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
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
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
Michael J. Pelgro
Regional Chief Counsel
By: Candace H. Lawrence
Assistant Regional Counsel