TN 13 (11-11)
GN 01010.810 Legal Precedent Opinions
A. Definition of legal precedent opinion
A legal precedent opinion is a legal advice issued by the Regional Chief Counsel (RCC) on the application of state law in a title II or title XVI domestic claim. The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) can also issue precedent opinions on the application of District of Columbia law in a title II foreign claim for national distribution by the substantive Central Operation (CO) policy component.
B. Description of source of legal precedent opinions
The Program Operations Manual System (POMS) on Policy Net maintains Title II and title XVI legal precedent opinions in two separate parts. Title II legal precedent opinions are in POMS Part 15 (PR), and Title XVI legal precedent opinions are in POMS Part 16 (PS).
Legal precedent opinions are accessible to the field offices (FO), processing centers (PC), Regional offices (RO), RCCs, Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) and CO (including OGC). POMS Parts 15 and 16 on SSA Pubs on Policy Net are the ONLY approved sources for legal precedent opinions.
C. When to use Legal precedent opinions
1. Precedents on Policy Net
You may use Legal precedent opinions in POMS Parts 15 and 16 on Policy Net as guidance in deciding similar coverage, entitlement and post-entitlement issues on subsequent claims. The legal precedent opinions in Parts 15 and 16 are available to the public; therefore, any personally identifiable information (i.e., names and social security numbers (SSN)'s) is removed.
2. Opinions not on Policy Net
Do not use opinions, which are not derived from POMS Parts 15 or 16 on Policy Net as guidance to decide any entitlement or post-entitlement claims issue other than the one in the claim or claims for which the opinion was requested. This is true even if the opinion was previously approved or used as a precedent under prior legal precedent opinion procedures. These previously approved or used precedents may only be used as background material in subsequent submittals to the RCC or OGC for an opinion.
D. Policy on precedents not on database
If a legal precedent opinion does not exist in POMS Part 15 or 16 on Policy Net, you must:
Request a legal opinion as instructed in GN 01010.815 - GN 01010.820. Contact should not be made with OGC, the RCC or CO directly unless specifically permitted to do so by other instructions.
Upon receipt of the legal opinion, prepare and document the determination as prescribed on GN 01010.805B. and;
Process the claim timely.
E. Deviation from request process
The Regions may deviate from the preferred title II process for requesting legal opinions discussed in GN 01010.815 - GN 01010.820 to the extent that the Assistant Regional Commissioner (ARC), PCO (for PCs) or the Center for Program Support (CPS - formerly OPARS) in the Office of Central Operations (OCO) may be substituted as long as quality and timeliness are not compromised.
F. Documenting the claims file
The claim file must include the following when citing a legal precedent opinion from Policy Net as the basis for an adjudicative decision:
A report of contact (e.g., RPOC screen, SSA-5002, etc.) displaying the POMS section number under which the opinion is located on Policy Net data base and the “short form” PR or PS number which is unique to each opinion (e.g., PS 90-003); or
A special determination (e.g., RPOC screen, SSA-553, etc.) displaying the POMS section number and the PR or PS “short form” number (see previous bullet) and detailing the basis for the final decision.