R. was appointed co-executor of the estate of a worker who died January 26, 1957. In August 1957, R telephoned the local Social Security district office to ask what steps were necessary to receive a lump-sum death payment on the worker's earnings record. He explained that there was no surviving widow, that the estate had no assets from which he could pay the burial expenses immediately, but that the estate had "choses in action" and, when a settlement was reached, all claims, including the one for burial expenses, would be paid.
R received a letter from the district office dated August 23, 1957, which stated that, when burial expenses had been paid, R should furnish receipted bills therefor, and a certified copy of his appointment as executor, and that then arrangements to secure an application for the lump-sum death payment would be made.
In a letter mailed January 20, 1961, R forwarded the receipted funeral bills to the district office. He stated in his letter that he had just paid the burial expenses and that, upon further instructions concerning the lump-sum application, he would forward a certified copy of his appointment papers. The district office reply, mailed January 27, 1961, informed R that, generally, an application for a lump-sum death payment must be filed within 2 years from the date of death of the worker but that this 2-year limitation for filing may be extended for an additional 2 years if there is good cause for failure to file within the initial 2-year period. In further correspondence R explained that the district office letter of August 23, 1957, had led him to believe that an application could not be filed until the burial expenses had been paid. R filed a formal application for the lump-sum death payment on March 20, 1961.
The question to be resolved is whether R filed his application for the lump-sum death payment within the time limitation prescribed by the Act. All other requirements for entitlement to the lump-sum death payment were met.
Section 202(i) of the Social Security Act, as pertinent here, provided for the payment of a lump-sum death payment, in cases where there was no surviving spouse who was living in the same household with the worker at the time of his death, to the person or persons equitably entitled to the payment by reason of having paid burial expenses of the deceased insured worker, to the extent and in the proportions that he or they shall have paid those expenses; subject to the requirement that an application for the lump-sum death payment must have been filed by such person or persons within 2 years of the date of death of the worker. Under amendments to the Social Security law enacted in September 1960, a lump-sum death payment may, under certain circumstances, now be paid to the funeral home where some or all of the burial expenses have not been paid; but an application must be filed within the 2-year period.
Section 202(p)(2), as pertinent here, provides that where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Secretary that there was good cause for failure to file an application for a lump-sum death payment within the initial 2-year period as required by section 202(i), such application shall be deemed to have been filed within such period if it is filed within 2 years following such period.
Regulations No. 4, § 404.617(a), as pertinent here, provides that "good cause" may be found for failure to file an application for a lump-sum death payment within the initial 2-year period when the claimant establishes that such failure was due to circumstances beyond his control or was due to incorrect or incomplete information furnished him by the Department.
Regulations No. 4 § 404.601(a) states that the term "application" refers only to an application on a form prescribed by the Social Security Administration and includes an application for a lump-sum death payment. However, § 404.613(a) states that where a claimant files a written statement which indicates an intention to claim monthly benefits, a recomputation of benefits, a lump-sum death payment, or a period of disability and such statement bears his signature, the claimant shall, unless he indicates otherwise, be deemed to have "filed an application" therefor if he files an application on a prescribed form within 6 months from the date the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance notifies him in writing that an application on a prescribed form is necessary.
In the present case, R can be entitled to the lump-sum death payment only if he had good cause for failure to file the application within 2 years after the worker's death, and did file the application within 4 years after the date of death.
R had contacted the district office concerning a lump-sum death payment about 6 months after the worker's death. Because erroneously he was given to believe that he could not file application for a lump sum until the burial expenses were paid, and because he was unable to pay the expenses within 2 years after the worker's death, good cause is found for his failure to file an application within the initial 2-year period as required under section 202(i).
Although the formal application for a lump-sum death payment was executed and filed by R on March 20, 1961, more than 4 years after the worker's death, R's letter of January 20, 1961, was received by the Administration less than 4 years after the worker's death. This letter, inquiring about the lump-sum death payment and signed by R, is a written statement showing an intent to claim the lump-sum death payment. Also, the formal application was filed within 6 months from the date thereafter that the Bureau notified him that an application on a prescribed form was necessary. It is held that R is deemed to have filed application on January 20, 1961, and this application is deemed to have been filed within 2 years after the worker's death. Accordingly, R is entitled to the lump-sum death payment on behalf of the worker's estate.
Back to Table of Contents