You asked whether Mildred K~'s conviction of Reckless Homicide under Indiana State
Law precludes entitlement to Widow's Insurance Benefits (WIB). For the reasons stated
below, we conclude that because Mildred K~ was convicted of Reckless Homicide, her
intent was “reckless” and not “knowing
and intentional,” and therefore, her entitlement to WIB is not precluded.
On August 23, 2001, when she was 60 years old, Mildred K~ applied for WIB on the account
of Gerald L. K~, the deceased wage earner. Ms. K~ reported that she married Mr. K~
on June 25, 1993, and that the marriage ended with Mr. K~'s death on October 27, 1998.
The death certificate indicated that the cause of death was a single contact penetrating
gunshot wound to the head, and that he had been shot by another.
Ms. K~ was charged with the death of her husband, and after a jury trial in the Switzerland
Superior Court in the State of Indiana in May 1999, she was found guilty of reckless
homicide, aggravated battery, battery by means of deadly weapon, and battery resulting
in serious injury. Ms. K~ appealed her conviction. On July 25, 2000, the Court of
Appeals of Indiana affirmed Ms. K~'s conviction for reckless homicide, reversed her
convictions for aggravated battery, battery by means of a deadly weapon, and battery
resulting in serious bodily injury, and remanded her case to the trial court for sentencing.
The Program Operations Manual System (POMS) specifies that even though a widow could
meet all the requirements for entitlement of widow's benefits, entitlement would be
precluded if the widow was convicted of the felonious and intentional homicide of
the number holder. POMS RS 00207.001B.1. The POMS lists various offenses that are excluded from intentional homicide, but
reckless homicide is not included in that list of offenses. POMS GN 00304.065.
Indiana law expressly provides that a person who recklessly kills another human being
commits reckless homicide. Ind. Code § 35-42-1-5. Reckless conduct occurs when a person
“engages in the conduct
in plain, conscious, and unjustifiable disregard of harm that might
result and the disregard involves a substantial deviation from acceptable
standards of conduct.” Ind. Code § 35-41-2-2(c); Brown
v. State of Indiana, 703 N.E.2d 1010, 1021 (Ind. 1998). The element that distinguishes reckless homicide
from murder is a “reckless” state of mind as compared to a “knowing or
intentional” state of mind. Brown, 703 N.E.2d at 1021; See Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1. A person acts knowingly “if,
when he engages in the conduct, he is aware of a high probability
that he is doing so.” Ind. Code § 35-41-2-2(b).
In this case, the Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed Ms. K~'s conviction for reckless
homicide. Under Indiana law, Ms. K~ acted recklessly when she committed the felonious
act in question, and she did not knowingly and intentionally kill Mr. K~. Therefore,
Ms. K~'s conviction for reckless homicide was not an intentional act.
We conclude that Ms. K~'s conviction for reckless homicide was a felonious act that
was not intentional. Therefore, her WIB entitlement is not precluded under POMS RS 00207.001B.1.
Thomas W. C~,
Regional Chief Counsel
Henry S. K~
Assistant Regional Counsel