Social Security Ruling, SSR 20-01p: How We Determine an Individual's Education Category, 13692-13694 [2020-04668]

Download as PDF 13692 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 46 / Monday, March 9, 2020 / Notices appropriately tailoring the types of issuers that are included in the categories of accelerated and large accelerated filers and revising the transition thresholds for these filers. At times, changes in Commission priorities require alterations in the scheduling of meeting items. CONTACT PERSON FOR MORE INFORMATION: For further information and to ascertain what, if any, matters have been added, deleted or postponed, please contact Vanessa A. Countryman from the Office of the Secretary at (202) 551–5400. Dated: March 4, 2020. Vanessa A. Countryman, Secretary. [FR Doc. 2020–04863 Filed 3–5–20; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 8011–01–P SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION [Docket No.: SBA–2019–0011] Class Waiver of the Nonmanufacturer Rule U.S. Small Business Administration. ACTION: Notification of waiver of the Nonmanufacturer Rule for commercially available off-the-shelf laptop and tablet computers. AGENCY: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is granting a class waiver of the Nonmanufacturer Rule (NMR) for commercially available offthe-shelf laptop and tablet computers under North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 334111 and Product Service Code (PSC) 7435. This U.S. industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing laptop and tablet computers. SUMMARY: DATES: This action is effective April 8, 2020. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carol J. Hulme, Attorney Advisor, by telephone at (202) 205–6347 or by email at carol-ann.hulme@sba.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 8(a)(17) and 46 of the Small Business Act (Act), 15 U.S.C. 637(a)(17) and 657s, and SBA’s implementing regulations require that recipients of Federal supply contracts issued as a small business setaside (except as stated below), servicedisabled veteran-owned small business (SDVO SB) set-aside or sole source contract, Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) set-aside or sole source contract, WOSB (womenowned small business) or economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB) set-aside or sole VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:47 Mar 06, 2020 Jkt 250001 source contract, 8(a) set-aside or sole source contract, partial set-aside, or set aside of an order against a multiple award contract provide the product of a small business manufacturer or processor if the recipient is other than the actual manufacturer or processor of the product. This requirement is commonly referred to as the Nonmanufacturer Rule (NMR). 13 CFR 121.406(b). Note that the NMR does not apply to small business set-aside acquisitions with an estimated value between the micro-purchase threshold and the simplified acquisition threshold. Sections 8(a)(17)(B)(iv)(II) and 46(a)(4)(B) of the Act authorize SBA to waive the NMR for a ‘‘class of products’’ for which there are no small business manufacturers or processors available to participate in the Federal market. The SBA defines ‘‘class of products’’ based on a combination of (1) the sixdigit NAICS code, (2) the four-digit PSC, and (3) a description of the class of products. As implemented in SBA’s regulations at 13 CFR 121.1202(c), in order to be considered available to participate in the Federal market for a class of products, a small business manufacturer must have submitted a proposal for a contract solicitation or been awarded a contract to supply the class of products within the last 24 months. On July 26, 2019, SBA received a request to waive the NMR for commercially available off-the-shelf laptops and tablet computers under NAICS code 334111 and PSC 7435. According to that request, submitted with supporting information, there are no small business manufacturers of these items in the Federal market. On December 17, 2019 (84 FR 69010), the SBA issued a Notice of Intent to grant a class waiver for commercially available off-the-shelf laptops and tablet computers. SBA received 41 comments in response to the Notice. All comments supported the issuance of the class waiver as there are no small business manufacturers in the Federal market for commercially available off-the-shelf laptops and tablet computers. As expressed in the Notice of Intent, SBA limits this class waiver to laptops and tablet computers procured by the government that meet the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) definition of ‘‘commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS)’’ items. In FAR section 2.101, the FAR defines the term ‘‘commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) item’’ as follows: ‘‘(1) Means any item or supply (including construction material) that is—(i) A commercial item (as defined in paragraph (1) of the definition in this PO 00000 Frm 00071 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 section); (ii) Sold in substantial quantities in the commercial marketplace; and (iii) Offered to the Government, under a contract or subcontract at any tier, without modification, in the same form in which it is sold in the commercial marketplace; and (2) Does not include bulk cargo, as defined in 46 U.S.C. 40102(4), such as agricultural products and petroleum products.’’ SBA received 41 comments in response to the Notice of Intent. All comments were in support of the waiver. Although none of the comments mentioned specialty laptops and tablet computers that are modified to meet demands of the Federal Government, those items are not included in the waiver. The exclusion of specialty laptops and tablet computers modified to meet Federal Government was included in the Notice of Intent. Therefore, in the absence of a small business manufacturer of commercially available off-the-shelf laptops and tablet computers, this class waiver is necessary to allow otherwise qualified regular dealers to supply the product of any manufacturer on a Federal contract or order set aside for small business, SDVOSB, WOSB, EDWOSB, HUBZone or participants in the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program. SBA’s waiver of the nonmanufacturer rule has no effect on the requirements in 13 CFR 121.406(b)(1)(i) to (iii) and on requirements external to the Small Business Act which involve domestic sources of supply, such as the Buy American Act or the Trade Agreements Act. More information on the NMR and Class Waivers can be found at https:// www.sba.gov/contracting/contractingofficials/non-manufacturer-rule/nonmanufacturer-waivers. David Wm. Loines, Director, Office of Government Contracting. [FR Doc. 2020–04681 Filed 3–6–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION [Docket No. SSA–2017–0046] Social Security Ruling, SSR 20–01p: How We Determine an Individual’s Education Category Social Security Administration. Notice of Social Security Ruling AGENCY: ACTION: (SSR). We are providing notice of SSR 20–01p. This Ruling explains how we determine an individual’s education category in adult disability claims under SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\09MRN1.SGM 09MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 46 / Monday, March 9, 2020 / Notices titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. DATES: We will apply this notice on April 27, 2020. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan O’Brien, Office of Disability Policy, Social Security Administration, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21235–6401, 410–597–1632. For information on eligibility or filing for benefits, call our national toll-free number at 1–800–772–1213 or TTY 1– 800–325–0778, or visit our internet site, Social Security online, at http:// www.socialsecurity.gov. Although 5 U.S.C. 552(a) (1) and (a)(2) do not require us to publish this SSR, we are doing so under 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1). We use SSRs to make available to the public precedential decisions relating to the Federal old age, survivors, disability, supplemental security income, and special veterans benefits programs. We may base SSRs on determinations or decisions made in our administrative review process, Federal court decisions, decisions of our Commissioner, opinions from our Office of the General Counsel, or other interpretations of law and regulations. Although SSRs do not have the same force and effect as statutes or regulations, they are binding on all of our components. 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1). This SSR will remain in effect until we publish a notice in the Federal Register that rescinds it, or until we publish a new SSR in the Federal Register that rescinds and replaces or modifies it. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, Programs Nos. 96.001, Social Security— Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security— Retirement Insurance; 96.004, Social Security—Survivors Insurance; 96.006—Supplemental Security Income.) Dated: February 10, 2020. Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES 20 CFR 404.1520 and 416.920. 20 CFR 404.1545 and 416.945. RFC is the most an individual can do despite his or her limitations. 3 See 20 CFR 404.1520(g), 404.1560(c), 416.920(g), and 416.960(c). 4 See 20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964. 5 See 20 CFR 404.1564(a) and 416.964(a). 6 Id. 7 Id. 8 See 20 CFR 404.1564(b)(1)–(4) and 416.964(b)(1)–(4). We no longer have an education category of ‘‘inability to communicate in English’’ as of April 27, 2020. We published a final rule ‘‘Removing the Inability to Communicate in English as an Education Category’’ that removed this education category on February 25, 2020 (85 FR 10586). 9 We consider a general educational development (GED) certification as equivalent to high school education. 2 See SSR 20–01p: Titles II and XVI: How We Determine an Individual’s Education Category Purpose: This Social Security Ruling (SSR) explains how we determine an individual’s education category in adult initial disability decisions, determinations, redeterminations, and continuing disability reviews under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Citations (Authority): Sections 223(d)(2)(A), 225, 221(i), 1614(a)(3)(B), and 1614(a)(3)(H) of the Social Security Act, as amended and 20 CFR 404.1520, 17:47 Mar 06, 2020 Background We use a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether an individual is disabled or blind under titles II and XVI of the Act.1 If we are unable to make a disability finding at the first four steps, we consider an individual’s residual functional capacity (RFC) 2 and the vocational factors of age, education, and work experience to determine whether the individual is able to perform work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.3 Our rules explain how we evaluate the vocational factor of education.4 Education primarily means formal schooling or other training that contributes to an individual’s ability to meet vocational requirements, such as reasoning ability, communication skills, and arithmetical ability.5 The lack of formal schooling does not necessarily mean that the individual is uneducated or does not have these abilities.6 Past work experience and the kinds of responsibilities the individual had while working, daily activities, hobbies, or results of testing may show that the individual has significant intellectual ability that can be used to work.7 We use the following four education categories to evaluate an individual’s education level: 8 1. High school education and above. High school education and above means abilities in reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills acquired through formal schooling at a 12th grade level or above. We generally consider that someone with these educational abilities can do semi-skilled through skilled work.9 2. Limited education. Limited education means ability in reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills, but not enough to allow a person with these educational qualifications to do most of 1 See Policy Interpretation Ruling VerDate Sep<11>2014 404.1564, Part 404 Subpart P Appendix 2, 416.920, and 416.964. Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00072 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 13693 the more complex job duties needed in semi-skilled or skilled jobs. We generally consider that a 7th grade through the 11th grade level of formal education is a limited education. 3. Marginal education. Marginal education means ability in reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills that are needed to do simple, unskilled types of jobs. We generally consider that formal schooling at a 6th grade level or less is a marginal education. 4. Illiteracy. Illiteracy means an inability to read or write. We consider someone illiterate if the person cannot read or write a simple message such as instructions or inventory lists even though the person can sign his or her name. Generally, an illiterate person has had little or no formal schooling. Policy Interpretation I. Categories of High School Education and Above, Limited Education, and Marginal Education We generally use the highest numerical grade level of formal education an individual has completed in school regardless of the language used for instruction to determine whether the individual belongs in the education category of high school education and above, limited education, or marginal education. An individual’s highest numerical grade level generally reflects the individual’s educational abilities, such as reasoning, arithmetic, and communication skills.10 The highest numerical grade level that the individual completed in school, however, may not represent his or her actual educational abilities.11 Evidence such as past work experience, the kind of responsibility an individual may have had when working, daily activities, hobbies, results of testing, community projects, or vocational training, may show that an individual’s actual educational abilities are higher or lower than his or her formal education level. In such situations, we may assign an individual to a higher or lower education category, as appropriate. Further, when determining the appropriate education category, we may consider whether an individual received special education. For example, an extensive history of special education may show that the individual’s educational abilities are lower than the actual grade he or she completed. We, however, will not find an individual’s education category to be lower than his or her highest level of formal education based solely on an 10 See 20 CFR 404.1564(b) and 416.964(b). 11 Id. E:\FR\FM\09MRN1.SGM 09MRN1 13694 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 46 / Monday, March 9, 2020 / Notices individual’s history of having received special education. In all cases, we determine facts on an individual basis. Therefore, to assign an individual to an education category lower or higher than his or her highest level of formal education, there must be specific evidence supporting the finding in the determination or decision. When determining the appropriate education category, we will not consider whether an individual attained his or her education in another country or whether the individual lacks English language proficiency. Neither the country in which an individual was educated nor the language an individual speaks informs us about whether the individual’s reasoning, arithmetic, and language abilities are commensurate with his or her formal education level.12 Generally, when determining the appropriate education category, we will use the information an individual provides. We may request relevant records, such as school or government records, to verify the reported level of formal education and educational abilities. II. Category of Illiteracy A. Generally We consider an individual illiterate if he or she cannot read or write a simple message, such as instructions or inventory lists, even though the individual can sign his or her name.13 We will assign an individual to the illiteracy category only if the individual is unable to read or write a simple message in any language. B. Formal Education and the Ability To Read and Write a Simple Message Generally, an individual’s educational level is a reliable indicator of the individual’s ability to read and write a simple message. A strong correlation exists between formal education and literacy, which under our rules means an ability to read and write a simple message. Most individuals learn to read and write at least a simple message by the time they complete fourth grade, regardless of whether the schooling occurred in the United States or in another country.14 We will therefore use jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES 12 Specific to language abilities, if there is a question as to whether an individual’s actual language abilities are higher or lower than his or her formal education level, we use the language in which the individual most effectively communicates. For most individuals, this language is the language that they use in most situations, including at home, work, school, and in the community. 