TN 6 (11-00)
GN 03910.030 Advising Claimants Regarding Right to Representation
Although SSA neither encourages nor discourages representation (see GN 03910.010B.), SSA is required to inform claimants of their right to be represented, if they choose, by an attorney or non-attorney at each step of the administrative review process. SSA also provides more detailed information to claimants who inquire about representation, or who are not represented when SSA makes an unfavorable determination or decision.”
1. Advising Claimants of Options
The Social Security Act and regulations require that SSA notify any claimant who is not represented by an attorney, and who receives an adverse determination, about the options for obtaining attorney representation and the availability, to qualifying claimants, of legal services organizations that provide legal services free of charge (e.g., legal aid groups). In addition to these specific requirements, SSA's policy is to inform any claimant who expresses an interest in being represented, or who is unrepresented and requests a hearing before an ALJ, of his or her options for obtaining representation.
The information SSA furnishes must be consistent with the basic policy that SSA is neutral with respect to encouraging or discouraging representation. SSA will not refer the claimant to a specific organization, nor can SSA determine whether a claimant qualifies for legal services free of charge. That determination is made by the legal services organization under its own criteria.
2. Maintaining a Representation Referral List
The Social Security field office (FO) will maintain a representation referral list of legal referral services, legal services organizations (e.g., local bar associations, legal aid societies, legal service corporations, and law schools with legal aid programs), and community organizations that may provide non-attorney representation in the FO's service area.
FOs will make the list available when providing information about representation to persons who are not represented. When providing the representation referral list, the FO will provide the entire list. The FO will not recommend one referral service over another.
The FO will send the representation referral list, and any subsequent deletions or additions, to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review’s hearing office (HO) (Attention: HO Chief ALJ) in whose service area the FO is located. The FO will obtain a copy of the HO's list of organizations for comparison. The FO will update the representation referral list annually and send the new list to the HO, and ask for any revisions in the HO list. Each FO will keep a supply of copies on hand for distribution to claimants. See the model representation referral list in GN 03910.090, Exhibit 1.
3. Representation Referral List Criteria
The representation referral list will meet the following criteria.
Any organization included on the list, or its branch office, must:
indicate a willingness to appear on the list;
be located in the FO's service area or close to the FO's service area (if including the organization serves the interest of claimants), or be able to refer a claimant to a participating service provider located in or close to the FO's service area; and
Example 1: The National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR) asked to be included on the list used by FOs and the HO in Seattle, Washington. NOSSCR, located in Midland Park, New Jersey, is not in the service area or close to the service area. However, because NOSSCR can refer a claimant to a participating service provider located in the service area, NOSSCR may be included on the list for Seattle.
Example 2: The National Association of Disability Representatives, Inc. (NADR) asked to be included on the lists used by FOs and the HO in St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. NADR, located in Washington D.C., is not in the service area or close to the service area. However, because NADR can refer a claimant to a participating service provider located in the service area, NADR may be included on the lists for St. Petersburg and Tampa.
not make a profit from the referral service, although the organization may charge a fee. (Nonprofit organizations sometimes charge fees to cover expenses.)
No individual person (i.e., attorney or non-attorney) or any for-profit firm or organization will appear on the list.
The list will show the organizations that provide free legal services separately from the organizations that charge fees for services or make referrals to service providers who charge fees. Each subcategory will show the organizations in alphabetical order.
B. Procedure - Initial or Reconsideration Level
1. Claimant Contacts FO
Advise any unrepresented claimant who asks about representation, or indicates that he or she has had, or anticipates having, difficulty obtaining representation, as follows.
The claimant may be represented by an attorney or other qualified person who will help the claimant and any witnesses:
prepare for any proceedings before SSA;
develop his or her case if he or she wants additional assistance; and
present his or her case in an administrative proceeding.
Explain to the claimant:
how to appoint a representative (see GN 03910.040);
a representative's authority to act on behalf of the claimant (see GN 03910.025); and
the fee petition and fee agreement processes (see GN 03920.001 ff.).
Give or send the claimant:
a copy of SSA Publication No. 05-10075, “Social Security and Your Right to Representation”;
Form SSA-1696-U4 (Appointment of Representative) for use should he or she decide to appoint a representative; and
a copy of the representation referral list.
Document the claim file indicating that you advised the claimant about his or her options for obtaining representation.
If you complete a form or a screen stating that you furnished information about representation to the claimant (e.g., a development worksheet or the RCN2 screen in the Modernized Claim System (MCS)), this constitutes documentation.
If you do not complete a form or a screen stating that you furnished information about representation to the claimant, either include an annotated copy of the representation referral list in the claim file (showing the claim number and the date that a copy was given to the claimant), or document the file with a dated report of contact (RC). If you do not have the claim file, send the annotated list or the RC to the component that has the claim file.
2. Claimant Contacts Teleservice Center (TSC)
Take the following actions when an unrepresented claimant contacts the TSC and either asks about representation or indicates that he or she has had trouble obtaining representation.
Advise the claimant as provided in GN 03910.030B.1.a. and GN 03910.030B.1.b.
Annotate any material prepared (e.g., a lead, protective filing, RC) to indicate that you advised the claimant of his or her right to representation, and that the FO should furnish the claimant the representation referral list.
C. Procedure - Hearing Level
Take the following actions when an unrepresented claimant contacts the FO or TSC about requesting a hearing.
Advise the unrepresented claimant as in GN 03910.030B.1.a. and GN 03910.030B.1.b., whether or not he or she asks about representation.
You may give or send the claimant:
a copy of SSA Publication No. 05-10075, “Social Security and Your Right to Representation”; and
a Form SSA-1696-U4 (Appointment of Representative) for use should he or she decide to appoint a representative.
You need not provide a copy of the representation referral list because the HO sends it when acknowledging receipt of the request for hearing from an unrepresented claimant.
Document the file, or any material prepared, to indicate that you advised the claimant of his or her right to representation as in GN 03910.030B.1.d. However, do not indicate that you furnished the representation referral list unless you actually did so because of the particular circumstances.
See GN 03103.010C. for other FO actions related to the request for hearing.
D. Procedure - Claimant Outside U.S.
Advise an unrepresented claimant who asks about representation, or indicates that he or she has had, or anticipates having, difficulty obtaining representation, as in GN 03910.030B.1.a. and GN 03910.030B.1.b., GN 03910.030B.2., or GN 03910.030C., as appropriate. Although the criminal provisions of section 206 of the Act have no extra-territorial effect, advise claimants who reside outside the U.S. that a representative must obtain SSA's authorization to charge and collect a fee for services (see GN 03920.005).