TN 6 (07-05)

GN 03340.010 Responsibility for Handling Access Requests

A. Policy

1. Responsible Component

Whenever access is required, the component responsible for the system of records generally processes the request. However, if the requested information is available in the receiving office, it may be released from that point. If the information is not available, you should forward the request to the official responsible for furnishing access to the appropriate system of records.

When access will be delayed more than 30 days, you should acknowledge the request in writing, tell the requester when access will be granted, and explain why access has been delayed.

2. Questionable Access

If access is questionable and assistance needed:

  • FO staff can contact the regional office Privacy Coordinator on the staff of the Assistant Regional Commissioner (ARC) for Program Operations and Systems;

  • Program Service Center (PSC) staff can contact the PSC's Privacy Coordinator in the Program Integrity Branch or the regional office Privacy Coordinator;

  • Office of Disability and International Operations (ODIO) staff can contact their Operations Analysis Staff; and

  • Other Central Office (CO) components can contact the office of the SSA Privacy Officer.

3. Other Action Pending

When an access request is received and another action is pending (such as a reconsideration or appeal), the action should not be delayed or stopped. Other actions should be processed simultaneously with the access request. This can be accomplished by either:

  • Forwarding the claims folder to the component responsible for responding to the request, while retaining copies of all documents to complete the other action, or

  • Forwarding copies of the documents to the component responsible for the request.

B. Process

The following clarifies who has the responsibility for processing a request for a copy of the claims folder when the folder is no longer in the PSC. Claims folders are stored at both the Social Security National Records Center (SSA NRC) and OCO's Megasite storage facility. NRC is sometimes referred to as 'The Caves' since it is physically located inside limestone caves in Independence, Missouri. Over 25 million records are stored at these locations.

1. Requests for Claims Folder Information

The PCACS produces information on the status and location of actions and folders in progress.  Do not send requests for folders to the PSC when the PCACS location shows “image on file.” THIS IS NOT A FOLDER.  The FO should first determine if an electronic folder exists. If an electronic folder exists or when the claims folder is located in the FO, the FO processes the request for access, including any development required for the release of medical records in the file (see GN 03340.035).

If the FO receives an access request which asks for a copy of a title II claims folder and the folder is located in a PSC or ODIO, the FO forwards the request to the servicing PSC or ODIO. The PSC or ODIO responds directly to the requester as per GN 03340.010B.1.

However, because of paperless processing in the PSCs, most folders are now stored in the NRC. The Processing Center Action Control System (PCACS) gives FOs the ability to query for a folder location and the ability to request a folder from the NRC when the PCACS location is shown as CAVE. Instructions on the PCACS are in MSOM PCACS 009.002 .

a. Procedure for Requesting the Claims Folder

Effective immediately, folders showing a PCACS location of CAVE must be requested via the DRMN screen in PCACS. Components able to access the Folder Request functionality in PCACS should never forward requests for these folders through the PSCs as the multiple handling creates an unnecessary delay.

b. Procedure for Requesting Material from the Claims Folder

Some access requests are for a specific document or specific information located in the folder. Please see GN 01070.600 for instructions on requesting copies of certain material in the claims file.

c. High-Volume Requests

Third party brokers and others have a tendency to submit high-volume folder requests for individuals from all over the country to one local FO. The FO receiving this high-volume request should advise the third-party to send their requests to the appropriate servicing FOs. The component releasing the copies to the requester is responsible for charging the fee if the request is for a non-program purpose, as defined in GN 03311.005.

FOs respond to requests for access to title XVI claims folder information. Requests received by the Wilkes-Barre Federal Folder Staging Facility (FSF) are referred, along with the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) file, to the appropriate FO. If the FO cannot be determined, the FSF sends the folder and the request to