13 See 20 CFR 404.1564(b)(1) and 416.964(b)(1). 14 Typically, fourth grade is when students transition from a focus on learning to read to a focus VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:47 Mar 06, 2020 Jkt 250001 an individual’s formal education level as the starting point to determine whether the individual is illiterate. If evidence suggests an individual may be illiterate, we will determine whether the illiteracy category is appropriate as follows: despite having completed fourth grade education or more, the individual is unable to read or write a simple message in any language. We will not rely on test results alone to determine that illiteracy is the appropriate education category for an individual. i. Individuals Who Completed at Least a Fourth Grade Education ii. Individuals Who Completed Less Than a Fourth Grade Education Most individuals who have completed at least fourth grade can read and write a simple message. We will generally find that an individual who completed fourth grade or more is able to read and write a simple message and is therefore not illiterate. We may still find, however, that an individual with at least a fourth grade education is illiterate if the individual provides evidence showing that despite having completed fourth grade or more, he or she cannot, in fact, read or write a simple message in any language. Examples of relevant evidence may include whether an individual: • Has received long-term special education related to difficulty learning to read or write at a basic level; • lacks work history due to an inability to read or write; • has valid intelligence test results demonstrating an inability to read or write a simple message; • has valid reading and writing test results demonstrating an inability to read or write a simple message; and • has any other evidence demonstrating an inability to read or write a simple message. We will assign an individual who completed fourth grade education or more to the illiteracy category only if the evidence supports the finding that Formal education is not the only way individuals learn to read and write; therefore, we do not make any general finding that illiteracy is the appropriate category for individuals who have not completed a fourth grade education. The mere fact that an individual has little or no formal education does not mean that the individual is unable to read or write. Therefore, we will consider all relevant evidence in the claim to determine whether illiteracy is the appropriate education category. Examples of relevant evidence may include whether an individual: • Has worked in the past and the responsibilities he or she had when working; • can read, write, and understand short and simple statements in everyday life, such as shopping lists, short notes, and simple directions; • can read newspapers or books; • can read and write simple emails or text messages; • had any vocational training or certification requiring reading and writing; • has or ever had a driver’s license that required passing a written test; and • has any other evidence demonstrating an inability to read or write a simple message. We will assign an individual to the illiteracy category only if the evidence supports a finding that the individual is unable to read or write a simple message in any language. We will not, however, rely on test results alone to determine that illiteracy is the appropriate education category for an individual. on reading to learn. See Reading Achievement of U.S. Fourth-Grade Students in an International Context, https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/ 2018017.pdf, p.1. The rate of literacy (defined as an ability to understand, read, and write a short, simple statement on everyday life) increased from 33.4% with one year of primary schooling to 95.3% with four years of primary schooling. How Was Life?: Global Well-being since 1820, OECD Publishing, Juan Luitan van Zanden., et al. (eds.) (2014), p. 91, available at https://read.oecdilibrary.org/economics/how-was-life_ 9789264214262-en#page93. The Common Core reading and writing standards for primary schools demonstrate that an individual who completed fourth grade education should be able to read and write a simple message. http:// www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ ELA%20Standards.pdf, pp.10–33. Finally, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, an international assessment of student performance in reading at the fourth grade, shows that the majority of countries that participated in the study were able to educate nearly all their students to a basic level of reading achievement. See http:// timssandpirls.bc.edu/pirls2016/internationalresults/pirls/performance-at-internationalbenchmarks/ and https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/ 2018017.pdf, pp. 4, 9–10. PO 00000 Frm 00073 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 [FR Doc. 2020–04668 Filed 3–6–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4191–02–P DEPARTMENT OF STATE [Public Notice 11064] Notice of OMB Emergency Approval of Information Collection: Public Charge Questionnaire Notice of OMB emergency approval of information collection. ACTION: The Office of Management and Budget (‘‘OMB’’) approved the Department of State’s (‘‘Department’’) SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\09MRN1.SGM 09MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 46 (Monday, March 9, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 13692-13694]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-04668]


