TN 3 (09-05)

GN 03325.002 Disclosure of Social Security Numbers (SSN) Without Consent

A. Policy

In cases in which SSA may disclose SSNs, the requester must provide sufficient information for SSA to locate the SSN and to determine if the request meets SSA’s disclosure criteria.

Because of the sensitivity of the SSN as a unique personal identifier, SSA has established the following principles that govern decisions to disclose SSNs.

1. When Federal law requires SSA to disclose SSNs

When a Federal law requires SSA to disclose SSNs, regardless of the purpose stated in the law, SSA will comply with the law and disclose SSNs based on the statutory mandate to disclose.

NOTE: A Federal law that authorizes another government agency to collect and use the SSN is not the same as a Federal law requiring SSA to disclose the SSN. In order for SSA to disclose the SSN under this principle, the statute must mandate that SSA disclose SSNs.

Examples of Federal laws requiring SSA to disclose:

  • 5 U.S.C. § 8347(m)(3) (Office of Personnel Management (OPM) statute) requires SSA to provide information, including SSNs, to OPM, upon written request, to administer Federal employee civil service programs.

  • 8 U.S.C. 1360(c) (Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statute) requires SSA to disclose identity and location information (including SSNs) to the Department of Justice, Office of Special Investigations, for the purpose of taking legal action against suspected Nazi war criminals in the United States.

  • 8 U.S.C. 1360(c) (Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statute) requires SSA to disclose certain tax return information to DHS about aliens assigned SSNs for non-work purposes but who have earnings that have been posted to those SSNs.

  • 38 U.S.C. § 5106 (Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA statute) requires the head of any Federal department or agency, including SSA, to provide information, including SSNs, to the DVA for purposes of determining eligibility for or amount of VA benefits, or verifying other information with respect thereto.

  • 42 U.S.C. § 405(r) (Section 205(r) of the Social Security Act) requires SSA to add death and fraud indicators when verifying SSNs for employers and State agencies issuing driver’s licenses and identify cards.

    NOTE: In implementing this provision of law, SSA will not disclose fraud codes. Rather, the fraud codes will be used as a verification factor.

  • 42 U.S.C. 404(x)(3)(C) (Section 205(x)(3)(C) of the Act) 50 U.S.C. App. 462 (Military Selective Service Act (MSSA)) requires SSA to disclose names, SSNs, dates of birth, and addresses of individuals required to register with the Selective Service System for the purpose of enforcing selective service registration under the MSSA.

2. When Federal law authorizes use of the SSN in an Income-maintenance or health-maintenance program or requires SSA to disclose SSNs

When a Federal law authorizes a Federal, State, or local government agency to collect and use the SSN to determine eligibility for benefits, benefit amounts, or other matters of benefit status in an income-maintenance or health-maintenance program that it administers, SSA may disclose the SSN to that agency.

Examples of Federal laws that authorize use of the SSN in income-maintenance or health-maintenance program are:

  • 42 U.S.C. § 1320b—7 (Section 1137 of the Social Security Act (Act) requires the States to collect the SSN of applicants for certain programs (e.g., Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment compensation);

  • 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(i) (Section 205(c)(2)(C)(i) of the Act) provides that States may require applicants for general public assistance to furnish their SSNs; and

  • 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(iii) (Section 205(c)(2)(C)(iii) of the Act) allows the Secretary of Agriculture to require participants in the food stamp program to furnish their SSNs and to use the SSN for other administrative purposes or enforcement of the Food Stamp Act of 1977.

NOTE: The Federal law must specifically authorize the agency’s use of the SSN or authorize or require SSA to disclose the SSN. Questions concerning whether a Federal law authorizes the use of the SSN in an income-maintenance program or health-maintenance program should be referred to the Office of Public Disclosure, Office of the General Counsel, through the Regional or Central Office Privacy Act Coordinator (see http://sharepoint2007.ba.ssa.gov/ogc/employeeinfo/sub/officelist.aspx?function=Privacy and Disclosure for contact information).

