20 CFR 404.1109
Section 202(d)(8)(D)(ii)(III) of the Social Security Act provides that if a child adopted after an insured individual's entitlement to retirement or disability insurance benefits is the grandchild of the insured individual or his or her spouse, the dependency requirements for entitlement to child's insurance benefits will be satisfied if the child was living with and receiving one-half support from the insured individual for the year immediately prior to the child's application for benefits. Held, the term grandchild as used in that provision was not intended to include a great-grandchild.
A question has been raised as to whether the term "grandchild", as used in section 202(d)(8)(D)(ii) of the Social Security Act, can be interpreted to include a great-grandchild. For the reasons set forth below, it has been held that the term "grandchild" as used in this section of the Act does not include great-grandchild.
Section 240 of P.L. 93-66 (July 9, 1973) amended section 202(d)(8)(D) (ii) by inserting subclause (III) to provide that a "grandchild" of either the wage earner or his or her spouse, who is adopted by the wage earner after the wage earner's entitlement to social security benefits, will be deemed to meet the dependency requirements necessary for entitlement to child's insurance benefits under section 202(d)(1)(C), if the child was living with and receiving one-half support from the wage earner for the year immediately before the month in which the child files his or her application for such benefits.
During the Senate debate on the proposed 1973 Amendments to the Social Security Act, P.L. 93-66, an amendment offered on the floor by Senator Byrd of West Virginia was passed to strike clause (ii) or section 202(d)(S)(D). Clause (ii) was enacted as section 111(a) of P.L. 92-603 (October 30, 1972) and provided that to meet the dependency requirements for entitlement to child's insurance benefits, any child adopted by a wage earner after his other entitlement to social security benefits, must have been living with and receiving one-half support from the wage earner for the year preceding the wage earner's entitlement to such benefits. In conference with the House, a substitute for the Senate amendment was agreed upon and subsequently enacted as section 240 of P.l. 93-66. This substitute amendment was explained to the House as follows:
The third modification in the Senate amendment, relating to the eligibility of adopted children, would also have had a significant cost. The medication contained in the motion is in the nature of a substitute amendment which the Conferees believe will make it possible for benefits to be paid to children who are adopted after a beneficiary is entitled to benefits in the most compelling cases without permitting children to be adopted for the sole purpose of increasing social security payments as the Senate amendment would have done. The proposed change would make it possible for social security beneficiaries to adopt grandchildren without the requirement that the child must have lived with them and been supported by them for a year before they became entitled to benefits but would require that the children have lived with and been supported by them for a year before the child becomes entitled to a social security benefit." See 119 Cong. Rec. H 5719 (June 29, 1973) (remarks of Mr. Mills). See also 119 Cong. Rec.H 5789 (June 30, 1973) (remarks of Mr. Mills).
In the Senate, the following explanation of the conference committee's substitute amendment was given prior to its final passage:
A proposal suggested by Senator Byrd of West Virginia would have eliminated the requirement in present law that an adopted child, in order to be eligible for social security benefits, have lived with his adoptive parents at least 1 year before the parent retired or became disabled. The Senate bill this time included a limited version of this that the conferees had earlier agreed to. Under the provision agreed to by the conferees, a child adopted by his grandparents will be eligible for social security benefits if he has lived with his grandparents—whether or not they are receiving benefits—and if his natural parents are dead or disabled."  See 119 Cong. Rec. S 12718 (June 30, 1973) (remarks of Senator Long).
The above legislative history of the statutory provision in question indicates that the amendment, as passed, was to have only limited application. Throughout consideration and discussion of the amendment, the class of children to be affected was consistently and exclusively referred to and described as "grandchildren". There is nothing to indicate that this term was to acquire any meaning other than that in ordinary usage.
The term "grandchild" is defined as the child of one's child and as a descendant of the second degree. A great-grandchild is defined as the child of one's grandchild. Ordinarily, words in a statute should be given their plain and usual meaning, absent a contrary legislative intent. In the absence of evidence of any intention by the Congress to extend the word "grandchild" to include great-grandchildren or more remote descendants held, the word "grandchild" as used in section 202(d)(8)(D)(ii) should not be construed to include a great-grandchild.
 The amendment was effective with respect to benefits payable for months after July 1973 on the basis of applications for child's insurance benefits filed in or after July 1973.
 See 119 Cong. Rec. S 12169-S 12170 (June 27, 1973) (remarks of Senator Byrd).
 The statement that the amendment, as approved in conference, applies only in those cases where the natural parents of an adopted grandchild are dear or disabled is not supported by the language of the amendment, and this requirement has not been considered a condition of entitlement in adoption cases. See, however, section 216(e)(3) of the Act where this requirement is necessary prior to the entitlement of a child as the grandchild of the insured individual or his spouse, rather than as an adopted child.
Back to Table of Contents