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SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

[Docket No. SSA-2017-0046]


Social Security Ruling, SSR 20-01p: How We Determine an 
Individual's Education Category

AGENCY: Social Security Administration.

ACTION: Notice of Social Security Ruling (SSR).

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SUMMARY: We are providing notice of SSR 20-01p. This Ruling explains 
how we determine an individual's education category in adult disability 
claims under

[[Page 13693]]

titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.

DATES: We will apply this notice on April 27, 2020.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan O'Brien, Office of Disability 
Policy, Social Security Administration, 6401 Security Boulevard, 
Baltimore, MD 21235-6401, 410-597-1632. For information on eligibility 
or filing for benefits, call our national toll-free number at 1-800-
772-1213 or TTY 1-800-325-0778, or visit our internet site, Social 
Security online, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Although 5 U.S.C. 552(a) (1) and (a)(2) do 
not require us to publish this SSR, we are doing so under 20 CFR 
402.35(b)(1).
    We use SSRs to make available to the public precedential decisions 
relating to the Federal old age, survivors, disability, supplemental 
security income, and special veterans benefits programs. We may base 
SSRs on determinations or decisions made in our administrative review 
process, Federal court decisions, decisions of our Commissioner, 
opinions from our Office of the General Counsel, or other 
interpretations of law and regulations.
    Although SSRs do not have the same force and effect as statutes or 
regulations, they are binding on all of our components. 20 CFR 
402.35(b)(1).
    This SSR will remain in effect until we publish a notice in the 
Federal Register that rescinds it, or until we publish a new SSR in the 
Federal Register that rescinds and replaces or modifies it.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, Programs Nos. 96.001, 
Social Security--Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security-- 
Retirement Insurance; 96.004, Social Security--Survivors Insurance; 
96.006--Supplemental Security Income.)

    Dated: February 10, 2020.
Andrew Saul,
Commissioner of Social Security.

Policy Interpretation Ruling

SSR 20-01p: Titles II and XVI: How We Determine an Individual's 
Education Category

    Purpose: This Social Security Ruling (SSR) explains how we 
determine an individual's education category in adult initial 
disability decisions, determinations, redeterminations, and continuing 
disability reviews under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.
    Citations (Authority): Sections 223(d)(2)(A), 225, 221(i), 
1614(a)(3)(B), and 1614(a)(3)(H) of the Social Security Act, as amended 
and 20 CFR 404.1520, 404.1564, Part 404 Subpart P Appendix 2, 416.920, 
and 416.964.