3. Disclosure is allowed under one or more of the Privacy Act’s disclosure exceptions (5 U.S.C. § 552a(b))

The Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a(b)) contains 12 exceptions that allow Federal agencies to disclose information without the written consent of the individual to whom the information pertains. See GN 03301.020B.4. for a discussion of these disclosure exceptions. SSA applies the Privacy Act disclosure exceptions to requests for SSNs on a case-by-case basis. The Privacy Act exception that SSA uses most frequently to disclose SSNs is the routine use exception (see discussion in GN 03325.002A.4.).

4. Disclosure under the Privacy Act routine use disclosure exception

One of the Privacy Act’s 12 disclosure exceptions is the routine use exception (5 U.S.C. § 552a(b)(3)). The routine use exception allows Federal agencies to disclose SSNs to third parties without the consent of the individual to whom the information pertains for a purpose that is compatible with the purpose for which the information was collected.

SSA has established a number of routine uses for the Master Files of Social Security Number (SSN) Holders and SSN Applications System of records that allow the disclosure of SSNs to third parties. This system of records and the routine uses can be reviewed on SSA’s Internet website, http://www.socialsecurity.gov/foia/bluebook/60-0058.htm. The most frequent disclosures of SSNs based on the routine uses are discussed in GN 03325.002D.

5. Disclosure for law enforcement purposes

Disclosure for a law enforcement purpose is one of the Privacy Act disclosure exceptions (5 U.S.C. § 552a(b)(7)). SSA’s policy concerning disclosure of information for law enforcement activities is discussed thoroughly in GN 03312.000.

Under SSA’s law enforcement disclosure policy, decisions to disclose SSNs are made on a case-by-case basis for criminal law enforcement activity when a written request is received for information about:

  • an individual who has been indicted for or convicted of a serious crime (e.g., murder, rape, kidnapping, drug trafficking); or

  • criminal activity involving the Social Security program or another program with the same purposes.

The law enforcement agencies seeking an SSN must provide SSA with sufficient information in writing demonstrating how the SSN is relevant to the criminal activity being pursued.

Also, a law enforcement request for an SSN must meet all of SSA’s criteria for disclosing information for law enforcement purposes (see GN 03312.000 for specific criteria for law enforcement requests).

B. Policy - criteria for disclosing SSNs

1. Identifying information required

A requester of an SSN must provide SSA with the name, date of birth, and at least one of the following pieces of identifying information to assist SSA in determining that the SSN being sought has been assigned to the person in question:

  • place of birth,

  • mother’s maiden name, or

  • father’s name.

EXCEPTION: In some cases in which a requester is able to provide only a name and date of birth, if SSA’s disclosure criteria are met, the SSN may be disclosed if a single record is located based on an exact match of the name and date of birth provided to SSA.

2. Justification for disclosure

The requester must provide SSA with sufficient information to determine that the request meets SSA disclosure criteria.

C. Policy - disclosure of SSNs of deceased individuals

See GN 03325.002D.3., GN 03315.010A.2., and GN 03315.010B.4.

D. Policy - pre-approved disclosures of SSNs

The following are the most common SSN disclosures allowed under SSA disclosure policy. The listings are not intended to be all inclusive. Other disclosures may be authorized under a routine use listed in the notice of the Privacy Act system of records, Master Files of Social Security Number (SSN) Holders and SSN Applications System.This notice can be viewed on SSA’s webpage at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/foia/bluebook/60-0058.htm.

1. Disclosure of SSNs to Federal agencies

The chart below identifies the most common disclosures of SSNs to Federal agencies. The “REFERENCES” column identifies cross-references that contains additional discussion relevant to the purpose of a disclosure discussed in the chart. Unless otherwise noted in the chart, the component receiving a request may disclose SSNs for the purpose stated.

NOTE: See GN 03325.000 for the procedure to follow when handling requests for SSNs.

AGENCY OR ENTITYPURPOSE OF DISCLOSUREREFERENCES

Court order

  • The Commissioner is a party to the proceedings;

  • Disclosure is specifically permitted by Regulation No. 1 (20 C.F.R. Part 401) as stated in any POMS subchapter in GN 033; or

  • For due process in a criminal proceeding.

