneys' fees. On cross motions for summary judgment the district court granted the Secretary's motion and denied Ms. Smith's motion.
 The parties agree that the payment involved in the present dispute constitutes an underpayment under the Act. Section 1631(b) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1383(b), provides in part:
Whenever the Secretary finds that more or less than the correct amount of benefits has been paid with respect to any individual, proper adjustment or recovery shall . . . be made by appropriate adjustments in future payments to such individual or by recovery from or payment to such individual or his eligible spouse (or by recovery from the estate of either) . . . .
(Emphasis added). The Secretary argues that this provision and the regulations adopted thereunder prevent his making posthumous underpayments to anyone except an eligible spouse. See 40 Fed. Reg. 47762 (1975); 39 Fed. Reg. 2012 (1974). Ms. Smith counters that subsection (b) does not proscribe payment to appropriate "representative payees." We believe that the Secretary's interpretation is correct.
First, the language of § 1631(b) is clear on its face. It specifically limits the Secretary to giving underpayments only to "such individual or his eligible spouse." By contrast, where Congress intended to allow payments to other individuals, it specified such allowance, as in subsection (a)(2) of § 1631. As we wrote in another context, "[t]he language of a statute is the best and most reliable index of its meaning, and where the language is clear and unequivocal it is determinative of its construction." Monte Vista Lodge v. Guardian Life Insurance Co., 384 F.2d 126, 128 (9th Cir. 1967), cert. denied, 390 U.S. 950, 88 S.Ct. 1041, 19 L.Ed.2d 1142 (1968).
Second, the legislative history indicates that Congress intended that subsection (b) be interpreted in the Secretary's manner. The House Report said of the provision which became § 1631(b):
H.Rep. No. 231, 92d Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in  U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 4989, 5141. Later the House Report reiterated that subsection (b)
Id. at 5326. These comments demonstrate that Congress intended subsection (b) to operate as the Secretary here contends.
[3, 4] Third, though the courts remain the final interpreters of an act of Congress, see FMC v. Seatrain Lines, Inc. 411 U.S. 726, 745-46, 93 S.Ct. 1773, 36 L.Ed.2d 620 (1973); Hart v. McLucas, 535 F.2d 516, 520 (9th Cir. 1976), the courts have also repeatedly recognized that an administrative agency's reasonable interpretation of the statute which is administers is deserving of considerable respect. See New York Department of Social Services v. Dublino, 413 U.S. 405, 421, 93 S.Ct. 2507, 37 L.Ed.2d 688 (1973); Udall v. Tallman, 380 U.S. 1, 16-17, 85 S.Ct. 792, 13 L.Ed.2d 616 (1965); White v. United States Civil Service Commission, 468 F.2d 1357, 1358 (9th Cir. 1972). In the instant case the Secretary's reasonable reading of the Act is consistent with both the language of the statute and congressional pronouncements. We are thus most reluctant to disregard the Secretary's interpretation.
We conclude, as did the Appeals Council, that subsection (b) does not authorize the disbursement of Mrs. Guidet's aid to a "representative payee."
 Though apparently acknowledging that on its face subsection (b) does not authorize such payment, Ms. Smith argues that when that subsection is read in conjunction with other parts of the Social Security Act a statutory basis for such payment emerges. First, she notes that the ALJ found that because Title II of the Social Security Act provides for making underpayments to individuals other than the eligible person's surviving spouse, "[t]he parts of the statute must be read reasonably together to accomplish their purpose. The authorization in the one subsection [of Title II] is meant to be understood in all the other sections [of the Act, including Title XVI]."
Section 204(a)(2) and (d) of Title II, 42 U.S.C. § 404(a)(2) &(d), includes very detailed provision for making underpayments to persons other than a deceased individual's spouse, including to "the legal representative of the estate of the deceased." § 204(d)(7). But when Congress wished to incorporate parts of Title II into the newer Title XVI, it did so explicitly. For example, subsection (d)(1) of § 1631, the very section with which we are concerned, selectively incorporates into Title XVI procedures specified in parts of Title II. Moreover, we cannot infer such incorporation here because the Title II provision for paying "the legal representative of the estate" conflicts directly with the language of § 1631(b) and the House Report's statement that "[u]nderpayments . . . would not be paid to the estate of a deceased since that would not further the objective of meeting the current needs of individuals."
Ms. Smith responds next that § 1631(a)(2) indicates the propriety of payment to a payee other than the eligible individual or his spouse. That provision reads in part:
Regardless of the proper interpretation of this provision vis-a-vis regular SSI payments, Congress has provided that underpayments should be distributed in accordance with subsection (b), specifically dealing with underpayments. And "[f]undamental maxims of statutory construction require that a specific section be found to qualify a general section. A specific statutory provision will govern even though general provisions, if standing alone, would include the same subject." Monte Vista Lodge, 384 F.2d at 129; see Clifford F. MacEvoy Co. v. United States ex rel. Calvin Tompkins Co., 332 U.S. 102, 107, 64 S.Ct. 890, 88 L.Ed. 1163 (1944).
