W applied for old-age insurance benefits in May 1957 at age 71. He needed six quarters of coverage to be insured for these benefits. The earnings record, which was complete through 1956, clearly showed that W had only four quarters of coverage; but the certification of earnings, prepared by a clerk from the earnings record, erroneously showed that W had five quarters of coverage. A "Statement of Wages" form signed by his employer showed that W had been paid $76 in March 1957. Since it appeared from the certification of earnings and from the "Statement of Wages" that W had acquired his sixth quarter of coverage in March 1957 and thus had become fully insured, he was awarded old-age insurance benefits effective that month. Notice of the award, mailed to W on June 12, 1957, and bearing that date, was returned marked "Unclaimed," as was W's first benefit check. W had moved without notifying the Administration of his change of address and efforts to ascertain his new address were unsuccessful. Therefore, his subsequent checks were withheld, and W never received actual notice of the award of old-age insurance benefits.
Apparently having forgotten about his original application, in May 1961 W filed another application for old-age insurance benefits. He stated that he had not worked since March 1957. A recertification of W's earnings showed only four quarters of coverage prior to January 1957 and the quarter of coverage for the first quarter of 1957. On June 12, 1961, the recertification of W's earnings was found to be correct and the Administration sought to reopen the prior determination on the basis that the original earnings certification (on which the prior determination was based) was inconsistent with the evidence as to W's earnings in the Administration's records at the time prior determination was made.
The question to be resolved is whether the lapse of time precludes reopening of the determination of award made in June 1957.
Regulations No. 4, § 404.957(b), provides that, upon a finding of good cause, an initial determination may be reopened within 4 years after the date of the notice to the claimant of such determination. Regulations No. 4, § 404.958(c), provides that "good cause" shall be deemed to exist where there is an error on the face of the evidence on which the determination was based.
An error on the face of the evidence exists where the incorrectness of the determination is apparent from the evidence which was in the possession of the Social Security Administration at the time the determination was made. Because of error on the face of the evidence on which the initial determination was based in the instant case, there is good cause for the reopening of that determination within 4 years after the date of the notice to W of the determination.
The Administration sought to reopen the determination on June 12, 1961. If this action was taken within 4 years of the date of notice, the determination was reopened timely and may be revised. Otherwise, although the evidence shows W is not eligible, the determination cannot be reopened and revised and W would be entitled to payment of benefits for March 1957 and each month thereafter.
Rule 6(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (28 U.S.C.A.) states, in pertinent part, the general Federal rule:
A review of other legal authorities indicates that rule 6(a) states the prevailing principle governing this type of case.
Notice of the award was dated June 12, 1957, and was mailed that day. Although W did not actually receive the notice, the letter was properly sent to his last known address, as required by Regulations No. 4, § 404.907, and constitutes notice of determination within the meaning of § 404.957(b) of the Regulations. Thus, in determining the 4-year period during which the initial determination may be reopened, June 12, 1957, the date of the notice to W, is not included and June 12, 1961, is the last day of the 4-year period within which the initial determination may be reopened.
It is, therefore, held that the determination of award of which notice was mailed on June 12, 1957, may be reopened and revised, and the revised determination is that W is not fully insured, was not entitled to the benefits for which he applied in 1957, and is not entitled on the basis of the 1961 application.
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