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Virgin Islands

July 12, 2011

HSLDA Wins First Social Security Case in the Virgin Islands

Mrs. Pinkerton (named changed to protect privacy) had been homeschooling her son Frank for years in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They received Social Security survivor’s benefits that allowed Mrs. Pinkerton to stay at home and educate her son.

But in February 2011, the family ran into a problem. They received a letter from the Social Security Administration indicating that on March 1, Frank would no longer be eligible for benefits unless they could prove he was a full-time student in compliance with the Virgin Islands education code. Mrs. Pinkerton was given several forms, which she filled out and took to her local Social Security office the following day. While at the office, SSA representatives expressed doubt that her son was actually being homeschooled, riddled her with questions about his educational materials, and eventually rejected the forms she filled out, saying that she had filled out the wrong ones. Mrs. Pinkerton, frustrated with the representatives at the SSA office, called HSLDA and begged for help.

HSLDA immediately contacted the SSA office in the Virgin Islands to try to explain the laws of Social Security and the education code of the Virgin Islands, but SSA still refused to accept the information that Mrs. Pinkerton had provided. So on March 23, 2011, HSLDA filed an appeal for the family to get the benefits back. Social Security quickly responded, saying that the paperwork would be acceptable if they received a letter verifying that the Pinkertons’ homeschool was approved by the Virgin Islands’ commissioner of education.

This was problematic, because the commissioner of education does not approve homeschool programs, as his office explained in a letter to the family.

Refusing to take “No” for an answer, Mrs. Pinkerton sent letters to the governor of the Virgin Islands and her representative at the U.S. Federal Congress, while HSLDA submitted letters to both the national Social Security office and the Virgin Islands’ commissioner of education. We explained that the SSA policy for the Virgin Islands presented a no-win scenario for homeschoolers, since the policy did not match what the commissioner was actually doing.

Thankfully, after this appeal, the family received a check from Social Security for the three months of benefits that Frank had not received.

“I’m delighted that we were able to assist our member,” said Staff Attorney Darren Jones, “although I’m disappointed that I wasn’t required to fly out and argue the case in person.”