EFFECTIVE/PUBLICATION DATE: 11/08/89
20 CFR § 404.2040(c)
R's wife raised a question as to whether her husband was legally obligated to support her under Alabama law, because she wanted to know whether she could use his retirement insurance benefits for her necessities.
R resides in the Veterans Administration (VA) nursing home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He suffers from a mental impairment which is expected to continue indefinitely. R receives $600.70 in monthly retirement insurance benefits and his wife is his representative payee.
When R's wife filed as representative payee, she stated that she provided her husband with clothing and spending money and maintained a balance of $50.00 for incidentals in his canteen fund at the nursing home. R's wife works part-time, but is unable to fully meet her living expenses with her earnings. She asked if she could use her husband's monthly benefits to maintain the family home in Bessemer, Alabama. Contact with the VA nursing home substantiated R's wife's statement that all of her husband's needs are being met by the VA.
A husband in Alabama is under a common-law duty and obligation to furnish necessities and support to his wife and minor children. Green v. First National Bank of Tuscaloosa, 272 So.2d 895, rev'd. on other grounds. 272 So.2d 901, affd. 272 So.2d 940 (1973); Guthrie v. Bobo, 26 So.2d 203 (1946). The limits of this requirement are measured by the needs of the family unit and correspondingly, by the financial ability of the husband to provide them. This imposition is not absolved even though the wife may, be statute, enter into contracts and be sued thereon. Green, supra; Anderson v. W. T. Grant Company, 226 So.2d 166 (1946).
Based upon the foregoing, the Social Security Administration decided that, because R is under a legal obligation to support his wife notwithstanding his confinement in the nursing home, and because his current maintenance needs are being met, his wife, as his legal dependent, may use his benefit payments for her necessities.
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