TN 29 (02-03)
GN 00502.070 Developing Capability - Children
Minor children (i.e., under age 18) are generally presumed to be incapable. Children under age 15 must have a payee and you don't need to develop capability.
However, if the child is emancipated under State law, assume the child is capable unless some other indicator suggests otherwise (see GN 00502.020 through GN 00502.050).
1. When Can I Consider a Minor Child Capable?
A child age 15 to 17 is capable unless he/she has a court-appointed legal guardian or is entitled to disability benefits and a substance abuse condition exists which indicates that he/she may need assistance.
Pay the child directly if the child:
Is entitled to disability benefits based on his/her own earnings; or
Is on active duty in the armed forces; or
Is living alone and is self-supporting; or
Is a parent and filed for his/her own or his/her child's benefits and has had experience handling finances; or
Is within 7 months of attaining age 18; or
Has demonstrated the ability to handle finances and no qualified payee is available.
Under the above circumstances, presume the child is capable unless some other evidence suggests otherwise.
2. When is it Necessary to Develop a Minor Child's Capability?
Generally, you should only develop a minor child's capability when the child raises the issue of capability (e.g., child asks for direct payment or files his/her own application).
B. Procedure - Developing a Child's Capability
If a minor child is legally under parental control, obtaining proof of the child's age will establish that the child is deemed incapable and requires a representative payee.
1. What if a Child is Emancipated Under State Law?
If the child is emancipated under State law, obtain a copy of the court order or evidence that the requirements of State law are met.
Children who are emancipated under State law are presumed capable unless there are indications to the contrary.
If there is some doubt regarding an emancipated child's capability, conduct a capability investigation and make a determination as you would for an adult beneficiary.
2. How Do I Develop for Capability and a Payee for a Minor Child?
When a child age 15 to 17 files his/her own claim, determine whether the child is emancipated and can be presumed capable as discussed above.
If yes, pay the child directly.
If no, determine why the child's parent is not filing the claim and whether he/she exercises control over the child.
If the parent is exercising control over the child, decide whether the parent should be the payee. (Generally, a parent with interest in and exercising control over a child would be the preferred payee.) However, if you are uncertain of the parent's interest and the child has shown the ability to handle finances, pay the child directly.
If the parent does not exercise control over the child, ask the child whether he/she has a legal guardian and, if so, why the guardianship was established. Follow GN 00502.005 to develop capability when a legal guardian has been appointed.
If a qualified payee cannot be found and the child is not capable, refer the case to a social agency for a special investigation into the child's welfare and for recommendation for payee. Pending this recommendation, either pay the child directly (if at all feasible) or suspend benefits per GN 00504.110. Document the RPS (or prepare an RC outside RPS) with the social agency's findings.
3. Should I Ever Reevaluate a Child's Capability?
Generally, reevaluation of a child's capability only becomes an issue when the child requests direct payment. However, if there are allegations that the current payment method is not in the child's best interests, develop a change of payee or the child's capability.
(See GN 00502.075 when a child beneficiary entitled to disability benefits attains age 18.)
C. Procedure - Making a Capability Determination
Make a capability determination based on the evidence. Document this decision, summarizing the facts considered and the basis for your determination on the BRST screen in the RPS (MSOM RPS 002.021) or on a RC, if you're unable to use RPS.
EXCEPTION: If the child is incapable because of age, you don't need to do a capability determination.