EFFECTIVE DATE: 4/8/86
Whether the Secretary must, in his evaluation of the worker's "contributions to the support" of an illegitimate child, consider the worker's means and the income of the family in which the child resided.
Section 216(e) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 416(e)); Section 216(h)(3)(C)(ii) (42 U.S.C. 416(h)(3)(C)(ii)); 20 C.F.R. 404,366(a)(2)
FOURTH (MARYLAND, NORTH CAROLINA, SOUTH CAROLINA, VIRGINIA, WEST VIRGINIA)
Jones v. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, 629 F.2d 334 (4th Cir. 1980)
Beverly Jones, born on March 20, 1962, is the illegitimate daughter of Arilla Jones and David Craig. The child lived with her mother in the home of her grandparents. David Craig lived with his mother and siblings. Both families were large and impoverished. Mr. Craig was employed and earned $1,483.67 in 1962. In March 1963, after a month-long hospitalization, Mr. Craig died. His earnings for 1963 were $301.65. In 1975, Arilla Jones filed an application for child's insurance benefits for Beverly Jones on Mr. Craig's Social Security earnings record. Arilla Jones claimed that Beverly was David Craig's child who is deemed dependent on him under section 216(h)(3)(C)(ii) of the Social Security Act. The ALJ concluded that Mr. Craig was Beverly's father but that he was not making regular and substantial contributions for the support of the child at the time of his death, as required by section 216(h)(3)(C)(ii). The Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ's determination which became the Secretary's final decision. Ms. Jones then sought review of the Secretary's decision in the United States district court. The district court affirmed the Secretary's decision and the plaintiff appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the district court with instructions to remand to the Secretary for further proceedings in accordance with the Court of Appeals' opinion.
The Court of Appeals held that the test properly to be applied is whether contributions which were regular and substantial in relation to the worker's income and the child's need were made. The court stated: "Whether the wage earner was contributing to the support of Beverly must be determined by comparing the amount and frequency of contribution with the wage earner's income and with the income of the family in which the child resided." The court reasoned that the loss of small regular contributions to a poor family would cause the economic dislocation which the Social Security Act seek to prevent. The court could not determine whether the ALJ took Mr. Craig's financial circumstances and the child's needs into account in determining that Mr. Craig was not making regular and substantial contributions to Beverly's support. Because the court found that the test applied by the ALJ was unclear, the court remanded for reconsideration of the claim.
The "contributing to the support of the applicant" provision in section 216(h)(3)(C)(ii) (42 U.S.C. 416(h)(3)(C)(ii)) has been interpreted by the Social Security Administration in regulation 20 C.F.R. 404.366(a)(2) to require contributions that are both regularly made and large enough to meet an important part of the applicant's ordinary living costs. When evaluating contributions to support, SSA attaches little relevance to the worker's financial circumstances; it assesses contributions in terms of the child's needs and the extent to which they were met by the worker's contributions.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the levels of income of both the father and of the household in which the child resides were factors that must be considered in determining whether contributions meet the statutory requirement of support.
This ruling applies only to cases where the child resides in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia or Maryland at the time of determination or decision at any level of administrative review, i.e., initial, reconsideration, administrative law judge hearing or Appeals Council.
In a claim for surviving child's benefits under Section 216(h)(3)(C)(ii) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 416(h)(3)(C)(ii)) where the worker's income had been irregular or insubstantial, the substantiality and regularity of the worker's contributions to the applicant's support must be evaluated in light of the financial resources of both the worker and the household in which the child resides.
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