SSR 61-40. EFFECT OF SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' CIVIL RELIEF ACT
- By virtue of the provisions of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, a period of military service is excluded in computing the period within which determinations imposing work deductions may be reopened under the regulations of the Social Security Administration.
C became entitled to child's insurance benefits beginning with February 1948. In November 1952, he reported to the Social Security Administration that he had begun to work. He was duly notified that his benefits were subject to deductions under section 203(b) of the Social Security Act, beginning with November 1952, and that he should notify the Administration of changes in his work or earnings which would permit resumption of benefit payments.
Early in August 1953, C's employment status changed. From August 1953 to July 1958, C was on active duty with the United States armed forces. Deductions should not have been imposed against his benefits for months after July 1953, but the Administration was not informed of these changes in C's status and continued to impose deductions each month through July 1954. C's entitlement ended with the latter month because he attained age 18 in August 1954.
In November 1959, C filed a statement at a district office of the Administration. In this statement he explained what had happened since July 1953, stated that he had not previously understood the effect of these events, and requested payment of benefits for the months August 1953 through July 1954 on the ground that deductions imposed for those months were erroneous. At the same time, he submitted proof of active military service as alleged. This request raised the question whether the determinations that deductions were applicable to C's benefits for those months could be reopened at so late a time.
Regulations No. 4 provide in § 404.957 that an initial determination may be reopened for any reason within 12 months from the date of notice of such determination; or, upon a finding of good cause, may be reopened later than 12 months but within 4 years after the date of the notice; or, under certain circumstances not applicable here, may be reopened after 4 years. "Good cause" for reopening within the 4-year period will be deemed to exist where new and material evidence is furnished. Even though the information given by C in November 1959 constituted new and material evidence, it cannot be used as the basis for reopening the determination after the end of the 4-year period. It thus remains to be determined when the period for reopening began and ended.
Under § 404.965 of Regulations No. 4, "The imposition of deductions constitutes an initial determination with respect to each month for which a deduction is imposed." Where deductions are imposed for consecutive months in accordance with facts reported by the beneficiary and after notice that they will be so imposed, no new notice is sent for each month; the non-receipt of benefits for a month, under these circumstances, is notice of the determination with respect to that month. In such cases, the period for questioning the correctness of a deduction for a month for "good cause" ends 4 years after the end of that month.
In November 1959, when C first questioned the correctness of deductions, more than 4 years had elapsed after July 1954, the last month for which a deduction was imposed against C's benefits. It would thus appear from the regulations cited above that C raised the question too late to permit reopening the determinations of deductions for any of the months at issue. However, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940, as amended, provides, in pertinent part, that any period of military service (after October 16, 1940) shall not be included in computing the period for the bringing of any action or proceeding in any court, board, bureau, commission, department, or other agency of government, whether such cause of action or the right or privilege to institute such action or proceeding shall have occurred prior to or during the period of service.
Regulations No. 4, § 404.612, implements the above portion of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940 for social security purposes. While that regulation does not expressly provide that a period of military service may be excluded in computing the period within which an erroneous administrative determination may be reopened, it is necessary to construe the regulation in the light of the broad wording and liberal purpose of the remedial legislation which it implements. Boone v. Lightner, 319 U.S. 561 (1943). The reopening of an administrative determination pursuant to specified rules and limitations contained in the social security regulations would constitute a "proceeding" as that term is used in the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act. Thus, time spent in military service after the date of the notice of determination is excluded in determining what is the last day on which an administrative determination may be reopened.
With regard to the deductions for the months August 1953 through July 1954, the period within which such deduction determinations may be reopened for good cause will not end until 4 years after the termination of C's military service in July 1958. Accordingly, it is held that C's evidence and request for reopening, filed in November 1959, are timely for purposes of reopening the deduction determinations in question, and that benefits may be paid to C for the months of August 1953 through July 1954 without deductions.