    EXAMPLE:A defendant in a criminal proceeding needs information from SSA records, other than his/her own, that is alleged to be essential to his/her defense.

Regional offices and field offices should follow regional procedures when handling court orders. Central office components should discuss these cases with OPD, OGC.

GN 03330.000

Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Pursuant to a written request to identify and locate aliens in the United States.

NOTE: SSA does not have the legal authority to disclose information about U.S. citizens to DHS. If DHS requests information and SSA determines that the information pertains to both U.S. citizens and aliens, only information about the aliens can be disclosed.

GN 03312.015A.3 and GN 03313.095

Department of Justice (DOJ)

To investigate and prosecute violations of the Social Security Act (Act).

GN 03312.015A

DOJ

Pursuant to a written request for the purpose of detecting, investigating, and, when appropriate, taking legal action against suspected Nazi war criminals in the United States.

GN 03312.001B and GN 03313.070A.6.

Department of Treasury (DOT), Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

For tax administration as defined in section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) (26 U.S.C. § 6103).

GN 03313.060 and GN 03312.045.

DOT, IRS

Disclosure of the SSNs of parents for children under age 18 to administer sections of the IRC which grant tax benefits based on support or residence of children.

GN 03313.060

Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA)

To determine eligibility for VA benefits or verifying other information with respect thereto.

GN 03313.045

Federal agencies with Federal statutory authority to collect and use the SSN in income- maintenance or health-maintenance programs

To determine benefit eligibility, benefit amounts, or other matters concerning benefit status in income-maintenance or health-maintenance programs.

GN 03325.002A, items 1. and 2.

Federal law enforcement agencies

To investigate or prosecute abuse of social security programs, including misuse of the SSN, or other income-maintenance or health-maintenance programs. In such cases, SSA will release information to the requesting Federal law enforcement agency;

for criminal law enforcement purposes when the individual in question has been indicted for or convicted of a violent crime; or

in a threat to national security or a life-threatening situation such as an act of terrorism, kidnapping or holding of hostages.

GN 03312.001, GN 03312.005, GN 03312.015 and GN 03312.025, GN 03312.030, GN 03312.040, and GN 03325.002A, items 2. and 5.

Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

To administer OPM’s pension program for retired Federal Civil Service employees.

GN 03313.050

Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)

To administer provisions of the Railroad Retirement and Social Security Acts relating to railroad employment; to administer the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act.

GN 03313.055

Selective Service System (SSS)

To enforce draft registration concerning young men required to register with the SSS.

GN 03313.075

2. Disclosure of SSNs to state or local agencies

The chart below identifies the most common disclosures of SSNs to State and local agencies. The “REFERENCES” column identifies cross-references that contain additional discussion relevant to the purpose of a disclosure discussed in the chart. Unless otherwise noted in the chart, the component receiving a request may disclose SSNs for the purpose stated.

NOTE: See GN 03325.001D for the procedure to follow when handling requests for SSNs.

AGENCYPURPOSEREFERENCES

State or local income-maintenance or health- maintenance agencies

To determine benefit eligibility, benefit amounts, or other matters concerning benefit status in income-maintenance or health-maintenance programs when these agencies have authority under Federal law to collect and use the SSN in such programs.

EXAMPLE: The following programs listed in section 1137 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1320—7b):

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families,

  • Medicaid,

  • Unemployment compensation

  • Food stamps; and

  • State adult assistance programs (Social Security titles I, X, XIV, and XVI, which apply to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa).

GN 03314.001D, GN 03314.005A, and 03325.002A.2.

State Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS) Agencies

For use as a primary identifier in administering public health and income maintenance programs and in statistical research and evaluation projects such as:

  • Establishing public immunization registries,

  • Ensuring complete birth record registration by matching vital records with neonatal test results,

  • Conducting studies of factors contributing to infant mortality by linking birth and death records, and

  • Evaluating the efficacy of intervention programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition programs, “Healthy Start,” or other health maintenance programs.

NOTE: : The disclosure of SSNs is limited to the SSNs of newborns issued via SSA’s Enumeration at Birth (EAB) program.

GN 03325.002A.2.

