TN 34 (01-12)
GN 00203.001 Interviewing
A. Introduction on interviewing situations
Unless specifically noted, the policies and procedures described in this subchapter apply to both title II and title XVI interviewing situations.
1. General interviewing guidelines
We complete almost all SSA business after an interview, either face-to-face or by telephone.
Field office (FO) and teleservice center employees represent the Federal government. An employee's actions can determine an individual's image of the Federal government.
Employees should make each individual feel welcome and treat him or her with dignity and respect. Interviewers should make every effort to alleviate an individual's fear or anxiety about dealing with the Government.
An employee's expertise and manner of interviewing affects the outcome of the issue addressed.
2. Interviewing conditions
We conduct interviews over the telephone, or in or out of a FO.
NOTE: For special procedures in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) interviews (including when to conduct a face-to-face interview), see SI 00601.060 and for situations requiring face-to-face interviews, see GN 00203.003B.
You may conduct interviews:
before or while completing an application,
during claims development, or
postadjudicatively (after we process the claim).
Provide privacy to promote a free exchange of information and to preserve confidentiality.
We may adjudicate a claim without an interview. For example, if it is:
3. Interviewing tips
The interviewer should:
gather accurate relevant information;
review office records (e.g., SSID, AACT, Numident, etc.);
use prescribed forms and designated blocks; and
review each form before the claimant signs it.
B. Policy for interviewing
1. Goals of pre-interviewing
The goals of pre-interviewing are to:
determine the reason for the visit.
permit a free exchange of information, especially when the reason for the visit is not clear.
identify specific Social Security Administration (SSA) issues or problems.
determine if there is a need for non-SSA services and make appropriate referrals.
aim for complete information at initial contact to avoid a subsequent interview. If this is not possible, obtain enough information to begin development.
NOTE: Be alert to distinguish intent to file a claim from a vague or general inquiry. Resolve any uncertainty by taking a claim.
2. Providing information to an applicant
The following are do's and don'ts when providing information to an applicant.
Handle misunderstandings, criticism, prejudices, and other controversies professionally and with correct information.
Discuss the requirements for entitlement in relation to the particular benefit involved.
For the definition of disability, see DI 00115.015.
Tentatively determine whether the applicant meets the requirements for entitlement or eligibility.
When appropriate, inform the applicant that receipt of State Worker's Compensation or Veterans Administration disability benefits does not equate to a finding of disability by SSA law.
Provide an estimate of when the claimant may expect action.
NOTE: An estimate of processing time is required on the application receipt.
If there is a potential loss of benefits due to delayed filing, emphasize the importance of filing.
Place the responsibility for filing or not filing an application on the applicant. (For general application taking policies, see GN 00201.005.)
For auxiliary and survivors claims, let the applicant know that the SSN of the Number Holder is for our program use only, and that claimants must use their own SSNs for earnings and tax purposes.
Elaborate upon the social theory or rationale behind the law, unless the applicant indicates a need for this information.
Reveal confidential medical information or other restricted information.
Inform an applicant of his or her loss of benefits resulting from his or her failure to file earlier. Avoid remarks like “It's too bad you didn't apply sooner.” This only causes dissatisfaction.
Give general or legal advice on courses of action to qualify for benefits, such as adopting a child, changing a business agreement, etc.
Become involved in debates, advocate changes in the law, or inject personal opinions into discussions with applicants.
Predict the final disability decision even when the Disability Determination Service (DDS) makes a favorable decision. For disability claims processing, see DI 10005.000.
3. Right to record interviews
The applicant may audio record telephone or in-person contacts with SSA personnel. Refer any questions to your regional Center for Security and Integrity. Employees should not suggest or encourage the use of recording devices.
Conduct recorded contacts in the same manner as a non-recorded interview.
SSA does not consider a recorded contact played by the applicant or his or her representative as disclosure. Therefore, no precautions, such as a signed release, are necessary.
Observe closely the rules on disclosure, as explained in GN 03301.004, and basic interviewing guidelines in these sections, as applicants are obligated to provide a great deal of private information.
Exercise special care in SSI cases due to the sensitive nature of issues involving needy people.
In making third party contacts, we require the consent of the applicant or representative. If the applicant does not give consent, advise the applicant of the effect on the claim.