Whether S~ (S~), a home school student in Puerto Rico, can be considered a full-time
student at an Educational Institution and, therefore, entitled to student benefits
on the record of his mother, L~, the Number Holder (NH), for the period of March 2016
through the date of his graduation from the home school program.
We believe the totality of the evidence indicates S~’s course of study satisfies the
requirements for full-time attendance, and thus, he can be considered a full-time
secondary school student for that period. Accordingly, S~ is entitled to benefits
on the record of the NH from March 2016 through the date of his graduation from the
home school program.
The NH, who was S~’s mother, passed away on October XX, 2010. S~, who was born March
XX, 1998, began receiving Surviving Child’s benefits on her record. His benefits were
terminated in March 2016, when he turned 18 years old.
In a Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance (Form SSA-1372) dated March XX,
2016, S~ stated that he was enrolled as a student in the Seton Home School Program
(Seton) based in Arlington, Virginia from September 30, 2015 through September 30,
2016. He further provided that he was home schooled for 60 hours per week, and expected
to graduate from Seton in May 2016. Seton’s Director of Guidance, C~, certified that
S~’s statements were true, and that the school’s course of study was at least 13 weeks
in duration and operated on a yearly basis.
In connection with his Form SSA-1372, S~ submitted a Cumulative High School Grade
Report from Seton, which listed that S~ studied Algebra II, American History, English
11, Religion 9, Spanish I, and Visual Basic in eleventh grade. The form further indicated
that S~ studied Advanced Math I, American Government, English 12, Physics, Religion
12, and Spanish II in twelfth grade. S~a also submitted sample lesson plans from his
English 12 course, which included reading assignments and written exercises. The lesson
plan instructs the student to send certain written assignments to Seton for grading,
and to report parent-teacher-graded assignments to Seton on a quarterly report form.
If no parent-teacher grades are recorded, the student’s Seton grade is based solely
on work graded by Seton. Assignments can be sent to Seton by mail or over the Internet,
at the time completed or at the end of the quarter.
In a second statement dated April 28, 2016, S~ explained that he received course materials
from Seton at the beginning of the school year, and had one full calendar year to
complete the courses. S~ stated that he set his own pace in each course, and that
“there is no fixed schedule for any of my classes. Some of my classes require more
time then (sic) others. It is difficult to say any set time a course could take to
complete.” When asked for attendance records, S~ stated that Seton does not have attendance
logs or records.
In a statement dated May 6, 2016, under “Basic Information About the Instructor in
the Seton Program,” L2~ explained that she helped S~ with his physics and math courses
for approximately two to three hours each day. She further stated that S~ did not
have Seton instructors for his other Seton courses, but that Seton had various instructors
if S~ required assistance. The District Manager of the Mayaguez District Office further
noted that S~’s guardian provided additional instruction at home utilizing educational
materials provided by Seton.
S~ presented evidence that he had been accepted to the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez.
A. Social Security Laws, Regulations, and Policy
Under the Social Security Act (Act), an individual may continue to receive child’s
benefits past the age of 18 if he is a full-time elementary or secondary school student.
See Act § 202(d) (1)(E); 42 U.S.C. § 402 (d)(1)(E); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367. To be eligible,
the individual must meet the requirements for child’s benefits; attain age 18; be
in full-time attendance; attend an Educational Institution; and not have attained
age 19. Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001. The Act defines a full-time elementary or secondary school student as an “individual
who is in full-time attendance at an elementary or secondary school . . . .” Act §
202(d)(7)(A); 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(A). An elementary or secondary school is defined
under the Act as “a school which provides elementary or secondary education under
the laws of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.” Act § 202(d)(7)(C)(i);
42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i). This can include home schooling. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.275.
Student benefits are payable to a home schooled student if the following criteria
The law of the State or jurisdiction in which the home school is located recognizes
the home school as an “Educational Institution”;
The home school meets the requirements of State law where the student resides;
The student meets the Federal standards for full-time attendance found at 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.367(b),(c), and POMS RS 00205.300C; and
The student meets all the other requirements for benefits.
POMS RS 00205.275. An “Educational Institution” is a school that provides elementary or secondary education,
as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.
20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200. The Federal standards for full-time attendance require that the student is:
1) scheduled for attendance at the rate of at least 20 hours per week;
2) enrolled in a course that is not a correspondence course; and
3) enrolled in a course of study that is of at least 13 weeks duration.
20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)-(c); POMS RS 00205.300C. The POMS provide that a finding of full-time attendance may be justified even if
the student attends less than 20 hours per week if: 1) the school’s standards do not
require at least 20 hours of weekly scheduled attendance for the student to be considered
full-time, and attending that school is the student’s only reasonable alternative;
or 2) the student’s medical condition precludes 20 hours of attendance per week. See POMS RS 00205.310.A.
The POMS also provides guidance as to what type of evidence can be submitted to prove
that a home school satisfies State requirements and standards. Such evidence may include:
“[a] copy of the certificate of intent; [d]ocumentation that State-mandated tests
[are] taken; [t]he education level of the home school teacher; [a] list of the courses
being taught; or [a] copy of the attendance log or chart.” POMS RS 00205.275C.
B. Puerto Rico Laws and Guidelines
As relevant to the period at issue, the Constitution of Puerto Rico already provided
that students may attend schools established under the auspices of non-governmental
entities. Puerto Rico Const. Art. II, § 5; 18 L.P.R.A. § 2. Home schooling was specifically
recognized as an educational alternative by the Departamento de La Familia (Department
of Family Affairs), through its nutritional and financial assistance subcomponent,
Administración de Desarrollo Socioeconómico de La Familia (Administration for the
Socioeconomic Development of the Family). This subcomponent allows home schooled students
to apply for food stamp benefits, and provides a form for a teacher to certify that
a student is being home schooled.
