JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
We granted certiorari to decide whether the Secretary of Health and Human Services may immediately appeal a district court order effectively declaring invalid regulations that limit the kinds of inquiries that must be made to determine whether a person is entitled to disability insurance benefits and remanding a claim for benefits to the Secretary for consideration without those restrictions. We hold that the Secretary may appeal such an order as a "final decision" under 28 U. S. C. § 1291.
Respondent Finkelstein is the widow of a wage earner who died in 1980 while fully insured under Title II of the Social
Section 423(d)(2)(B) states that a widow shall not be determined to be disabled unless her impairment is of a level of severity which, "under regulations prescribed by the Secretary," is deemed sufficient to preclude an individual from engaging in any gainful activity. Under regulations promulgated by the Secretary, 20 CFR §§ 404.1577, 404.1578(a)(1) (1989), a surviving spouse is deemed disabled only if the spouse suffers from a physical or mental impairment meeting or equaling the severity of an impairment included in the Secretary's Listing of Impairments located at Appendix 1 to 20 CFR pt. 404, subpt. P (1989). If the surviving spouse's impairment does not meet or equal one of the listed impairments, the Secretary will not find the spouse disabled; in particular, the Secretary will not consider whether the spouse's impairment nonetheless makes the spouse disabled, given the spouse's age, education, and work experience.
The Secretary's practice for spouses' disability insurance benefits thus differs significantly from the regulations for determining whether a wage earner is entitled to disability insurance benefits. For wage earners, the Secretary has established a "five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a person is disabled." Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Under that five-step process, even if a wage earner's impairment does not meet or equal one of the listed impairments, the wage earner may nonetheless be entitled to disability insurance benefits if the Secretary determines that his "impairment in fact prevents him from working." Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 535
Respondent's application for benefits was denied on the ground that her heart condition did not meet or equal a listed impairment. After exhausting administrative remedies, respondent sought judicial review of the Secretary's decision in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, invoking § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 53 Stat. 1370, 42 U. S. C. § 405(g) (1982 ed.).
The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit dismissed the Secretary's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Finkelstein v. Bowen, 869 F.2d 215 (1989). The Court of Appeals relied on its past decisions holding that " `remands to administrative agencies are not ordinarily appealable.' " Id., at 217 (citation omitted). Although the Court of Appeals acknowledged an exception to that rule for cases "in which an important legal issue is finally resolved and review of that issue would be foreclosed `as a practical matter' if an immediate appeal were unavailable," ibid. (citation omitted), that exception was deemed inapplicable in this case because the Secretary might persist in refusing benefits even after consideration of respondent's residual functional capacity on remand, and the District Court might thereafter order that benefits be granted, thereby providing the Secretary with an appealable
We begin by nothing that the issue before us is not the broad question whether remands to administrative agencies are always immediately appealable. There is, of course, a great variety in remands, reflecting in turn the variety of ways in which agency action may be challenged in the district courts and the possible outcomes of such challenges.
Although the District Court sustained the Secretary's conclusion that respondent did not suffer from an impairment that met or equaled the severity of a listed impairment, it concluded that the Secretary's ultimate conclusion that respondent was not disabled could not be sustained because other medical evidence suggested that respondent might not
Once the nature of the District Court's action is clarified, it becomes clear how this action fits into the structure of § 405 (g). The first sentence of § 405(g) provides that an individual denied benefits by a final decision of the Secretary may obtain judicial review of that decision by filing "a civil action" in federal district court. The use of the term "a civil action"
Respondent makes several arguments countering this construction of § 405(g) and of the District Court's order, none of which persuade us. First, respondent argues that the remand
For the same reason, we reject respondent's argument, based on the seventh sentence of § 405(g), that the district court may enter an appealable final judgment upon reviewing the Secretary's postremand "additional or modified findings of fact and decision." The postremand review conducted by the District Court under the seventh sentence refers only to
Respondent also argues that the eighth sentence of § 405(g), providing that the judgment of the district court "shall be final except that it shall be subject to review in the same manner as a judgment in other civil actions," does not compel the conclusion that a judgment entered pursuant to the fourth sentence is immediately appealable. In respondent's view, Congress used the term "final" in the eighth sentence only to make clear that a court's decision reviewing agency action could operate as law of the case and res judicata. Cf. City of Tacoma v. Taxpayers of Tacoma, 357 U.S. 320, 336 (1958). But even if it is true that Congress used the term "final" to mean "conclusively decided," this reading does not preclude the construction of "final" to include "appealable," a meaning with which "final" is usually coupled. Nor does respondent consider the significance of Congress' use of the term "judgment" to describe the action
Finally, respondent argues that we already decided last Term, in Sullivan v. Hudson, 490 U.S. 877 (1989), that a remand order of the kind entered in this case is not appealable as a final decision. Although there is language in Hudson
Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE SCALIA, concurring in part.