Background

    We use a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine 
whether an individual is disabled or blind under titles II and XVI of 
the Act.\1\ If we are unable to make a disability finding at the first 
four steps, we consider an individual's residual functional capacity 
(RFC) \2\ and the vocational factors of age, education, and work 
experience to determine whether the individual is able to perform work 
that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.\3\
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    \1\ See 20 CFR 404.1520 and 416.920.
    \2\ See 20 CFR 404.1545 and 416.945. RFC is the most an 
individual can do despite his or her limitations.
    \3\ See 20 CFR 404.1520(g), 404.1560(c), 416.920(g), and 
416.960(c).
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    Our rules explain how we evaluate the vocational factor of 
education.\4\ Education primarily means formal schooling or other 
training that contributes to an individual's ability to meet vocational 
requirements, such as reasoning ability, communication skills, and 
arithmetical ability.\5\ The lack of formal schooling does not 
necessarily mean that the individual is uneducated or does not have 
these abilities.\6\ Past work experience and the kinds of 
responsibilities the individual had while working, daily activities, 
hobbies, or results of testing may show that the individual has 
significant intellectual ability that can be used to work.\7\
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    \4\ See 20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964.
    \5\ See 20 CFR 404.1564(a) and 416.964(a).
    \6\ Id.
    \7\ Id.
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    We use the following four education categories to evaluate an 
individual's education level: \8\
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    \8\ See 20 CFR 404.1564(b)(1)-(4) and 416.964(b)(1)-(4). We no 
longer have an education category of ``inability to communicate in 
English'' as of April 27, 2020. We published a final rule ``Removing 
the Inability to Communicate in English as an Education Category'' 
that removed this education category on February 25, 2020 (85 FR 
10586).
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    1. High school education and above. High school education and above 
means abilities in reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills acquired 
through formal schooling at a 12th grade level or above. We generally 
consider that someone with these educational abilities can do semi-
skilled through skilled work.\9\
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    \9\ We consider a general educational development (GED) 
certification as equivalent to high school education.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    2. Limited education. Limited education means ability in reasoning, 
arithmetic, and language skills, but not enough to allow a person with 
these educational qualifications to do most of the more complex job 
duties needed in semi-skilled or skilled jobs. We generally consider 
that a 7th grade through the 11th grade level of formal education is a 
limited education.
    3. Marginal education. Marginal education means ability in 
reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills that are needed to do 
simple, unskilled types of jobs. We generally consider that formal 
schooling at a 6th grade level or less is a marginal education.
    4. Illiteracy. Illiteracy means an inability to read or write. We 
consider someone illiterate if the person cannot read or write a simple 
message such as instructions or inventory lists even though the person 
can sign his or her name. Generally, an illiterate person has had 
little or no formal schooling.

Policy Interpretation

I. Categories of High School Education and Above, Limited Education, 
and Marginal Education

    We generally use the highest numerical grade level of formal 
education an individual has completed in school regardless of the 
language used for instruction to determine whether the individual 
belongs in the education category of high school education and above, 
limited education, or marginal education. An individual's highest 
numerical grade level generally reflects the individual's educational 
abilities, such as reasoning, arithmetic, and communication skills.\10\ 
The highest numerical grade level that the individual completed in 
school, however, may not represent his or her actual educational 
abilities.\11\ Evidence such as past work experience, the kind of 
responsibility an individual may have had when working, daily 
activities, hobbies, results of testing, community projects, or 
vocational training, may show that an individual's actual educational 
abilities are higher or lower than his or her formal education level. 
In such situations, we may assign an individual to a higher or lower 
education category, as appropriate.
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    \10\ See 20 CFR 404.1564(b) and 416.964(b).
    \11\ Id.
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    Further, when determining the appropriate education category, we 
may consider whether an individual received special education. For 
example, an extensive history of special education may show that the 
individual's educational abilities are lower than the actual grade he 
or she completed.
    We, however, will not find an individual's education category to be 
lower than his or her highest level of formal education based solely on 
an

[[Page 13694]]

individual's history of having received special education. In all 
cases, we determine facts on an individual basis. Therefore, to assign 
an individual to an education category lower or higher than his or her 
highest level of formal education, there must be specific evidence 
supporting the finding in the determination or decision.
    When determining the appropriate education category, we will not 
consider whether an individual attained his or her education in another 
country or whether the individual lacks English language proficiency. 
Neither the country in which an individual was educated nor the 
language an individual speaks informs us about whether the individual's 
reasoning, arithmetic, and language abilities are commensurate with his 
or her formal education level.\12\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ Specific to language abilities, if there is a question as 
to whether an individual's actual language abilities are higher or 
lower than his or her formal education level, we use the language in 
which the individual most effectively communicates. For most 
individuals, this language is the language that they use in most 
situations, including at home, work, school, and in the community.
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    Generally, when determining the appropriate education category, we 
will use the information an individual provides. We may request 
relevant records, such as school or government records, to verify the 
reported level of formal education and educational abilities.

