TN 4 (03-95)

GN 03910.020 Who Is a Representative

A. Definition

“Representative,” as used in this chapter, means an individual person who meets the qualifications listed in GN 03910.020B.1. or GN 03910.020B.2., and whom the claimant appoints to act on his or her behalf in pursuing his or her claim or asserted rights before SSA.

B. Policy

1. Qualifications - Attorney

An attorney may serve as a claimant's representative if he or she is:

  • admitted to practice law before a court of a State, Territory, District, or island possession of the United States, or before the Supreme Court or a lower Federal court of the United States;

  • not disqualified or suspended from acting as a representative in dealings with SSA (see GN 03970.000 and GN 03970.050); and

  • not prohibited by any law from acting as a representative (see GN 03980.001).

2. Qualifications - Non-Attorney

A person who is not an attorney may serve as a claimant's representative if he or she is:

  • generally known to have a good character and reputation;

  • capable of giving valuable help to the claimant in connection with the claim;

  • not disqualified or suspended from acting as a representative in dealings with SSA (see GN 03970.000 and GN 03970.050); and

  • not prohibited by any law from acting as a representative (see GN 03980.001).

The Act and regulations provide that a non-attorney representative must be of good character and reputation and capable of giving valuable help to the claimant in order to serve before SSA; however, neither the Act nor the regulations define the terms “good character and reputation” and “valuable help.” Any questions that arise regarding these requirements at any point in the claim process, whether before or after the claimant appoints the individual, involve sensitive issues that must be approached with good judgment and discretion.

In general, SSA will presume that an appointed or prospective non-attorney representative is of good character and reputation and capable of giving valuable help, absent evidence to the contrary. When there appears to be clear indication that the person is not of good character and reputation, or the person does not appear capable of assisting the claimant to any significant extent, the appointment will be referred to the Office of General Law (OGL) in the Office of the General, Representative Conduct and Civil Rights Division, under the procedure in GN 03910.020C.2. However, SSA will recognize a claimant's appointment of the person as representative, assuming that the other requirements for appointment are fulfilled, unless and until SSA disqualifies or suspends the person.

3. Representative Must Be Individual

Under the regulations, only individual persons may be appointed and act as representatives before SSA. A claimant may appoint more than one person as his or her representative. However, an entity such as a firm, partnership, legal corporation, or other organization is not an individual person; therefore, the claimant may not appoint an entity to act as his or her representative. A claimant may, however, consent to SSA's disclosure of records to an entity (see GN 03910.025). For situations in which a claimant signs a document that appears to appoint an entity as representative, see GN 03910.040B.2. and GN 03910.040H.3. For situations in which a claimant appoints multiple representatives, see GN 03910.040D., GN 03910.040E., and GN 03910.040H.4.

4. Who Is Not a Representative

Not every situation in which one individual assists or acts on behalf of another in dealings with SSA involves representation as defined in this chapter. Persons rendering the following types of assistance are not acting as “representatives,” as defined in this chapter, although they may also be appointed as representatives:

  • a person who receives and manages benefits on behalf of a claimant;

  • an interpreter;

  • a legal representative of a deceased person's estate, as defined in GN 02301.035, for purposes of determining the order of priority for payment of an underpayment;

  • a designated representative, as defined in GN 03340.035B., who receives and reviews a claimant's medical records in cases in which releasing the records to the claimant is expected to cause an adverse effect;

  • a legal guardian of an individual whom a State court has found to be legally incompetent;

  • a parent who signs an application for a child under age 18; or

  • a friend or relative who accompanies a claimant to an interview and assists the claimant by, e.g., answering questions or providing evidence, but who will not act in an ongoing role as the claimant's advocate.

If the claimant wants a person who renders another type of service (e.g., as representative payee or interpreter) also to act as his or her representative before SSA, the claimant must appoint the person under the procedures in GN 03910.040.

5. Recognition of Representative

SSA recognizes a representative who meets the qualifications stated in GN 03910.020B.1. or GN 03910.020B.2. and who is appointed by the claimant.

If SSA previously recognized an individual as an appointed representative, SSA will continue to recognize claimants' appointments of that representative unless and until SSA disqualifies or suspends him or her. If SSA previously recognized as a representative an attorney who is subsequently disbarred after SSA's recognition, SSA will continue to recognize that individual, but only in a non-attorney representative capacity, meaning that SSA will not directly pay the representative any fee.

In those cases where the disbarred attorney is licensed to practice in multiple jurisdictions, SSA will continue to recognize him or her as an attorney, if he or she is in good standing in at least one of these jurisdictions.

For the current list of all the sanctioned representatives visit: http://odar.ba.ssa.gov/hq-components/odc/sanctioned-representatives/

C. Procedure

1. General

If an individual is assisting the claimant during the course of an interview or telephone contact at any stage of the claims process, and it is not clear whether he or she is representing the claimant, or only informally helping the claimant or supplying information:

  • advise the claimant regarding his or her right to representation (see GN 03910.030) and SSA's fee authorization processes (see GN 03920.001);

  • ask the claimant whether he or she wishes the other person to act on his or her behalf as a representative; and

  • have the claimant appoint the person (see GN 03910.040), if the claimant wants that person to represent him or her.

2. Questionable Non-Attorney Representative

When a non-attorney individual whom the claimant has appointed, or wants to appoint, does not appear to be of good character and reputation, or does not appear to be capable of helping the claimant, the field office (FO) or processing center (PC), as appropriate, will:

  • refer the appointment or proposed appointment, over the signature of a person with management authority, to:
    Social Security Administration
    Office of the General Counsel, Office of General Law
    P.O. Box 17788
    Baltimore, MD 21235

  • annotate the envelope and cover page of the transmittal as follows: IMMEDIATE ACTION NECESSARY. REPRESENTATIVE SANCTION REFERRAL; and

  • include any evidence that bears on the individual's character, reputation, or ability to give valuable help to the claimant in connection with the claim.

If the claimant appoints the person (see GN 03910.040), consider the person to be the claimant's representative unless and until SSA disqualifies or suspends the person from representing claimants. Make all contacts with and send notices to the appointed representative as provided in this subchapter. DO NOT delay processing the claim after you forward the referral to OGL. Do not follow up with OGL.

If SSA suspends or disqualifies the representative, OGL will distribute the information to the Regional Commissioners and PCs.

If SSA does not suspend or disqualify the individual, OGL will advise the referring office regarding the determination.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0203910020
GN 03910.020 - Who Is a Representative - 05/08/2013
Batch run: 05/08/2013
Rev:05/08/2013