TN 9 (07-99)
GN 03101.120 Appeals - FO Interview With Dissatisfied Claimant
A. Policy - General
If the claimant visits an office to file an appeal, he/she will receive a face-to-face interview the same day. The interview may be conducted by a service representative or higher level employee. The person who makes the reconsidered determination must have had no prior involvement with the initial determination.
There is no protective filing for appeals. SSA has to actually receive the written request within the time limit. An appeal request need not be on any special form. If it appears the time limit for requesting an appeal will expire within 10 days, or payment continuation is desired, encourage the caller to send a written statement or visit the FO as soon as possible. If sending a SSA-561 to the caller, write your office code and the date of the call in the upper right-hand corner. (This date may be a factor in deciding whether good cause for late filing can be established.)
NOTE: Before accepting a new disability application or processing additional evidence from a claimant, who has a disability claim pending at any level of administrative review, see DI 51501.001 – Procedural Change for Subsequent Disability Applications, DI 51501.005 - Claimant Requests to File a New Disability Application, and DI 51501.015 - Claimant Submits Additional Evidence.
B. Procedure - Conducting the Interview
In conducting the interview:
Ascertain specific issue(s) with which the claimant disagrees.
Explain the determination on his/her claim.
Determine if the claimant is only seeking information/clarification or wants to appeal.
Explain the right to appeal, the time limits, and the right to be represented. Use pamphlets that you can give to the claimant, as guides.
Explain that if he/she appeals, SSA can review all issues even those decided favorably.
Assist the claimant in filing an appeal, if that is his/her decision. Determine whether there is additional evidence or information that relates to the issue(s) in controversy.
NOTE: The FO should advise claimants who are unsure whether to appeal an adverse determination about res judicata and the potential impact of not appealing, i.e., possible loss of benefits.
2. Disagreement with Law, Regulations, or Rulings
Explain that SSA has no option other than compliance with these mandates, and that the individual employees who administer the program are not at liberty to substitute their own judgment or opinion for rulings, regulations, or the law. Rely on the relevant sections of the POMS as a basis for explaining any determination or decision that the claimant finds unsatisfactory. Do not attempt to explain the rationale for any particular operational guidelines, nor go to any great lengths to justify them.
Explain the expedited appeals process (EAP) if the claimant continues to argue that the determination/decision is unconstitutional. See GN 03107.000 ff. for instructions on EAP.
3. Appeal Period Expired
If the claimant contacts SSA after the appeal period has expired, the claimant should be advised of the good cause provisions for late filing of an appeal. If the claimant wishes to appeal, take the request and document the claimant's reasons for being late. See GN 03101.020 on determining good cause.
C. Procedure - New Application in Lieu of Appeal
1. Claimant Wishes to File New Application
The FO must accept the application and assist the claimant in filing an application. Explain that filing a new application is not the same thing as an appeal. An appeal of a determination allows complete review of the basis and rationale for that determination whether or not new evidence is presented to support the appeal request.
Explain that if a new application is filed with no new facts or evidence, the application may be denied on the basis of res judicata. Res judicata occurs most frequently in disability cases where, instead of appealing a denial, the claimant files a new application. Even if the application is allowed, benefits may be lost. See GN 00204.030 for information on retroactivity of applications and GN 04040.000 ff. for information on administrative finality.
The claimant's action is often the result of the mistaken belief that filing a new application is equivalent to appealing the prior application.
2. Claimant Files New Application
If a claimant files a subsequent application and the subsequent application is to be denied on the basis of res judicata, the adjudicator will first consider whether reopening and revising applies. (See GN 04001.000 for rules on reopening.)
NOTE: If the claimant contacts SSA after the appeal period has expired, advise the claimant of the good cause provisions for late filing of an appeal.
3. Misinformation Alleged
If the claimant alleges he/she failed to appeal an adverse determination because of good faith reliance on incorrect, incomplete, or misleading information given by SSA, we cannot deny the subsequent on the basis of res judicata until we determine whether misinformation exists. In such cases, obtain a signed statement from the claimant (or a qualified representative) that contains the following information (for oral inquiries, the FO will complete a Report of Contact):
dates of the alleged contact;
how the contact was made;
who gave the misinformation; and
the information we provided on the consequences of reapplying for benefits versus appealing an adverse determination and the questions asked by the SSA employee at the time of the contact.
4. Adverse Determination Made Prior to 7/1/91 (Effective Date of OBRA '90 Provision)
If the rules on reopening cannot be applied, decide whether good cause for extending the time to appeal exists.
5. Adverse Determination Made on or after 7/1/91
If the subsequent application is being adjudicated at the initial level and you intend to deny on the basis of res judicata, but the claimant alleges misinformation, determine whether misinformation exists.
a. Misinformation Not Found
If the FO determines that misinformation does not exist, deny the subsequent application on the basis of res judicata. The FO will send the claimant a notice with appeal rights only on the correctness of applying res judicata and an evaluation of why misinformation does not exist.
b. Misinformation Found
If the FO determines that misinformation does exist, make a determination on the merits of the subsequent application and send a notice to the claimant with appeal rights, i.e., the right to reconsideration.
NOTE: Because misinformation is found to exist, the effect of adjudicating the subsequent application is that the previously adjudicated period must be adjudicated again with appeal rights. It is the same as if the claimant filed an appeal request timely although the subsequent application is not an appeal request.
c. Misinformation Not Alleged
If the claimant files a subsequent application and does not allege misinformation, adjudicate the subsequent application in the usual manner.
6. Misinformation Found After Subsequent Application Denied
If SSA already denied a subsequent application or dismissed an appeal request that was based on res judicata and later determines misinformation was given, vacate the denial or dismissal and issue a determination or decision based on the merits of the subsequent application.
NOTE: The level of the administrative review process that first denied or dismissed on the basis of res judicata will make the merits determination or decision.
See GN 00204.008 for guidance on developing misinformation.