TN 119 (07-23)

GN 00204.003 Proper Applicant

A. Definition

A proper applicant is anyone who has the right to sign a valid application on behalf of themselves or on behalf of the claimant.

B. Policy

1. Adult claimants

  1. a. 

    An adult claimant (age 18 or older in the first month of eligibility) is always a proper applicant regardless of:

    • The type of benefits being claimed; or

    • Their physical or mental capability.

  2. b. 

    An adult claimant should always file their own application (see GN 00204.003B.1.c.).

  3. c. 

    An adult claimant does not need to sign the application if they are:

    • Adjudged legally incompetent (see GN 00502.023);

    • Unable to understand what filing for benefits means (see GN 00502.020 to determine if capability development is needed);

    • Physically unable (see GN 00204.003B.4.) or is not available to sign (e.g., out of town due to sickness or death of a family member) and a loss of benefits would result; or

    • Not yet 22 years old, filing for child's benefits, and an application for child's benefits has been signed by a parent or person standing in place of the parent.


A court appointed representative or a person who is responsible for the care of the claimant, including a relative, may sign the application when it is not necessary for an adult claimant to sign.

2. Child claimants

  1. a. 

    Usually, the proper applicant for a child claimant is a parent or adult responsible for the child's care (including the manager or principal officer of an institution). See

    GN 00502.100 for representative payee instructions.

  2. b. 

    A child claimant between the ages of 15 and 17 years old may be considered as a proper applicant (see GN 00502.070) if they:

    • Are not in the care of any person (or institution, in title XVI cases); and

    • Do not have a court appointed representative (e.g., legal guardian, committee, or other legal representative).

3. Third parties

If a claimant or proper applicant is not available to sign the application and a loss of benefits will result, accept an application or written statement showing an intent to claim benefits from a third party and follow the policy guidelines in GN 00204.010B.1. (See SI 00601.015 through SI 00601.020 for the policy on title XVI protective writings.)

Examples of third parties include, but are not limited to, members of a church, a labor union representative, a veterans' group, senior citizens' association, etc. See SI 00601.030 for procedures on documenting an SSI oral inquiry.

4. Physically unable to sign

  1. a. 

    The claimant is considered to be physically unable to sign an application if their physical limitations prevent them from:

    • signing the application;

    • making a mark; or

    • signing in a manner that is considered the claimant's normal signature.

  2. b. 

    Examples of situations where claimants may be physically unable to sign include, but are not limited to:

    • An individual who has both arms in traction;

    • A burn victim whose hands are totally bandaged and immobilized;

    • An individual who has had eye surgery and is temporarily unable to see because their eyes are bandaged;

    • An individual who is paralyzed and unable to communicate clearly; or

    • An individual who is comatose.

  3. c. 

    The claimant's physical limitations should be described on a Report of Contact (e.g., RPOC screen).

C. Procedure

1. Applicant alleges adult claimant adjudged legally incompetent

Develop for a copy of the court order which states that the claimant is legally incompetent. Obtain proof that guardianship has been established (see GN 00502.023B).

2. Adult claimant physically cannot sign or is unavailable to sign

Use the RPOC screen to describe the claimant's physical limitations that make them unable to sign the application, and explain the circumstances which prohibit the claimant from being available to sign (e.g., out-of-town due to a family crisis, jury sequestration, etc.).

3. Applicant alleges claimant cannot understand

Develop capability per instructions in GN 00502.020 through GN 00502.070. Add a question to the SSA-787 (Medical Source Opinion of Patient’s Capability to Manage Benefits or form used in lieu of an SSA-787): “Do you think (Claimant's Name) can understand the meaning of filing for benefits?”

  1. a. 

    If the physician answers “YES”

    • Contact the applicant to tell them that the claimant must sign the application, and

    • Abate the improper applicant's claim (GN 01010.475).

  2. b. 

    If the physician answers “NO”

    • Consider appointing a representative payee if the claimant filed and there is a need for a payee based on the SSA-787 or other evidence which shows the claimant is incapable. See GN 00502.020 through GN 00502.070.

    • Notify the claimant that an application was filed for them. Allow 10 days for a protest to be filed. If the claimant protests, abate the application filed by the applicant.

    • If the claimant does not respond or protest, adjudicate the application filed by the applicant.

    • Initiate full payee development in accordance with GN 00502.100 through GN 00502.107.


Always obtain a signed application from the claimant if an SSA-787 (or form in lieu of the SSA-787) is not completed, unless the claimant is currently receiving another benefit via representative payment. Request the claimant to sign the application in such cases only if the applicant signed the original application. If not, use the 10-day protest notice referred to in GN 00204.003C.3.b.

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GN 00204.003 - Proper Applicant - 07/26/2023
Batch run: 07/26/2023