II. Category of Illiteracy

A. Generally
    We consider an individual illiterate if he or she cannot read or 
write a simple message, such as instructions or inventory lists, even 
though the individual can sign his or her name.\13\ We will assign an 
individual to the illiteracy category only if the individual is unable 
to read or write a simple message in any language.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ See 20 CFR 404.1564(b)(1) and 416.964(b)(1).
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B. Formal Education and the Ability To Read and Write a Simple Message
    Generally, an individual's educational level is a reliable 
indicator of the individual's ability to read and write a simple 
message. A strong correlation exists between formal education and 
literacy, which under our rules means an ability to read and write a 
simple message. Most individuals learn to read and write at least a 
simple message by the time they complete fourth grade, regardless of 
whether the schooling occurred in the United States or in another 
country.\14\ We will therefore use an individual's formal education 
level as the starting point to determine whether the individual is 
illiterate.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ Typically, fourth grade is when students transition from a 
focus on learning to read to a focus on reading to learn. See 
Reading Achievement of U.S. Fourth-Grade Students in an 
International Context, https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018017.pdf, 
p.1. The rate of literacy (defined as an ability to understand, 
read, and write a short, simple statement on everyday life) 
increased from 33.4% with one year of primary schooling to 95.3% 
with four years of primary schooling. How Was Life?: Global Well-
being since 1820, OECD Publishing, Juan Luitan van Zanden., et al. 
(eds.) (2014), p. 91, available at https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/economics/how-was-life_9789264214262-en#page93. The Common Core 
reading and writing standards for primary schools demonstrate that 
an individual who completed fourth grade education should be able to 
read and write a simple message. http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf, pp.10-33. Finally, the Progress in 
International Reading Literacy Study, an international assessment of 
student performance in reading at the fourth grade, shows that the 
majority of countries that participated in the study were able to 
educate nearly all their students to a basic level of reading 
achievement. See http://timssandpirls.bc.edu/pirls2016/international-results/pirls/performance-at-international-benchmarks/ 
and https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018017.pdf, pp. 4, 9-10.
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    If evidence suggests an individual may be illiterate, we will 
determine whether the illiteracy category is appropriate as follows:
i. Individuals Who Completed at Least a Fourth Grade Education
    Most individuals who have completed at least fourth grade can read 
and write a simple message. We will generally find that an individual 
who completed fourth grade or more is able to read and write a simple 
message and is therefore not illiterate.
    We may still find, however, that an individual with at least a 
fourth grade education is illiterate if the individual provides 
evidence showing that despite having completed fourth grade or more, he 
or she cannot, in fact, read or write a simple message in any language. 
Examples of relevant evidence may include whether an individual:
     Has received long-term special education related to 
difficulty learning to read or write at a basic level;
     lacks work history due to an inability to read or write;
     has valid intelligence test results demonstrating an 
inability to read or write a simple message;
     has valid reading and writing test results demonstrating 
an inability to read or write a simple message; and
     has any other evidence demonstrating an inability to read 
or write a simple message.
    We will assign an individual who completed fourth grade education 
or more to the illiteracy category only if the evidence supports the 
finding that despite having completed fourth grade education or more, 
the individual is unable to read or write a simple message in any 
language. We will not rely on test results alone to determine that 
illiteracy is the appropriate education category for an individual.
ii. Individuals Who Completed Less Than a Fourth Grade Education
    Formal education is not the only way individuals learn to read and 
write; therefore, we do not make any general finding that illiteracy is 
the appropriate category for individuals who have not completed a 
fourth grade education. The mere fact that an individual has little or 
no formal education does not mean that the individual is unable to read 
or write. Therefore, we will consider all relevant evidence in the 
claim to determine whether illiteracy is the appropriate education 
category. Examples of relevant evidence may include whether an 
individual:
     Has worked in the past and the responsibilities he or she 
had when working;
     can read, write, and understand short and simple 
statements in everyday life, such as shopping lists, short notes, and 
simple directions;
     can read newspapers or books;
     can read and write simple emails or text messages;
     had any vocational training or certification requiring 
reading and writing;
     has or ever had a driver's license that required passing a 
written test; and
     has any other evidence demonstrating an inability to read 
or write a simple message.

We will assign an individual to the illiteracy category only if the 
evidence supports a finding that the individual is unable to read or 
write a simple message in any language. We will not, however, rely on 
test results alone to determine that illiteracy is the appropriate 
education category for an individual.

[FR Doc. 2020-04668 Filed 3-6-20; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4191-02-P