You asked whether Hoosier Academies Virtual School (Hoosier Academies), a tuition-free
online public charter school located in Indianapolis, Indiana, may be considered an
educational institution (EI) for purposes of awarding child insurance benefits.
For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that Hoosier Academies qualifies as an
EI for the purpose of awarding child insurance benefits. We further conclude that
claimant does not appear to meet the requirements for full-time attendance. 
B~ is seeking child insurance benefits (CIB) due to her status as a full-time student
at Hoosier Academies. With her application, the claimant submitted Form SSA-1372-BK
dated August 6, 2014 indicating that she was scheduled to attend Hoosier Academies
full-time (25 hours per week) since August 2014, and that she expected to graduate
in May 2015. The SSA-1372-BK was certified by Hoosier Academies Academic Administrator
C~ on August 6, 2014.
Hoosier Academies is a tuition-free public virtual charter school authorized by Ball
State University, Office of Charter Schools. As a public school, Hoosier Academies
has the same structure, administrative support, oversight, accountability, and state
testing requirements of all other Indiana public schools. See Hoosier Academies website,
Who We Are (available at www.k12.com/ha/who-we-are (last visited October 21, 2014)).
The Social Security Act (Act) provides for the payment of CIB to certain children
of individuals who are entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits or who
died as fully or currently insured individuals. See Section 202(d)(1) of Act. As relevant here, to qualify for student benefits, a claimant
must be at least 18 years old but under age 19 and a full-time elementary or secondary
school student. See Section 202(d)(1)(B) of the Act; 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(1)(5). If the claimant is not
under a disability, benefits terminate when he turns 19 years old, regardless of his
educational status. See Section 202(d)(1)(F)(ii) of the Act.
“Elementary or secondary school” is defined as “a school which provides elementary
or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or
other jurisdiction in which it is located.” Section 202(d)(7)(C)(i) of the Act; see
also 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a). The POMS refers to such a school as an “educational institution.”
See POMS RS 00205.200A. Under the POMS, it is generally assumed that American public schools are EIs, absent
evidence to the contrary; a non-public school cannot be assumed to be an EI. See POMS RS 00205.250B. It does not matter if the school is online, so long as the school meets state law
requirements. See POMS RS 00205.295.
POMS RS 00205.295 sets forth agency policy with respect to online schools. It defines an online school
as “one that offers Internet-based courses to students.” POMS RS 00205.295A. A child attending an online school may be a full-time student if: (1) the student
meets the standards for full-time attendance as defined in RS 00205.300, and (2) the online school operates in accordance with the law of the state in which
the online school is located. See POMS RS 00205.295B. The Act defines “full-time elementary or secondary school student” as an individual
who is in full-time attendance at an elementary or secondary school, as determined
by the Commissioner of Social Security by regulation. See Section 202(d)(7)(a) of
the Act; see also 20 C.F.R. §404.367.
Hoosier Academies Qualifies as an Educational Institution
As noted above, to be considered an educational institution, a school must provide
elementary or secondary school education as determined under the law of the state
or other jurisdiction in which it is located. See Section 202(d)(7)(C)(i) of the Act; 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200A. Hoosier Academies is based in Indiana. To determine whether Hoosier Academies qualifies
as an EI, we must examine Indiana law.
Under Indiana law, a “charter school” means a public elementary or secondary school
established under Article 24 of the Indiana Code that (1) is nonsectarian and nonreligious;
and (2) operates under a charter. I.C. § 20-24-1-4 (2011) (emphasis added). A “virtual
charter school” means any charter school, including a conversion charter school, that
provides for the delivery of more than fifty percent of instruction to students through:
(1) virtual distance learning; (2) online technologies; or (3) computer based instruction.
I.C. § 20-24-7-13 (2013).
Charter schools must be open to any student who resides in Indiana and may not establish
admission policies or limit student admissions in any manner in which a public school
is not permitted to establish admission policies or limit student admissions. I.C.
§ 20-24-5. Further, although charter schools may receive private donations, they are
public schools that receive federal and state funding to cover operating costs. I.C.
§ 20-24-7; I.C. § 20-24-7-13 (2013); see also Indiana Charter School Board, For Families and Communities, Charter School FAQs (available
at www.in.gov/icsb/2447.htm (last visited on October 22, 2014).
Given that Hoosier Academies is a charter school, and therefore a public school according
to I.C. § 20-24-1-4 (2011), we must examine we assume it is an EI unless there is
any evidence to the contrary. See POMS RS 00205.250B. In this case, there is no evidence contrary to Hoosier Academies’ presumed nature
as an EI.
As a charter school authorized by Ball State University (Ball State), Hoosier Academies
went through Ball State’s rigorous application process to ensure that the school met
high standards of quality public education. This process includes interviews with
school organizers, and possible public meetings and additional evaluations. Ultimately,
the president of Ball State decides whether to offer a school a charter. Once Hoosier
Academies received its charter from Ball State, it underwent annual reviews including
site visits to monitor compliance with Ball State requirements and charter school
law. See Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools Brochure (available at http://cms.bsu.edu/-/media/WWW/DepartmentalContent/CharterSchool/PDF/Brochure09.pdf) (last visited October 22, 2014).
Further, since Hoosier Academies is a public school in Indiana, it has the same attendance
requirements as other Indiana public schools, all students must participate in testing
mandated by the state of Indiana, and graduates earn a diploma. See Hoosier Academies FAQ (available at www.k12.com/ha/faqs/general) (last visited October
Additionally, Hoosier Academies is included on the Indiana Department of Education’s
list of public schools for the 2013-2014 school year. See Indiana Department of Education’s School and Corporation Data Reports, General School
Information, 2013-14 Indiana School Directory, Updated May 2014 (available at www.doe.in.gov/accountability/find-school-and-corporation-data-reports)
(last visited October 22, 2014). Hoosier Academies is also included on Ball State’s
list of Charter Schools Authorized by Ball State University, which was last updated
in July 2014. See Ball State’s Office of Charter School’s Charter Schools Authorized by Ball State University
(available at http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/teachers/schools/charter/charterschool/charterschools) (last visited October 22, 2014).
The information available on websites for Hoosier Academies, Ball State’s Office of
Charter Schools, and the Indiana Department of Education, demonstrates that Hoosier
Academies is a public charter school as determined under Indiana law and meets the
requirements for an EI.
For the reasons discussed above, we find that Hoosier Academies qualifies as an EI. In
addition, we find that the claimant does not appear to meet both the federal and state
Acting Regional Chief Counsel,Region V
Emily S. Cohn
Assistant Regional Counsel