TN 5 (11-15)
GN 03305.004 Disclosing Queries
A. Introduction to disclosing queries
We use queries for internal, administrative purposes. They should not routinely be disclosed to third parties based on an individual’s consent. We also employ a policy of minimization when disclosing information to third parties, disclosing only the minimal information necessary to accomplish the purpose stated in the request. For these reasons, it will be extremely rare that a query may be disclosed in response to a consent request. We should only disclose a query if the individual who is the subject of the record makes this particular request and provides his or her informed consent.
B. Informed consent
The consenting individual may not be aware of all the personal information that a particular query may display. To provide informed consent, we must:
clearly understand the information described in the request for records, and
ensure that the consenting individual fully understands the information contained in the records that he or she is authorizing us to release to the third party.
Therefore, the consent document must describe every type of information that the query will display.
C. Policy for disclosing queries with consent
An individual’s signature on a valid consent document is our legal authority for disclosing a query or any other record information to a third party. We will release a query to a third party to satisfy a request only if the consenting individual specifies or describes in the consent document every type of information shown on the query that he or she is asking us to release. If the consent document does not specify or describe the type of information shown on the query, do not process the request. Return the consent document to the requester with an explanation of why we cannot honor it.
An individual’s consent to disclose a query does not authorize the disclosure of information about other persons on that particular query. We must redact information on other persons on the record, prior to the disclosure. If we disclose a query to satisfy a request, we must retain the consent document for a period of two years. For information about retaining consent documents, see GN 03305.010.
D. Disclosing queries to appointed representatives
An appointed representative is an individual who meets the qualifications listed in GN 03910.020B and who the claimant appoints to act on his or her behalf in pursuing his or her claim or asserted rights before the agency. The appointed representative does not have to submit a separate SSA-3288 (or its equivalent) if the notice of appointment, Form SSA-1696-U4 (Appointment of Representative) (or its equivalent writing) authorizes the appointed representative to receive information on behalf of a claimant and the appointment authority has not expired. This also applies to the appointed representative’s designated associates if the appropriate box is checked on the SSA-1696-U4. We will disclose queries only to appointed representatives and designated associates for whom we have a valid, non-expired SSA-1696-U4 already in our records. For information about when the appointed representative’s authority expires, see GN 03910.060.
NOTE: If we can provide the specific information the appointed representative requests in another manner, there is no obligation to provide a query.