TN 20 (10-10)
RS 00205.295 Online Schools
An online school is one that offers Internet-based courses to students. Online schools vary considerably in the methods used to provide education to students. Some features of online schools may include virtual classrooms; an interactive curriculum; email, telephone, and fax access to teachers; either online or in-person completion of tests; required time spent online that the school monitors; and individualized instruction.
B. Policy about full-time attendance (FTA) at an online school
A child attending an online school may be a full-time student if:
The student meets the standards for FTA as defined in RS 00205.300C, What is Full-Time Attendance (FTA), and RS 00205.730, FTA Outside the United States; and
The online school is consistent with the law of the state in which the online school is located or, in the case of a foreign online school, the online school is consistent with the educational requirements of the country in which it is located. A student may not receive education beyond grade 12 (or year 12).
NOTE: A foreign school can qualify as an educational institution (EI), provided it is part of the elementary or secondary school system in a country or a facility approved or authorized by the educational authorities in that country to provide elementary or secondary education.
The student must also meet all other requirements for benefits.
C. Procedure to determine whether an online school meets State law requirements
1. Legal precedent exists
See PR 08200.000, Students - Online Schools, to determine whether there is a legal precedent opinion (LPO) for online schooling in the state or country in which the school is located. The LPO determines whether the online school is an EI for SSA purposes. If an LPO exists but appears to be outdated, submit a request for a new LPO following the instructions in GN 01010.815. For instructions about how to process a claim from a student attending an online school, see the chart in RS 00205.295F in this section.
2. Legal precedent opinion does not exist
If an LPO does not exist, follow the procedures in RS 00205.295F, step 2 in this section, and GN 01010.815 to obtain an LPO. When requesting the LPO, include as much information as possible about the online school from a school official, such as:
Whether the school tracks the time a student spends online;
What courses are available to students;
What, if any, is the required attendance for students and whether the school keeps attendance logs;
What the instruction method is;
Whether the school provides the student with interactive access to a teacher; and
Whether the student has opportunities to interact with other students.
For instructions about obtaining an LPO, see RS 00205.295F, step 2 in this section.
3. Legal precedent opinion exists but does not resolve whether the school meets state law requirements
If an LPO exists for the state or country in which the online school is located, but a question remains about whether the online school meets the state or country requirements, follow the procedures in RS 00205.295F, step 2 in this section, and GN 01010.815 to obtain an LPO specifically for the online school. Include as much information about the online school as possible.
D. Procedure for age 18 conversion cases
The system automatically terminates benefits and sends a notice at age 18 if neither student nor disability data is on the MBR. If the child attains age 18 before the online school determination is made, explain to the claimant that:
We cannot pay student benefits at age 18 before we determine whether the online school meets SSA’s definition of an EI;
He or she will receive a notice explaining that his or her benefits as a child will stop at age 18; and
We will send a separate notice when the online school determination is complete.
NOTE: Either the FO or the PC, whichever makes the online school decision, should send a notice about the online school determination.
E. Procedure for initial or re-entitlement claims
In initial or re-entitlement claims, explain to the claimant that:
F. Procedure to document the online school decision
Proceed as follows to establish student entitlement at an online school:
The student should give Form SSA-1372-BK, (Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance), to a school official for certification and return it to the FO. Does the school certify that the student is in full-time attendance (FTA) according to Federal standards?
NOTE: Some online schools operate in cooperation with a traditional school. In these cases, you may accept a certified SSA-1372-BK from the traditional school or the online school as long as the online school is an educational institution for SSA purposes.
If yes, go to step 2.
If no, document the file and deny the claim (disallowance code 41, student not in FTA) or terminate entitlement.
NOTE: Some officials of online schools may not certify FTA on the SSA-1372-BK because the online school does not require at least 20 hours of scheduled school attendance. In these cases, deny the claim because we cannot establish FTA.
Fax the SSA-1372-BK into the Non-Disability Repository for Evidentiary Documents (NDRed) or eDIB for retention in the Claims File Records Management System (CFRMS). Destroy the paper copy after verifying receipt of the document in CFRMS. If PC action is necessary, in addition to faxing the form into CFRMS, fax the form to the Paperless fax number of the appropriate PC.
If the child is also filing for disability benefits, annotate form SSA-1372-BK “Not full-time student” and fax it with the disability material.
Is there an established legal precedent opinion (LPO) for online schooling in the State or country in which the school is located?
If yes, go to step 3.
If no, follow the procedures in GN 01010.815 to obtain an LPO about the State’s or country’s requirements for online schools. Include details about how the online school provides education to the student. When you receive the opinion, go to step 3.
Does the LPO indicate that online schooling is a recognized EI in the State or country in which it is located?
If yes, document the file with the LPO following the instructions in GN 01010.810. Review the precedent opinion to determine whether additional documentation is necessary, and request any needed information. Go to step 4.
If no, document the file following the instructions in GN 01010.810 with the LPO and deny the claim (disallowance code 38, student not attending an EI) or terminate entitlement. Fax the SSA-1372-BK following the instructions in step 1.
Review the LPO. Does the information presented indicate that the school meets the requirements of the State or country?
If yes, document the file with the LPO following the instructions in GN 01010.810, and award benefits or continue entitlement if all other requirements are met. Fax the SSA-1372-BK following the instructions in step 1.
If no, document the file with the LPO following the instructions in GN 01010.810 and deny the claim (disallowance code 38, student not attending an EI) or terminate entitlement. Fax the SSA-1372-BK following the instructions in step 1.
NOTE: If there are questions about any aspects of the claim, contact your regional office or PC Operations Analysis staff.