TN 4 (03-95)
GN 03910.025 Authority of Representative
An appointed representative may, on behalf of the claimant:
obtain information about the claim that SSA would generally provide the claimant;
examine any documents to which the claimant would have access;
appear at any interview or hearing, either alone or with the claimant;
be informed of all additional evidence needed to support the claim;
make statements about facts and law;
make any request or give any report or notice about the proceedings before SSA; and
be notified of any decision made in the claim, including, if applicable, decisions regarding auxiliary beneficiaries.
A representative may not:
sign an application on behalf of the claimant, unless the representative is otherwise a proper applicant under GN 00204.003;
testify at any administrative proceeding in place of the claimant; or
redelegate his/her authority to represent the claimant to anyone whom the claimant has not appointed as a representative.
A representative may act on the claimant's behalf from the time of his/her appointment until his/her authority expires or is revoked (see GN 03910.060).
In the absence of indication to the contrary, SSA considers the representative of a primary claimant to be acting in the interest of auxiliary beneficiaries as well. This policy is based on the Supreme Court's 1968 ruling in Hopkins v. Cohen, reprinted as Social Security Ruling 68-61c (C.E. 1968), which established that the representative of a primary claimant is deemed to be acting on behalf of all other claimants in the case, and accordingly has a right to charge and collect fees for services in obtaining benefits for auxiliaries in a case. Therefore, SSA must release to an appointed representative copies of any notices sent to auxiliary beneficiaries, including notices sent to auxiliary beneficiaries not living in the primary claimant's household.
2. Disclosure of Records
A claimant may, without appointing a representative, specifically consent to SSA's disclosure of his/her records to an individual or organization. The policy governing disclosure of records with consent (see GN 03305.015) provides that a claimant may specifically consent to the disclosure of his/ her Social Security records to a legal aid group or private law firm as an entity, or to any individual member of the entity, whether or not the claimant has appointed any individual in the entity to act as his/her representative by completing a SSA-3288.
If the claimant consents to SSA's disclosure of his/her records to an entity, and that entity subsequently proposes to take any action (e.g., to file a claim or pursue an appeal) on behalf of the claimant, the claimant must appoint a specific individual or individuals in the entity as representative(s) (see GN 03910.020B.3. and GN 03910.040). Only the appointed representative(s) has the authority to act on behalf of the claimant as provided in 1. above, whether or not the claimant consented to disclosure of records to other individuals in the entity.
An appointed representative does not have the authority to disclose the claimant's records to another party without the claimant's specific consent on the SSA-3288 (for policy see GN 03305.006, for the exhibit see GN 03305.999).
Under existing disclosure policy, SSA cannot disclose information to an attorney who represents a claimant at the court level, unless the claimant specifically consents on a Form SSA-3288. If the claimant also appoints the court level attorney for representation on matters before SSA, the Form SSA-1696-U4 or an equivalent writing permits us to disclose information.
3. Delegation of Duties
Although an appointed representative may not redelegate his/her authority to represent the claimant to another person whom the claimant has not appointed, the appointed representative is not required to perform every task related to the representation personally. Appointed representatives often delegate such tasks as developing the claimant's medical record or preparing written materials regarding an appeal to an assistant. An unappointed assistant who is supervised and directed by the appointed representative may perform tasks of this nature, as long as the appointed representative personally makes the decisions central to presenting the claimant's case before SSA.
A representative may not delegate to an unappointed assistant the authority to undertake tasks that require making significant decisions regarding the case. Whoever performs such tasks is, by definition, a representative, and must be appointed as such by the claimant. Appearing as the claimant's advocate in a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), for example, requires making decisions about presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses, arguing facts and law, and appealing any adverse ruling. Only an individual whom the claimant has appointed, and whom SSA has accepted, as the claimant's representative has the authority to perform such tasks.