March 7, 2003

HSLDA Helps Reinstate Disabled Homeschooler's SSI Benefits

When Home School Legal Defense Association appealed the reduction of a disabled homeschooler's Social Security benefits, an Administrative Law Judge in Michigan reinstated them. The ALJ ruled that children who are being homeschooled in accordance with state law are "full-time students" just like children who attend public school.

"This is a great decision, not only for the Near family (name changed), but also as precedent for similar cases in the future," said James R. Mason, Litigation Attorney for HSLDA.

Mr. and Mrs. Near, who are HSLDA members in Michigan, homeschool their three children, including Steve, who is disabled. They have received Supplemental Security Income payments (SSI) on behalf of Steve for 8 years, which has enabled them to keep homeschooling.

In October 2002, the Nears were notified that Steve's SSI benefits would be reduced because he and his brothers were homeschooled. Steve's brothers earned a small income working after school, which would result in a reduction of Steve's benefits if it was added to the family's total income. Normally, a full-time student's earnings are excluded when calculating family income for SSI benefits. But the local SSA office ruled that homeschoolers are not full-time students and reduced Steve's benefits based on his brothers' after-school jobs. HSLDA sought reconsideration by the local office, and was denied.

HSLDA appealed arguing that homeschoolers are full-time students under Michigan law and are therefore eligible for SSI benefits to the same extent as children who attend public schools.

On February 26, 2003, the Administrative Law Judge reinstated Steve's benefits. He issued a thorough decision concluding that because homeschooling is legal under Michigan law, the Administration should have recognized the Near children as full-time students and should not have reduced Steve's benefits.