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Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill for the Relief of Michael D. Ovens.

September 07, 1957

I HAVE TODAY approved H. R. 4992, "For the relief of Michael D. Ovens."

This bill would require that, for the purpose of determining entitlement to child's benefits under the Federal Old Age and Survivors' Insurance program, Michael D. Ovens (born Dennis Lee Du Val on July 18, 1953) be deemed to have been legally adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Verne E. Ovens of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on February 20, 1954, although adoption was not completed on that date.

On February 20, 1954, Mr. and Mrs. Verne E. Ovens entered into an agreement under which the child was placed with them on a conditional basis with a view to eventual adoption. Before the adoption could be completed, Mr. Ovens died. The child continued to live with Mrs. Ovens and his adoption was carried through in accordance with the original intent of the couple.

Under the Social Security Act, an individual who is not the natural child of a deceased wage earner may, nevertheless, be considered a "child" for purposes of the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance program if at the time of the wage earner's death the individual was an adopted child, i.e., a child legally adopted by him, or if, under the law of the decedent's domicile, the individual "would have the same status relative to taking intestate personal property as a child."

Michael D. Ovens clearly was not a legally adopted child of the decedent at the time of his death. Moreover, under the intestacy law of Wisconsin, which is applicable here, he did not have the same status as a child of the decedent.

Ordinarily I would not be inclined to approve special legislation which not only sets aside a provision of general law, but also calls for payment from a trust fund. However, I agree with the Congress that application of the existing law to this situation tends to defeat the purpose of the program. This case seems to me to illustrate the need for reconsideration of the strict criteria of the Social Security Act. It is my hope that next year the rule on adoption in the Social Security Act may be modified to permit all children like Michael to receive the benefits which should be theirs.

Note: As enacted, H. R. 4992 is Private Law 85-337 (71 Stat. A132).

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill for the Relief of Michael D. Ovens. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233553

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