TN 4 (12-06)

PR 07905.052 Virginia

A. PR 07-019 Determining Whether Joshua A. P~ is Entitled to Child's Insurance Benefits for Attendance at Faith Baptist Christian School, Marion, Virginia

DATE: November 21, 2006

1. SYLLABUS

First Baptist Christian School (FBCS) in Marion, Virginia, provides education that satisfies the compulsory education requirements of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thus, FBCS is an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. OPINION

QUESTION PRESENTED

On October 31, 2006, you asked for our advice as to whether Joshua A. P~ (claimant) is entitled to child's insurance benefits for his attendance at Faith Baptist Christian School (FBCS) in Marion, Virginia. Specifically, you asked whether FBCS was an "educational institution" and whether the claimant's attendance at FBCS was "full-time attendance."

SUMMARY

Based on our review of the information you have provided, it is our opinion that FBCS is an educational institution and that the claimant was attending FBCS as a full-time student. Therefore, we believe that the claimant is entitled to child's insurance benefits.

BACKGROUND

The claimant was born on November 8, 1988, and is currently receiving child's insurance benefits. The claimant turned eighteen years old on November 8, 2006.

On August 30, 2006, the claimant completed a Student's Statement Regarding School Attendance (SSA-1372) form. The claimant stated that he would attend classes for thirty-five hours per week at FBCS from September 5, 2006 to May 25, 2007.

On September 28, 2006, Susan Necessary, a Service Representative at the Bristol Field Office, contacted Mark L~, the principal at FBCS. Mr. L~ stated that FBCS was not accredited by the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to Mr. L~, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not require a private school to be accredited. Although students at FBCS learn at their own pace, teachers are available to answer any questions from students. Students are expected to report to FBCS and teachers keep attendance rolls. Mr. L~ further stated that all of the school's learning materials are obtained from Texas.

On November 16 and 17, 2006, Craig O~, Assistant Regional Counsel for the Office of General Counsel - Region III, contacted Mr. L~ and a school employee. Mr. L~ verified that the claimant has been attending FBCS as a full-time student. The school employee stated that the school day was 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and the school year was September 5, 2006 to May 25, 2007.

Discussion

In order to be eligible to receive child's insurance benefits, a child who is eighteen years of age or older must be a "full-time elementary or secondary school student." 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367. An individual is a "full-time elementary or secondary school student" if (1) the individual attends "a school which provides elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located" and (2) the individual is "in full-time attendance in a day or evening noncorrespondence course of at least 13 weeks duration" and is "carrying a subject load which is considered full-time for day student under the institution's standards and practices." 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)-(b).

The First Baptist Christian School Is an Educational Institution Under Virginia Law.

The first requirement for an individual to receive child's insurance benefits is for the individual to attend an educational institution under the law of the State or jurisdiction where the school is located. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a).

Under Virginia law, private schools, such as FBCS, do not have to be accredited by the state. Although the Board of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia may provide for the accreditation of private schools, the Board cannot require accreditation of private schools because seeking accreditation is entirely voluntary on the school's part. Va. Code Ann. §§ 22.1-8, 22.1-19. Thus, the fact that FBCS is not accredited by the Commonwealth of Virginia is not determinative of whether FBCS is an educational institution under Virginia law.

Similarly, FBCS's educational method is not determinative of whether FBCS is an educational institution under Virginia law. The Commonwealth of Virginia does not regulate private schools. Johnson v. Prince William County School Board, 404 S.E.2d 209, 211 (1991); Grigg v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 297 S.E.2d 799, 820-03 (1982); Va. Code Ann. § § 22.1-8, 22.1-19. It appears that FBCS's educational method is individualized rather than the lecture approach common in most schools. Because the Commonwealth of Virginia does not regulate private schools, FBCS's educational method, although unique, would not disqualify FBCS as an educational institution.

Instead, the most significant issue for purposes of answering your question is whether attendance at FBCS satisfies the Commonwealth of Virginia's compulsory education requirements. Under Virginia law, there is no distinction between accredited and unaccredited private schools for purposes of compulsory education. Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254(2006). Virginia law specifies that attendance at a private, denominational, or parochial school complies with the compulsory education requirements if the private, denominational, or parochial school is in session for the same number of days and hours per day as the public schools. Va. Code Ann. §§ 22.1-8, 22.1-19, 22.1-254. Virginia law states that schools generally will start after Labor Day and that the school year consists of no less than 180 days or 990 hours. Va. Code Ann. §§ 22.1-79.1, 22.1-98.

In the instant case, the claimant's statements regarding the length of the school day and school year at FBCS demonstrate that FBCS's attendance requirements satisfy the Commonwealth of Virginia's compulsory education requirements. A FBCS school employee verified that the length of the school day and school year at FBCS satisfy the compulsory educations requirements. Because FBCS's school satisfies the compulsory education requirements, FBCS is an educational institution under Virginia law.

2. The Claimant Was in Full-Time Attendance at the First Baptist Christian School.

The second requirement for an individual to receive child's insurance benefits is for the individual to be in full-time attendance at an educational institution. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b). In addition to the 13 week durational requirement, full-time attendance is generally considered a "scheduled attendance...at the rate of at least 20 hours per week[.]" 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c).

In the instant case, the claimant's statements regarding the length of the school day and school year at FBCS demonstrate that he was in full-time attendance at FBCS. The claimant stated that the school year ran from September 2006 to May 2007, clearly exceeding the 13 week durational requirement. The claimant also stated that he was in school for 35 hours per week, clearly exceeding the 20 hours per week durational requirement. Mr. L~ verified that the claimant was actually attending FBCS on a full-time basis. Based on the claimant's statements and Mr. L~'s verification, the claimant was in full-time attendance at FBCS.

Conclusion

For the reasons described above, it is our opinion that FBCS is an educational institution and that the claimant was attending FBCS as a full-time student. Therefore, we believe that the claimant is entitled to child's insurance benefits.

Donna L. C~
Regional Chief Counsel

By:
Craig B. O~
Assistant Regional Counsel


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1507905052
PR 07905.052 - Virginia - 05/14/2008
Batch run: 01/27/2009
Rev:05/14/2008