TN 27 (09-09)

GN 00301.330 Overview of Translation Process

A. Introduction to the translation process

Approximately 40,000 claims a year, excluding foreign claims processed in the Office of International Operations (OIO), are adjudicated based upon foreign-language documents. The majority of these documents are from other countries, but some are issued by churches, temples and other organizations within the U.S.

B. Why a translator is needed

Most foreign-language documents affect a basic factor of entitlement (e.g., age, death, relationship). They must be carefully evaluated by a translator for accuracy, validity, and authenticity because of the various customs and practices used in recording them. For example:

  • The manner in which calendar dates are reflected often differs.

  • Certain terms or phrases do not have the same meaning in the foreign-language speaking community, as the literal translation to English suggests.

  • The claimant's name may be shown so differently that a question of the claimant's identity arises.

C. Procedure for resolving questions about foreign-language documents

Resolve questions on foreign-language documents as follows:

1. Translation policy or certification standards

Submit questions through the Office of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Rep Payee Policy in the Office of Income Security Programs (OISP).

2. Foreign evidence sources

Submit questions about evidentiary documents issued outside the United States to the Office of International Programs (OIP), Foreign Program Policy Team. Before submitting your question for instructions that pertain to the specific country in question, check GN 00307.000 or GN 00312.000.

3. Accuracy of a translation

Use the Translation and Priority Workload Unit (TPWU) in the Office of International Operations (OIO) as the final authority to resolve conflicts between multiple translations of the same foreign-language document.

D. Policy for using translator priority lists

1. Field office (FO) requests for translation

NOTE: SSA employees should NOT use any internet translator websites. Employees who attempt to access one of these sites will receive a warning when attempting to access internet based websites.

If you are in an FO, use the following priority list to request a translation:

  1. Use an authorized SSA translator in the servicing FO.

  2. Use an authorized SSA translator in the same region, including program service center (PSC) and Office of Analytics, Review, and Oversight (OARO) translators. Use this link to go to SSA’s National Translator Database: http://oasweb.ba.ssa.gov/translators/translator.asp

  3. Use an acceptable non-SSA translator in the region if a translation can be provided within two weeks. Give preference to any qualified non-SSA translator in the region that will make the needed translation at no charge; e.g., church groups, universities, employees of other Federal agencies, etc. For information about acceptable translators, see GN 00301.350.

  4. Use an acceptable non-SSA translator outside the region if SSA is paying for their services or if their fee is lower. (The restriction on “within region” does not apply in this instance because the translator is not volunteering services.)

  5. Use the TPWU. For information about how to request assistance from TPWU, see GN 00301.355.

NOTE: If the translator charges a fee, see GN 00301.351 or your regional instructions, if any.

2. Processing Center (PC) requests for translation

If you are in a PC, use the following priority list to request a translation:

  1. Use an authorized SSA translator in the PC.

  2. Use the TPWU.

EXCEPTION: OIO uses the services of the TPWU to translate foreign language documents.

3. Workload Support Unit (WSU) requests for translation

If you are in a WSU, use an authorized SSA translator located in the WSU, if available.

If the translation cannot be done in the WSU and the WSU is physically located within a PSC or TSC, follow the priority list starting with a. If the translation cannot be done in the WSU and the WSU is not physically located within a PSC or TSC, follow the priority list starting with b.