Ms. Smith argues finally, and most powerfully, that her construction better satisfies the general congressional policy underlying Title XVI of helping the elderly and disabled. She notes that families will be less willing to assist their aged and disabled relatives if they fear that they will not obtain reimbursement should their relative pass away before payment. She also notes that the Secretary's interpretation in essence "rewards" the Secretary for failing to process claims quickly and accurately because the Government may avoid paying monies otherwise due should an eligible individual without an eligible spouse die before payment (as in this case). Finally, she contends that the Secretary's interpretation creates an incongruous scheme wherein the Secretary can pay regular SSI benefits under subsection (a)(2) but not underpayments under subsection (b) to individuals other than an eligible spouse.
We have a good deal of sympathy for Ms. Smith's policy claims. We are afraid, however, that in light of the legislative history and language of § 1631(b), we must reject her effort to redesign the statute. For as the Supreme Court has recently written:
National Broiler Marketing Association v. United States, 436 U.S. 816, 827, 98 S.Ct. 2122, 2130, 56 L.Ed.2d 728 (1978).
MERRILL, Circuit Judge, dissenting
 In his findings of fact, adopted by the Appeals Council, the administrative law judge wrote:
 The administrative law judge noted: "Although at the time some questions were unsolved, the present record does not reflect any reason to deny payment other than the applicant's death." The Government acknowledges that for purposes of this appeal, it should be assumed that there was no reason to deny benefits for January and February other than Mrs. Guidet's death.
 The parties correctly assert that the Appeals Councils decision represented a final administrative decision appealable in district court under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). The district court's grant of summary judgment constitutes a final judgment, appealable to this court under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.
 This court has recently written:
Summary judgment may be granted "'only where there is no genuine issue of any material fact or where viewing the evidence . . . in the light most favorable to the adverse party, the movant is clearly entitled to prevail as a matter of law.'" Caplan v. Roberts, 506 F.2d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 1974). See Fed.R Civ. P.56.
Loya v. Immigration & Naturalization Serv., 583 F.2d 1110, 1113 (9th Cir. 1978). The parties here have agreed on the material facts, the dispute involving the proper interpretation of relevant statutes and regulations. Because the case could thus be resolved as a matter of law, summary judgment was the proper procedural device.
 See note 7 infra.
 See page 157 infra.
 The Secretary's regulations are consistent with his interpretation of subsection (b). Section 416.542(b), 20 C.F.R., reads in part:
If the Secretary's regulations conflicted with the proper meaning of the statute they were intended to implement, they would of course be invalid. See Townsend v. Swank, 404 U.S. 282, 286, 92 S.Ct. 502, 30 L.Ed.2d 448 (1971); Hart v. McLucas, 535 F.2d 516, 520 (9th Cir. 1976). But where the regulations are reasonable and reflect the language and policy underlying the statute, the courts should carefully consider the regulations in determining the proper interpretation of the statute. See Northern Indiana Pub. Serv. Co. v. Porter County Chapter of Izaak Walton League of America, Inc., 423 U.S. 12, 15, 96 S.Ct. 172, 46 L.Ed.2d 156 (1975); Ehlert v. United States, 402 U.S. 99, 105, 91 S.Ct. 1319, 28 L.Ed.2d 625 (1971); Bone v. Hibernia Bank, 493 F.2d 135, 139 (9th Cir. 1974).
Ms. Smith refers to § 416.601, which reads in part:
Ms. Smith contends that § 416.601 applies to § 1631(b) and therefore payment to either her or the health facility as a "representative payee" would constitute payment to "such individual" within the meaning of § 1631(b). The Secretary responds that § 416.601 cannot be applied to § 1631(b).
We think the Secretary is correct. To invoke the § 416.601(b) equivalency rule in the context of § 1631(b) would mean that the Secretary could pay any "appropriate person." This would in effect abrogate the limits of § 1631(b) that Congress intended to apply to underpayments. Instead, underpayments would essentially be subject to the same rule as are regular payments under § 1631(a)(2). That is, payment could be made to such individual or eligible spouse -- the scheme common to subsections (a)(2) and (b) -- or to an appropriate other person -- a method statutorily limited to subsection (a)(2). We cannot disregard congressional intent to limit underpayments under subsection (b) more than regular payments under subsection (a)(2).
This conclusion is reinforced by the language of § 416.601. That language parallels the language Congress employed in § 1631(a)(2), suggesting that the Secretary intended the regulation to apply in that context and not in the different § 1631(b) payment scheme. Finally, we note that the Secretary's reasonable interpretation of his own regulation should be accorded great respect by a court interpreting the regulation. See Northern Indiana Pub. Serv. Co., 423 U.S. at 15, 96 S.Ct. 172; Ehlert, 402 U.S. at 105, 91 S.Ct. 1319; Bone, 493 F.2d at 139. This is particularly so here because Congress gave to the Secretary the task of implementing congressional intent. § 1631(a)(1), 42 U.S.C. § 1383(a)(1). In sum, we concluded that the Secretary's reading of his regulations is consistent with and supports the proper reading of § 1631.
 In the interpretation of his regulations the Secretary has recognized the same limitation. In January of 1974 the Secretary first proposed regulations dealing with underpayments, writing: "If there is no surviving eligible spouse, no one can receive the underpayment." 39 Fed. Reg. 2012 (1974). After receiving comments about the proposed regulations, the Secretary noted:
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