TN 3 (02-95)

GN 01703.610 Disclosure of Information Involving Foreign Agencies

A. Introduction

Most countries have regulations designed to govern the release of information which they maintain. Because totalization agreements require an exchange of personal information about persons who have worked in each country, special rules have been developed to govern the exchanges.

Penalties for improper disclosure can be severe and may include fines or a jail sentence. (See GN 03301.045A regarding disclosure penalties)

B. Policy - disclosure to foreign agencies

The following policy relates to disclosure of information to foreign agencies.

1. Claim filed under an agreement

Information from one of the systems of records specified in the routine use statement published in the Federal Registrar, and listed in GN 01702.510, may be released to a foreign liaison agency of a country with which we have an agreement if needed to adjudicate a claim filed under an agreement. (The liaison agency(ies) for each country are listed in the individual subchapter for each country.)

A claim is considered “filed under an agreement” for routine use purposes if the provisions of the agreement could affect eligibility for or the amount of the benefit.

Information may be released when the foreign agency's transmittal/request form contains a statement that the information requested is needed to adjudicate a claim under the agreement or contains a block in which the agency indicates a claim has been filed under the agreement.

Note: If the block is not checked, or is checked “no,” information cannot be released without the written consent of the affected individual.

If an application for benefits from the U.S. or the foreign country has been filed, information needed by the foreign country pertaining to any individual listed on that application for whom benefits are being claimed may be disclosed. Consent statement(s) from the listed individuals is (are) not required.

SSA may disclose information from the application itself, as well as information from any of the approved systems of records not only under the SSN on which the totalization claim was filed, but also under any related SSN.

The routine use provision permits, but does not require, disclosure. If an applicant refuses to authorize disclosure, the application itself may be sent to a foreign agency, but no information from SSA's record may be released.

If an applicant revokes the authorization contained on the application and specifically requests that SSA not disclose anything to the foreign agency, the request is treated as a withdrawal (See GN 01701.135). If the application has already been sent to the foreign agency, the request for withdrawal should be forwarded to the foreign agency.

2. No claim filed under an agreement

There may be instances where a foreign agency wants information from SSA, but no application has been “filed under an agreement.” In such cases, disclosure is not permitted under the routine use provisions. However, disclosure is still permitted if:

  • the individual about whom information is sought is deceased. No consent statement is necessary to release information, including earnings records, about deceased individuals. However, no information about survivors can be released without their consent.

  • the individual about whom information is sought submits a signed authorization to SSA either directly or through the foreign agency, or

  • the foreign agency submits an authorization form (e.g., D/USA-7) specifically designed to give consent completed by the agency and signed by the person about whom information is sought.

There are significant differences between the two types of authorizations listed above.

  • The general written authorization is valid only for the information and purpose specified and, unless otherwise indicated, is limited to a one-time disclosure. See GN 01703.610.C below.

  • The specifically designed form is a broad authorization and permanent in nature.

C. Policy - disclosure to others (3rd party)

When a request for information from a person's records is received from a third party (including attorneys, pension experts, etc.), the person about whom the information is sought must authorize the disclosure. In order to be acceptable to SSA, the authorization must meet the following criteria.

  • be written, dated and signed by the individual who is the subject of the record,