TN 19 (03-23)

GN 00903.400 Complaints of Discrimination Against SSA and/or SSA Employees by Members of the Public

A. Introduction - Discrimination Complaints Against SSA and/or SSA Employees

The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) has taken steps to ensure that no person is discriminated against on the bases of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion or retaliation (for filing a previous complaint) in any program or activity conducted by SSA. The Commissioner has delegated to SSA's Deputy Commissioner for Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity (OCREO) the authority to accept, investigate and resolve such complaints.

B. Discrimination Policies

It is not discrimination for SSA to apply the provisions of the Social Security Act, the regulations, Social Security Rulings (SSRs), and similar materials (like the POMS) in the conduct of benefit determinations, applications and other activities conducted by the Agency. Furthermore, filing a complaint is not a means to:

  • appeal an unfavorable decision on a claim for benefits.

  • obtain an investigation of alleged discrimination by an SSA employee that occurred while the employee was off-duty and was unrelated to the employee's duties. EXAMPLE: Employee is alleged to have uttered an offensive remark in the course of a dispute over a parking spot at a shopping mall.

  • request an SSA employee to withdraw from handling a specific claim or matter.

C. Process For Alleging Discrimination by SSA or an SSA Employee

SSA personnel may assist a person in filing a written complaint of discrimination. If a person makes an oral complaint (either in person or by phone), SSA personnel shall reduce the complaint to writing. In the event the complainant is alleging discrimination by an employee, that particular employee should not be responsible for reducing the complaint to writing unless there is no other employee available to handle the matter. In the event the complaint is made in connection with the conduct of an administrative law judge (ALJ), you must also follow the procedures set forth at GN 03103.300 Complaints of Alleged Bias or Misconduct by ALJs.

A written complaint may be made by letter or by using a Discrimination Complaint Form (SSA-437). If there is difficulty generating the SSA-437 from the POMS on PolicyNet, a complainant may also obtain a Discrimination Complaint Form by contacting the Office of Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity (OCREO), Social Security Administration, 6401 Security Boulevard, 3350 West Highrise, Baltimore, Maryland 21235-6401.

For a letter or the SSA-437 to be a complete complaint, it must be signed (“signed” includes a person's mark, such as an “X”) by the complainant or by someone authorized to do so on his or her behalf and must contain at least the following information:

  • the complainant's name

  • social security number

  • complete address

  • and a description of the alleged discriminatory act in sufficient detail to inform SSA of the nature and date of the alleged discriminatory act.

  • If a complaint is being filed on someone else's behalf, the person filing the complaint must: describe or identify the alleged victim(s) of discrimination by name, social security number and address, if possible. .

D. When Must A Complaint Be Filed

A complete complaint must be filed no later than 180 days from the date of the last act of alleged discrimination. Although the time limit for filing a complaint may be extended by the Deputy Commissioner for Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity for good cause, members of the public must be advised that they should not delay in filing a complaint.

E. Where must a complaint be filed

Complaints received in any component other than OCREO must be sent immediately to the Deputy Commissioner for Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity, Social Security Administration, 6401 Security Boulevard, 3350 West Highrise, Baltimore, MD 21235-6401. “Immediately” means no later than the next business day.

F. Exhibit

Instruction for filing SSA-437-BK

To view the form, go to SSA-437–BK

Paperwork Reduction Act

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 requires us to notify you that this information collection is in accordance with the clearance requirements of Section 3507 of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. We may not conduct or sponsor, and you are not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a valid OMB control number.

Time it takes to complete this form

We estimate that it will take you about one hour to provide the information. This includes the time it takes to read the instructions, gather the facts and complete the forms.

Uses of personal information for investigations

The information collection is authorized by 5 U.S.C. §301; 29 U.S.C. §791 et. seq.; 42 U.S.C.§§902(a)(5), 1305 note. Those statutes require the agency not to discriminate on the basis of disability and authorize the Commissioner establish policies to prohibit SSA and SSA employees from discriminating based upon race, color national origin, sex, age, religion, or retaliation in any program or activity conducted by SSA.

There are two federal laws governing personal information given to all Federal agencies, including the Office of the Deputy Commissioner for Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity (OCREO):

  • The Privacy Act of 1974, (U.S.C. Sec. 522a); and

  • The Freedom of Information Act, (5 U.S.C. Sec. 522).

The Privacy Act protects individuals from misuse of personal information held by the Federal government. The law applies to records that are kept and that can be located by the name, social security number, or other personal identification system.

Personal information will be used for authorized civil rights activities and other Privacy Act routine uses. Generally, OCREO will not release information unless the person who supplied the information submits a written consent, or unless release is required under the Freedom of Information Act or other Federal statute or regulation. However, OCREO can refer complaints to other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, without the person's prior consent. This authority is provided under the “routine use” exception of the Privacy Act.

Information submitted to OCREO may also be given to other government agencies, such as the Department of Justice, when as SSA components has violated civil rights laws or regulations.

A person cannot be required to give personal information to OCREO, and no sanctions will be imposed on person who deny our request. However, if OCREO cannot get information needed to investigate allegations of discrimination, it may have to close the investigation.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives the public the right of access to files and records of the Federal government. With some exceptions, the Social Security Administration must honor FOIA request, though our policy is to do so without releasing a person's name or other personal identification. SSA is generally not required to release documents if the release would interfere with SSA's ability to complete its work; as, for example, during an investigation or enforcement proceeding. Also, any Federal agency may refuse a request for files or records if the release would be an unnecessary invasion of an individual's privacy.

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GN 00903.400 - Complaints of Discrimination Against SSA and/or SSA Employees by Members of the Public - 03/09/2023
Batch run: 03/09/2023