TN 54 (06-17)
PR 07905.024 Massachusetts
A. PR 17-094 Whether a claimant’s attendance at TEC Connections Academy, an online school in Massachusetts, makes him a full-time student for child’s insurance benefit purposes
Date: June 5, 2017
TEC Connections Academy, an online school in Massachusetts, is considered an EI. It is one of two approved public virtual schools approved by the Commonwealth.
I. Question Presented
Whether TEC Connections Academy is recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as an approved online school and, if so, whether N~’s (the claimant) attendance makes him a full-time student for child’s insurance benefit purposes.
II. Short Answer
Yes. Assuming the authenticity of the claimant’s attested statement, the claimant has shown that he was a full-time student for child’s insurance benefit purposes during the 2015-2016 school year at TEC Connections Academy, a recognized “Commonwealth virtual school.”
On September 1, 2016, the claimant submitted under penalty of perjury a Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance, reporting that he attended “Connections Academy,” an online high school in East Walpole, Massachusetts, during the 2015-2016 school year. He reported that he attended classes for 35 hours per week from September 1, 2015 through July 3, 2016, with an expected graduation in July 2016. On September 9, 2016, a school counselor from Connections Academy, signed the statement under penalty of perjury, attesting to its veracity. The counselor also indicated that the school operated on a quarterly/semester basis (with no reenrollment required) and that the course of study lasted at least 13 weeks.
The claimant turned 18 in August 2015, was not disabled, received no payment from an employer to attend school, and expected to earn less than $15,720 in 2016.
IV. Applicable Law
A. Federal Law
As pertinent here, an individual may be entitled to child’s benefits based on the earnings record of an insured person who is entitled to disability insurance benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d), see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a). To qualify, the individual must apply for the benefit and show that he is: (1) the insured person’s child; (2) dependent on the insured; (3) unmarried; and (4) under age 18, or 18 years or older and a full-time elementary or secondary school student (or disabled before age 22). Id. If a child is over age 18 (and not disabled), his benefits will end with the month preceding either: (1) the first month that he is no longer a full-time secondary school student; or (2) the month he turns 19. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(F), see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.352(b).
To prove that he is a full-time elementary or secondary school student, a child must meet all of the following conditions:
The student must attend a school that provides an elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which the school is located (including homeschooling and independent study programs);
The student must attend a day or evening non-correspondence course lasting at least 13 weeks, and carry a subject load considered full-time under the institution’s standards and practices, or considered full-time by the State or jurisdiction of residence if homeschooled;
The student’s scheduled attendance must be at least 20 hours per week unless: (1) the school does not schedule at least 20 hours and there is no other reasonable schooling alternative, or (2) the student’s medical condition prevents him from attending 20 hours per week;
The child is not being paid to attend the school by an employer;
The student is in grade 12 or below; and
The child is not subject to the provisions in 20 C.F.R. § 404.468 for nonpayment of benefits to certain prisoners or other inmates of publicly funded institutions.
20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)-(f).
B. Online Education in Massachusetts
On January 2, 2013, Massachusetts began recognizing public online schools, called “Commonwealth virtual schools.” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71, § 94. Such schools operate under a certificate issued by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and are governed by the same entity. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71, § 94(d). The TEC Connections Academy in East Walpole is one of two public Commonwealth virtual schools operating under such a certificate and listed on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website at http://www.doe.mass.edu/odl/cmvs/faq.html.
The claimant was a full-time student for the purposes of child’s insurance benefits during the 2015-2016 school year
The claimant’s attendance from September 1, 2015 to July 3, 2016 at TEC Connections Academy, a Commonwealth virtual school located in East Walpole, Massachusetts, qualifies as full-time attendance at a secondary school under 20 C.F.R. § 404.367.
TEC Connections Academy provides a secondary education that is recognized by Massachusetts law. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a). The Massachusetts Department of Education identifies the institution as one of only two approved virtual schools operating in the Commonwealth. Additionally, the school’s counselor signed the form, attesting that the course of study lasted at least 13 weeks, and that the claimant was a full-time student under the school’s standards and practices. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b). The counselor also attested to the claimant’s report that he was scheduled to attend school 35 hours per week, which satisfies SSA’s requirement that the child’s scheduled attendance be at the rate of 20 hours per week. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c).
The remaining factors are also satisfied—i.e., the claimant reported that he was not paid by an employer to attend school, his counselor confirmed that he was in the 12th grade, and there is no evidence that the claimant was either imprisoned or confined to a public institution during the relevant time period. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(d)-(f).
Based on our analysis, and assuming the authenticity of the Statement signed under penalty of perjury by the claimant and a school counselor, we conclude that the claimant was a full-time secondary student for the purposes of child’s insurance benefits during the 2015-2016 school year. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B). We make no determination regarding whether the claimant meets the other requirements of §402(d).
We believe the claimant was a full-time student for the 2015-2016 academic year at a qualifying secondary school in Massachusetts for the purposes of child’s insurance benefits.
Michael J. Pelgro
Regional Chief Counsel
By: Candace H. Lawrence
Assistant Regional Counsel