Additionally, home schooling is recognized by the Departamento de Educacion de Puerto
Rico Education (Department of Education of Puerto Rico), which has created the Unidad
de Estudios de Equivalencia (UEE), an office dedicated to the integration of children
into the Puerto Rico public school system. The UEE will consider applications from
home schooled students to integrate into the Puerto Rico public school system. In
order to integrate into the public school system, the home school must provide the
UEE with a portfolio of work assigned, reading list for each school year and grade,
and transcripts. The UEE evaluates the submitted materials and determines on a case-by-case
basis if the student’s home school education is sufficient to allow the student to
integrate into the public school system. Universities in Puerto Rico generally have
their own criteria for evaluating home-schooled students; however, some Puerto Rico
universities will request the same documentation as the UEE.
The House of Representatives in Puerto Rico attempted to regulate home schooling in
2006 when it introduced a bill titled “Ley de Educación en el Hogar de Puerto Rico.”
Anecdotal evidence from Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) suggests that
the bill was defeated because it was too restrictive and an infringement upon parents’
constitutional rights to home school their children.
In October 2013, a second bill was introduced in the Puerto Rico Senate to regulate
home schooling in Puerto Rico. However, there were no votes on the bill, and no action
was taken since the bill was referred to a Senate committee on April 6, 2015. Accordingly,
it does not appear that Puerto Rico established standards, guidelines, or a curriculum
for home schools during the relevant period of time.
C. S~ Was a Full-Time Secondary School Student During the Relevant Time Period
1. S~’s Home School is Recognized in Puerto Rico as an “Educational Institution” and
Satisfies the Requirements of Puerto Rico Law
S~ was home schooled in Puerto Rico, and thus, Puerto Rico law determines if his home
school is considered an “Educational Institution” that satisfies the requirements
of State law. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275.
Puerto Rico, through its various governmental agencies, has recognized the home school
as an institution that provides an elementary or secondary education. The Department
of the Family recognizes home schooling as a legitimate form of schooling, and the
Department of Education allows home school students to integrate into the public school
system. Thus, Puerto Rico, through its various governmental agencies, recognizes the
home school as an “Educational Institution.”
Puerto Rico does not set standards for home schools or require that they receive certification
from the government. Additionally, Puerto Rico law does not regulate a home school
student’s course of study or set guidelines for a home school curriculum. S~ was registered
as a student of Seton during the relevant period, and therefore received a home school
education in accordance with Puerto Rico law. Accordingly, S~’s home school is an
“Educational Institution” that satisfies the requirements of Puerto Rico law.
2. S~’s Attendance Satisfies the Federal Requirements for Full-Time Attendance.
Pursuant to the SSA guidelines, a student is considered to be in full-time attendance
if he meets both State and Federal standards for full-time attendance. As noted above,
there are no specific requirements for home schooled students under Puerto Rico law,
and thus, S~’s attendance satisfied Puerto Rico’s requirements for full-time attendance.
S~ stated in his SSA-1372 that he is scheduled to attend 60 hours per week, and the
school’s Director of Guidance certified that the claimant’s statements are true. Although,
S~ was not able to provide proof of attendance or evidence of a weekly schedule, he
was able to provide evidence that he had been accepted to the University of Puerto
Rico Mayaguez, which shows that a university deemed S~’s course of study as satisfactory
for the purposes of admission. Thus, we believe there is sufficient evidence verifying
that S~ attended home school at the rate of at least 20 hours per week during the
relevant period of time. See POMS RS 00205.300C. Further, we are satisfied that S~ was not enrolled in a correspondence course. The
POMS defines a correspondence school as a school that teaches by mailing lessons and
exercises to the student, and upon completion, the student returns the exercises to
the school for grading. POMS RS 00205.330A. The POMS distinguishes between a student enrolled in a correspondence course, and
a student instructed by a home-school teacher who uses course materials from a correspondence
school. See POMS RS 00205.275C, POMS RS 00205.330B. If a student receives materials from a correspondence school but has an instructor
at home, then the student can still meet the requirements for full-time attendance,
so long as the student meets the State requirements for home schooling. See POMS 00205.275C.
S~ provided evidence that he has an instructor, L2~, for physics and math, and generally
works with the instructor for only two to three hours per day. Additionally, the District
Manager of the Mayaguez District Office in Puerto Rico advised that S~ received educational
materials from Seton home school and was taught by his guardian at his home in Mayaguez.
Thus, S~ has provided evidence showing that he has instructors at home to assist with
his coursework. Moreover, the Seton English lesson plans provided by S~ state that
certain written assignments can be graded by the parent or home-school teacher and
then sent to Seton on a quarterly report form. Thus, totality of the evidence submitted
in connection with this claim indicates that S~ is a student instructed by home school
teachers who use course materials from a correspondence school and not a student enrolled
in a correspondence course.
The evidence submitted by S~ indicates that he was scheduled for attendance at the
rate of at least 20 hours per week and enrolled in a course of study that is not a
S~ began receiving Surviving Child’s benefits on his mother’s record after his mother
died in October 2010. S~ turned 18 years old on March XX, 2016. During the relevant
period of time of March 2016 to May 2016, he attended Seton, which under the POMS
is considered an Educational Institution because it provides secondary education as
determined under the law of the jurisdiction where it is located. Additionally, there
is sufficient evidence to establish that S~ satisfied the Federal requirements for
full-time attendance. The evidence submitted also establishes that S~ was enrolled
in a course of study that is not a correspondence course, as defined by the POMS.
Accordingly, S~ can be considered a full-time secondary student for the period of
March 2016 through the date of his graduation from the program, and he is entitled
to student benefits during that period of time.