GN 01704.300 Processing Totalization-Related Inquiries
Inquiries regarding totalization benefits or international agreements will be received from claimants, beneficiaries, employers, DO's, foreign consular officials, and others. Special processing instructions will depend on whether the inquiry is of a general nature or claims related.
A. General and claims inquiries defined
A general inquiry is one which does not mention (either expressly or implicitly) that the writer has a present interest in applying for totalization benefits. Requests for information about totalization, requests for coverage information, and benefit estimates for a specific social security number are classified as general inquiries. A “claims inquiry” will also be treated as a general inquiry if it involves a totalization benefit from a country with which the United States does not yet have an agreement in effect.
A claims inquiry is one in which:
The writer indicates a present interest in applying for benefits under an effective totalization agreement; and
There is a definite indication that the person who wrote the inquiry or the person about whom the inquiry was written may meet the eligibility requirements.
B. Processing general inquiries
General inquiries are processed in the modules. The module must answer the inquiry even if there is no record of a prior folder. General inquiries should not be referred to the International Benefits Unit (IBO), a DO, or an FSP. Although the Translation and Priority Work Unit (TPWU) is responsible for controlling and preparing the final replies to sensitive correspondence, TPWU frequently requests the assistance of module personnel to insure that the replies are correct and comprehensive. Module personnel should sign and date written information provided to TPWU.
If the inquiry involves a coverage question under an agreement, it should be routed through the claims authorization technical assistant (CA TA) to IPPS, OIP, OP. If a coverage inquiry is received by telephone, obtain the caller's name and telephone number and inform him that you will have someone knowledgeable return his call. Give the information to the CA TA for referral to the International Program Policy Staff.
1. Processing inquiries about Italian benefits
An inquiry about the Italian social security program should be answered by the Italian agency responsible for administering the agreement for Italy—the Istituto Nazionale di Previdenza Sociale (INPS). Inform the inquirer that SSA is not able to answer his inquiry about the Italian social security system. Advise the writer to write to INPS at the following address:
2. Processing inquiries about German benefits
An inquiry about the German social security program should be answered by one of the German agencies responsible for administering the agreement for Germany. Inform the inquirer that SSA is not able to answer his inquiry about the German social security system. Advise the inquirer to write to one of the following agencies, depending on the individual's German work activity:
If the most recent contribution was paid to the Pension Insurance for Wage Earners;
Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg
2000 Hamburg 60
If the most recent contribution was paid to the Pension Insurance of Salaried Employees;
1000 Berlin 88
If the most recent contribution was paid to the Miners' Pension Insurance, or if there are at least 60 creditable months (contribution and substitute periods) in the Miners' Pension Insurance;
If the most recent contribution was paid to this Special Institute of the Pension Insurance of the Wage Earner;
If the most recent contribution was paid to this Special Institute of the Wage Earners' Pension Insurance, or, if there is at least one contribution as a navigational employee or as seapilot:
2000 Hamburg II
If you can tell from the letter which agency has jurisdiction, refer the inquirer to that office; i.e., the letter states the worker's last employment in Germany was in an underground mine. If you are unable to determine the appropriate office, refer the inquirer to the Salaried Employees Pension Insurance Agency (b). That office will determine the appropriate agency to handle the inquiry and make any necessary referrals.
3. Processing inquiries about Swiss benefits
Any inquiry about the Swiss social security program should be answered by the Swiss Compensation Fund. Inform the inquirier that SSA is not able to answer his or her inquiry, and advise the inquirer to write to the Swiss Compensation Fund at the following addresss:
C. Processing claims inquiries
For module and IBO processing of regular RSDI claims inquiries also apply to totalization claims inquiries, except when the inquiry concerns a country with which SSA has no effective agreement. IBO refers such inquiries to the module where the replies are prepared. Do not send these inquiries to DO's or FSP's for processing. Suggested language for responding to inquiries of this nature is contained in NL 00711.000 ff.