I join the opinion of the Court, except for footnote 8, which responds on the merits to "two arguments based on subsequent legislative history." Ante, at 628, n. 8.
The legislative history of a statute is the history of its consideration and enactment. "Subsequent legislative history" — which presumably means the post-enactment history of a statute's consideration and enactment — is a contradiction in terms. The phrase is used to smuggle into judicial consideration legislators' expressions not of what a bill currently under consideration means (which, the theory goes, reflects what their colleagues understood they were voting for), but of what a law previously enacted means.
It seems to be a rule for the use of subsequent legislative history that the legislators or committees of legislators whose post-enactment views are consulted must belong to the institution that passed the statute. Never, for example, have I seen floor statements of Canadian MP's cited concerning the meaning of a United States statute; only statements by Members of Congress qualify. No more connection than that, however, is required. It is assuredly not the rule that the legislators or committee members in question must have considered, or at least voted upon, the particular statute in question — or even that they have been members of the particular Congress that enacted it. The subsequent legislative history rejected as inconclusive in today's footnote, for example, tells us (according to the Court's analysis) what committees of the 99th and 95th Congresses thought the 76th Congress intended.
Arguments based on subsequent legislative history, like arguments based on antecedent futurity, should not be taken seriously, not even in a footnote.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concurring in the judgment.
I am not convinced, as the other Members of the Court appear to be, that the order with which we are concerned is a final decision. It seems to me that the Court in its opinion expends its energy fending off respondent's arguments as to nonappealability, without itself demonstrating finality in a positive way.
I concur in the judgment, however. Although I think the order is not a final decision under 28 U. S. C. § 1291, it is immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine enunciated in Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541 (1949). This is the view adopted by the great majority of the Courts of Appeals, and I am in agreement with their conclusions. See, e. g., Colon v. Secretary of HHS, 877 F.2d 148, 151-152 (CA1 1989); Doughty v. Bowen, 839 F.2d 644, 645-646 (CA10 1988); Huie v. Bowen, 788 F.2d 698, 701-703 (CA11 1986).
"Any individual, after any final decision of the Secretary made after a hearing to which he was a party, irrespective of the amount in controversy, may obtain a review of such decision by a civil action commenced within sixty days after the mailing to him of notice of such decision or within such further time as the Secretary may allow. Such action shall be brought in the district court of the United States for the judicial district in which the plaintiff resides, or has his principal place of business, or, if he does not reside or have his principal place of business within any such judicial district, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. As part of his answer the Secretary shall file a certified copy of the transcript of the record including the evidence upon which the findings and decision complained of are based. The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Secretary, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing. The findings of the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive, and where a claim has been denied by the Secretary or a decision is rendered under subsection (b) of this section which is adverse to an individual who was a party to the hearing before the Secretary, because of failure of the claimant or such individual to submit proof in conformity with any regulation prescribed under subsection (a) of this section, the court shall review only the question of conformity with such regulations and the validity of such regulations. The court may, on motion of the Secretary made for good cause shown before he files his answer, remand the case to the Secretary for further action by the Secretary, and it may at any time order additional evidence to be taken before the Secretary, but only upon a showing that there is new evidence which is material and that there is good cause for the failure to incorporate such evidence into the record in a prior proceeding; and the Secretary shall, after the case is remanded, and after hearing such additional evidence if so ordered, modify or affirm his findings of fact or his decision, or both, and shall file with the court any such additional and modified findings of fact and decision, and a transcript of the additional record and testimony upon which his action in modifying or affirming was based. Such additional or modified findings of fact and decision shall be reviewable only to the extent provided for review of the original findings of fact and decision. The judgment of the court shall be final except that it shall be subject to review in the same manner as a judgment in other civil actions. Any action instituted in accordance with this subsection shall survive notwithstanding any change in the person occupying the office of Secretary or any vacancy in such office."
Second, respondent relies on a House Judiciary Committee Report on amendments to the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), stating that a district court's remand decision under § 405(g) is not a "final judgment." H. R. Rep. No. 99-120, p. 19 (1985). Again, we cannot conclude that this subsequent legislative history overthrows the language of § 405(g). In the first place, this part of this particular Committee Report concerned the proper time period for filing a petition for attorney's fees under EAJA, not appealability. Second, the Committee relied in particular on Guthrie v. Schweiker, 718 F.2d 104 (CA4 1983), for the proposition that a remand order is not a final judgment, but Guthrie also concerned the time for filing an attorney's fees petition, and it is far from clear that Guthrie did not involve a sixth-sentence remand. Guthrie, in turn, relied on Gilcrist v. Schweiker, 645 F.2d 818, 819 (CA9 1981), which, quite unlike the present case, involved an appeal from a district court remand order that did "no more than order clarification of the administrative decision."
"Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court shall award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees and other expenses . . . incurred by that party in any civil action . . . including proceedings for judicial review of agency action, brought by or against the United States in any court having jurisdiction of that action, unless the court finds that the position of the United States was substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust."