Rescinded 1991

SSR 76-30: Section 202(b)(1)(A) and 202(d)1)(A) (42 U.S.C. 402(b)(1)(A) and 402(d)(1)(A))—Applications—Intent to File

20 CFR 404.613

SSR 76-30

The wage earner specified in written statement that he did not wish to file for benefits on behalf of his dependents because he had "no immediate plans of retirement." Under applicable provisions of the Social Security Act, it would not have been in the interest of the dependents to delay filing for benefits solely because of wage earner's retirement plans. HELD, the written statement raises sufficient doubt about wage earner's intent with respect to filing for benefits on behalf of his dependents which doubt is to be resolved in favor of finding intent to file that such statement indicated such intention, as required by Regulations No. 4, section 404.613(b).

A question has been raised concerning a written statement which was made by the wage earner on behalf of his wife and child. [1] Such statement reads as follows:

"I do not wish to file for [my] wife and child now since I have no immediate plans of retirement."

The specific issue raised was whether the quoted statement would qualify as a written statement which indicates an intention to claim benefits on behalf of another person as required by Regulations No. 4, section 404.613(b). [2]

Sections 202(b)(1)(A) and 202(d)(1)(A) prescribe the application requirements for wife's and child's benefits respectively. In each case the individual must have "filed application for . . . benefits." Section 404.613 of Social Security Administration Regulations No. 4 sets forth the circumstances under which a written statement (rather than a prescribed application form) may be considered to be an application for monthly benefits. Section 404.613 also indicates the circumstances under which a person other than the claimant may file a written statement on behalf of the claimant.[3] In describing the type of written statement necessary, section 404.613(b) prescribes that the statement must "[indicate] an intention to claim on behalf of another person monthly benefits." (Emphasis supplied.) While section 404.613 does not make explicit reference to "doubtful intents," it clearly does not preclude SSA from finding an intent to file where a written statement raises doubt about an individual's intent to file. Section 404.613(c)(1) provides, in pertinent part, that once a written statement has been received, notice in writing shall be sent to the claimant (or where the claimant is a minor or incompetent, to the person submitting the written statement on his behalf), stating that an individual determination will be made with respect to such written statement if a prescribed application form is filed with SSA within 6 months from the date of the notice. Thus, if any doubt concerning an individual's intent to claim benefits on behalf of another has been manifested by a written statement, such doubt could be resolved by giving the individual the opportunity to file a prescribed application form within 6 months from the date of SSA's notice. The foregoing interpretation has been explicitly adopted as part of SSA's operating procedures. These procedures provide that if some doubt exists about intent to file, the doubt should be resolved by finding an intent to file.

In light of the foregoing conclusions pertaining to the requisite intent for purposes of the application requirement, the sole issue remaining to be resolved with respect to the subject wage earner's statement is whether it did in fact raise doubt about his intent to file on behalf of his wife and child. The only evidence concerning the wage earner's intent with respect to the purported filing for his wife and child was the statement previously quoted and specific reference to his wife and child (see footnote 1) on the wage earner's application. The written statement indicates that the wage earner's sole reason for not wishing to file for benefits was his concern that his retirement plans would in some way make it disadvantageous for him to file or at least nullify any advantages that may arise from the filing. This simply is not the case, however. It clearly would have been advantageous under applicable provisions of the Social Security Act for him to have filed regardless of his retirement plans.

If a wage earner files an application on behalf of his dependents within one year of the month of their initial eligibility for benefits (henceforth referred to as a "timely" filing) his dependents are assured of receiving all benefit payments which are not precluded by the annual earnings test (or by another deduction or on payment provision) for the duration of their entitlement. Such assurance is quite important due to the many uncertainties inherent in the application of the annual earnings test [4]and the possibility that the wage earner may not be diligent in applying for benefits once it appears that such test will no longer preclude payments. Further, a timely filing by dependents can sometimes work to the advantage of the family in the application of the annual earnings test. Newly entitled dependents increase the amount of the family's benefits against which work deductions may be imposed. Thus, in some instances, a family with entitled dependents may be able to receive benefits for part of a year even though no benefits would have been payable to the wage earner if solely he were entitled. While it is generally to the advantage of both wage earner and dependents for the dependents to make a timely application, we are aware of no countervailing disadvantages associated with a timely filing under the circumstances present here.

Accordingly, since it would not have been in the interest of the wage earner's dependents to have their filing delayed solely because of the wage earner's retirement plans and since the wage earner indicated in his written statement that the absence of plans to retire was the basis for his purported wish not to file, the written statement may be view by SSA as raising doubt about the wage earner's intent to file and that SSA may find that the wage earner did intend to file as required by section 404.613(b). [5]

[1] The statement was included on the wage earner's application for retirement insurance benefits. In addition to the statement, the wage earner makes specific reference on the application to his wife and his son.

[2] It does not appear that an individual could meet the application requirement for monthly benefits by manifesting an intent couched in terms of a future contingency. The regulatory scheme implementing the statutory application requirement does not authorize the Social Security Administration to hold in abeyance a purported application or written statement until the Social Security Administration had been able to verify the occurrence of some future event designated by the individual in such application or statement.

[3] Under the facts raised here, the subject wage earner would be permitted to file a written statement of intent on behalf of his spouse and his son. Section 404.613(b)(2)(i) and (ii) of Social Security Administration Regulations No. 4. Thus, if the Social Security Administration finds that his statement manifested the requisite intent to claim benefits, such statement may serve as application for both spouse and son.

[4] "Uncertainties" which affect the imposition of work deductions include changes in the level of the wage earner's annual earnings as well as fluctuations in earnings from month to month during the year, changes in the number of individuals who are entitled to his account, statutory changes affecting the nature of the test itself. Uncertainties such as these make it difficult for individuals to predict whether benefits otherwise payable to them or their dependents would be precluded by the test.

[5] The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a written statement which closely paralleled the written statement made her qualified under section 404.613(a) as a field "written statement" . . . that indicates an intention to claim monthly benefits." Widermann v. Richardson, 451 F.2d 1228 (2d Cir., 1971).

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