TN 19 (05-07)
GN 01070.305 Use Of Direct Contact (DIRCON)
A. Overview of payment center (PC) to public contact
Processing Center personnel should utilize DIRCON whenever possible, bypassing the Field Office (FO). It is only necessary to develop through the FO when face to face contact is required or where the FO is responsible for making a final determination on the issue (such as a representative payee determination).
When reference is made to mail direct contact, it refers only to regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, not e-mail. Per GN 03325.020, SSNs and other personally identifiable information may be transmitted by e-mail for official business purposes only within SSA’s Microsoft Outlook/Exchange infrastructure. This includes all SSA field offices, headquarters facilities, Program Service Centers and Regional Offices, as well as trusted partners such as the State Disability Determination offices that are listed in SSA’s Microsoft Outlook Global Address List, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Sending SSNs or other personally identifiable information via e-mail outside of SSA’s Network (i.e., into a commercial e-mail system that is not encrypted and thus not secure) is prohibited.
A pending initial claim or allowance upon appeal is not by itself a reason to develop through the FO. The PC can make phone calls or written requests for evidence just as effectively as the local office.
B. Policy for use of DIRCON
1. Limitations of DIRCON
DIRCON is limited to contact within the United States, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, except for those international calls authorized for OIO. OIO development guidelines can be found in POMS GN 00904.200.
See GN 03301.005 for Privacy Act guidelines for disclosure. This reference outlines the types of information which may be released to third parties without consent of the claimant / beneficiary.
3. When to use DIRCON
The general, but simple, rule is that a PC employee will not refer development to the FO unless face to face contact is required, or where the FO is responsible for making a final determination on the issue (such as a representative payee determination).
The PC will always obtain information, statement clarifications or required evidence via DIRCON unless a face to face or field contact is needed, or one of the exceptions in GN 01070.305C. or D. below applies.
C. Claimant/Beneficiary DIRCON
Contact the claimant / beneficiary if the claimant / beneficiary is mentally and physically able. Do not contact the claimant/beneficiary if:
The claimant/beneficiary is unable to pursue his/her own rights due to young age or physical/mental incapability. (Representative Payee involved);
The claimant / beneficiary has an appointed representative (this may or may not be an attorney). In post-adjudicative situations, check the FEAR data group (available effective COM 12/2006) on the MBR to determine if there is current representative involvement. (See GN 01070.330.)
There is a known language barrier that prohibits oral communication with the claimant / beneficiary. (Mail DIRCON may still be utilized in this instance.)
The information in question involves prisoner suspension. (See GN 02607.600.C and GN 02607.670A.3 for instructions on contacting the FO when additional information is needed in these situations. The Field Offices have established special relationships with correctional facilities in their service areas that will enable them to secure the necessary information.)
D. Third Party Contact DIRCON
1. Guidelines for third party contact
Assure contact is the correct evidentiary source. (See GN 03301.005 for Privacy Act guidelines for disclosure.)
Do not interrupt payment until due process is given if evidence leads to adverse action. (See GN 03001.025.)
If a consent statement is required before a third party will release information, DIRCON can be used to obtain consent, and the request then forwarded to the third party.
Do not attempt direct contact with the third party in instances where certain state and local government agencies have worked out special arrangements with a local SSA FO to provide needed data at no cost. In this situation, it would be appropriate to develop through the servicing FO per DI 52145.001F.1. NOTE
2. Employer (E/R) contact DIRCON
Verify the claimant agrees to E/R contact. For more information on the processing center’s responsibilities in work continuing disability reviews, please refer to DI 13010.023B.
E. General considerations for DIRCON
1. Telephone versus mail contact
Send a letter to the individual if the request cannot be handled by telephone (See GN 01070.320.)
2. FO development in process
Do not use the direct contact procedure if the FO has promised or started development of the necessary information. Request the FO to furnish the status based on follow-up timeframes shown in GN 01070.440.