GN 01085.001 Retention Periods for Program-Related Documents and Forms - Introduction
The retention periods for many program-related forms and documents were originally
established based on the planned destruction date of the physical claims folder (i.e.,
a specified period of time after the last beneficiary on the record was either terminated,
disallowed or denied). Most of these documents were kept because they supported the
adjudicative decision, a subsequent initial determination, or SSA was required to
maintain the material by a court mandate or similar action.
Historically, documents with shorter retention periods and nonessential material were
also placed in the claims folder and, once there, usually remained until the folder
was destroyed. However, the storage of these paper claims folders has become a tremendous
task for SSA. In a memorandum released to all Operations employees, it was described
in the following way:
“We file a lot of paper in our claims folders unnecessarily. So much so, in fact,
that if you stacked up one year's worth, it would reach from the floor to the rim
of the Grand Canyon. In fact, we could make 10 of those stacks. And remember, this
is paper we should not have kept; it should have been discarded as part of our everyday
With the current staffing cuts and budgetary constraints, the Agency does not have
the resources available to recall folders merely to screen for material that can be
discarded, or the finances to continue to pay the storage costs for the paper we generate.
This instruction was created as a reference guide to already established policy and
procedure on document retention. It pulls together into one common instruction information
that is located in other subject-specific POMS sections. It identifies program-related
documents and forms basic to entitlement, postentitlement and non-entitlement issues
that SSA retains for both title II and title XVI claims.
Guidelines for the retention of the more common claims file documentation are specified
in GN 01085.010C. A general list of forms and their respective retention periods are displayed in GN 01085.025.