State Law Enforcement agencies

To investigate or prosecute abuse of social security programs, including misuse of the SSN, or other income or health maintenance programs. In such cases, SSA will release information to the requesting State or local law enforcement agency;

for criminal law enforcement purposes when the individual in question has been indicted or convicted of a violent crime; or

in a threat to national security or a life-threatening situation such as an act of terrorism, kidnapping or holding of hostages (see GN 03312.050B. for handling these requests).

GN 03312.001, GN 03312.005., GN 03312.010A.2., GN 03312.020, GN 03312.030, GN 03312.035, GN 03325.003A, and GN 03325.002A.5.

3. Disclosure of SSNs to entities other than Federal, state, or local agencies

The chart below identifies the most common disclosures of SSNs to non-governmental entities. The “REFERENCES” column identifies cross-references that contain additional discussion relevant to the purpose of a disclosure discussed in the chart. Unless otherwise noted in the chart, the component receiving a request may disclose SSNs for the purpose stated.

NOTE: See GN 03325.001D for the procedure to follow when handling requests for SSNs.

THIRD PARTYPURPOSEREFERENCES

Employers

To report FICA taxes and State or local Social Security taxes for employees under Section 218 of the Social Security Act, and

To correct earnings records

GN 03316.080 and GN 03325.002.A.4.

NOTE: Encourage employers to submit requests for SSN verifications electronically. You may refer them to SSA’s Internal webpage http://www.ssa.gov/employer/evs2002.doc. for instructions on how they may submit requests electronically.

Foreign countries that are parties to totalization agreements

To administer the social security program of country that is a party to the totalization agreement.

GN 03316.090

General public (records about deceased persons)

For any purpose when SSA records indicate that the number holder (NH) is deceased, or a requester provides SSA with acceptable proof of death of the NH. See GN 03315.010A.2.b. and GN 03315.010B.3. for instructions for handling requests for information about deceased individuals that may affect the privacy of a living individual.

REMINDER: Death information SSA receives from the States can not be used to make a decision concerning disclosure. For example, if the Numident contains the legend, “This record contains State death data,” or words to that effect, no information may be disclosed about the NH based solely on that State death data. See GN 03315.010.

GN 03316.095, GN 03315.010

Parent or legal guardian of a person judicially determined to legally incompetent)

When acting on behalf of the minor or incompetent person.

GN 03340.015, GN 03340.025, GN 03340.030, and GN 03340.035

4. Disclosure of SSNs pursuant to court orders

An SSN may be disclosed in response to a court order under the following circumstances:

  • The Commissioner is a party to the proceedings,

  • Disclosure is specifically permitted by Regulation No. 1 (20 C.F.R. Part 401) as stated in any subchapter in POMS Chapter GN 033, or

  • The information is necessary for due process in a criminal proceeding.

    Due process cases can be complex because a disclosure may affect the privacy rights of someone other than the defendant. Thus, regional and field offices should consult with the Regional Chief Counsel on these cases; central office components should consult with the Office of Public Disclosure, Office of the General Counsel (see http://sharepoint2007.ba.ssa.gov/ogc/employeeinfo/sub/officelist.aspx?function=Privacy and Disclosure for contact information).

    NOTE: A protective order should be sought from the court even if an order meets the criteria stated in this section.

    EXAMPLE: A defendant in a criminal proceeding needs information from SSA records, other than his/her own, that is alleged to be essential to his/her defense. Disclosure may be made under the circumstances discussed above.

5. Disclosure of SSN pursuant to subpoenas

The disclosure of an SSN pursuant to a subpoena is permitted only under the following circumstances:

  • The subpoena meets SSA’s regulatory requirements for disclosure under pursuant to a court order (see GN 03330.000 for procedures for handling court orders). Also http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OP_ Home/cfr20/401/401-0180.htm for SSA’s regulatory requirements for disclosure under a court order.

  • The disclosure is permitted under the instructions in another section of GN 033.

  • Disclosure is required under the Freedom of Information Act.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0203325002
GN 03325.002 - Disclosure of Social Security Numbers (SSN) Without Consent - 03/13/2013
Batch run: 03/13/2013
Rev:03/13/2013