On October 28, 2004, you asked us to advise you whether Chihoko F~ could receive widow's
benefits based upon the earnings record of Jack F~, her deceased husband, after she
was found to have murdered him, but was
We have reviewed the material that you provided and have researched the relevant provisions
of Maryland law as it pertains to a finding of not criminally responsible. We have
also considered the pertinent provisions of the Social Security regulations, Social
Security Rulings and the POMS. We conclude that, in this case, Ms. F~ may receive
widow's benefits based upon the earnings of her deceased husband.
In your memorandum, you indicated that Chihoko F~ applied for widow's benefits on
May 25, 2004, based upon the earnings of her deceased husband, Jack F~ (Number Holder).
The Number Holder died on August 28, 1989, due to a close range gunshot wound to the
head. Ms. F~ was charged with murder one, murder two, attempted murder, assault with
intent to murder, use of a handgun in commission of a felony and assault. On October
23, 1989, she entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. By Order dated May
14, 1990, the Circuit Court of Maryland for Howard County found that Ms. F~ committed
the crimes of murder one and murder two in the death of her husband. However, the
Court also determined that she was not criminally responsible at the time that she
committed the crimes. Ms. F~ was ordered to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
for institutional care on May 14, 1990. She was conditionally released from Springfield
Hospital Center on February 3, 1992, and she completed her conditional release period
on February 5, 1995.
The regulations provide that an individual "may not become entitled to or continue
to receive any survivor's benefits or payments on the earnings record of any person...if
[the individual was] convicted of a felony or an act in the nature of a felony of
intentionally causing that person's death." 20 C.F.R. § 404.305(b) (2004); see also
POMS § GN 00304.060 (also providing for forfeiture of entitlement when an adult commits a felonious or
intentional homicide of the number holder).
Under SSA's guidelines, the following types of cases are excluded from intentional
homicide: (1) homicides which are the result of an accident; (2) homicides where the
killing is the result of self defense; or (3) homicides where the claimant was insane
or under the influence of drugs or alcohol (to the extent that he/she was unaware
of the nature and consequences of the act) when he/she killed the number holder. POMS
§ GN 00304.065A; SSR 89-6c.
In this case, Ms. F~ was adjudged not criminally responsible for the murder of her
husband.1 Under Maryland law, the term "not criminally responsible" is used in place
of the terms "insane" or "insanity." See Djadi v. State, 528 A.2d 502, 503 at n.1 (Md.App. 1986).
Maryland's test for criminal responsibility provides that:
"[a] defendant is not criminally responsible for criminal conduct if, at the time
of that conduct, the defendant, because of a mental disorder or mental retardation,
lacks substantial capacity to:
appreciate the criminality of that conduct; or
conform that conduct to the requirements of law.
For purposes of this section, "mental disorder" does not include an abnormality that
is manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct." Md. Code,
Criminal Procedure § 3-109.
Applying these principles to the facts of this case, we believe that Ms. F~ is entitled
to widow's benefits. The exclusion based upon insanity set forth in POMS § GN 00304.065A applies to Ms. F~ because she was found to be not criminally responsible, or insane,
when she committed her husband's murder. As a result, her crime is not considered
a felonious and intentional homicide for purposes of the applicable forfeiture provisions.
20 C.F.R. § 404.305(b); POMS § GN 00304.060. Accordingly, she is entitled to benefits as the widow of the Number Holder.
Donna L. C~
Regional Chief Counsel
Assistant Regional Counsel