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

1. Syllabus

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.

2. Opinion

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.”

III. Background

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.

V. Analysis

The claimant was a full-time student for the purposes of child’s insurance benefits durin