TN 13 (02-05)
GN 03920.015 Delegation of Authority to Authorize Fees - Services Below the Hearing Level
NOTE: For delegations of authority at and above the hearing level, refer to HALLEX I-1-2-6 .
A. Policy - authority to authorize fees
The authority to authorize fees for services below the hearing level has been delegated to the Attorney Fee Branch (AFB) in the Office of Analytics, Review, and Oversight (OARO). The authority has been further delegated to the processing centers (PCs) and field offices (FOs) as indicated in GN 03920.015A.1. and GN 03920.015A.2.
1. Initial Fee Determination
a. Fee Petition Process
The PCs have the authority to authorize a fee up to and including $10,000 for Title II and Title XVI fee petition cases.
b. Fee Agreement Process
The FOs and PCs have the authority to authorize fees for Title II fee agreement cases. The FOs have the authority to authorize fees for Title XVI fee agreement cases. Effective February 1, 2002, the PCs and FOs may authorize a fee up to and including the current specified dollar amount established pursuant to section 206(a)(2)(A)(ii)(II) in initial fee determinations in fee agreement cases (refer to GN 03940.003B.3.).
NOTE: For fee agreements initially approved before February 1, 2002, the specified dollar amount established in initial fee determinations was $4,000. Legislation enacted in 1990 established the $4,000 amount and also gave the Commissioner the authority to increase the amount.
2. Administrative Review Determinations
The PCs have the authority to authorize fees, subject to the $10,000 limitation, for administrative review determinations in fee petition cases. The PCs also have the authority to authorize fees for administrative review determinations in fee agreement cases.
The FOs do not have the authority to authorize a fee in connection with a request for administrative review under either the fee petition or fee agreement process.
NOTE: GN 03940.003B.3. provides the current specified dollar amount established pursuant to section 206(a)(2)(A)(ii)(II) for fee agreements; however, the PCs may authorize a fee greater than the current specified dollar amount on administrative review. See GN 03960.000, Administrative Review of Determination Under the Fee Agreement Process.
B. Policy – fee petition - recommended fee exceeds $10,000
If a PC proposes to authorize a fee (or total of fees) of more than $10,000, based on a fee petition(s) or on a request for administrative review of the fee amount authorized based on a fee petition, Attorney Fee Officer (AFO) must review the recommendation (Form SSA-1178 - Evaluation of Fee Petition for Representation).
C. Process – fee petition - PC recommends fee over $10,000
If a PC recommends authorizing a fee of more than $10,000, the PC must send the fee recommendation, Form SSA-1178, and the claim(s) file to: Office of Analytics, Review, and Oversight
Attorney Fee Branch, Suite 805
5107 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, Virginia 22041-3255
The AFB sends an interim letter to the claimant and representative when it does not issue a fee authorization within 30 days of receiving the claim file.
1. PC or FO withholding past-due benefits
When SSA is withholding Title II and/or Title XVI past-due benefits for direct payment of a representative's fee, the PC diaries the case for 45 days pending return of the AFO's fee authorization. If the PC does not receive the fee authorization within the 45-day diary period, the PC should follow-up with the AFB by phone: (703) 605-7900 or e-mail: ^DCARO OAO ATTY FEE BR. (See GN 03920.017, Payment of Representative’s Fee, for policy on when SSA can make direct payment to a representative.)
If the PC does not receive the fee authorization within an additional 30 days, the PC should request status by sending a fax to 703-605-7901.
2. PC or FO not withholding past-due benefits
If SSA is not withholding past-due benefits, the PC does not establish a diary when forwarding the claim(s) file and fee recommendation to the AFO.
3. AFO and AFB actions
After reviewing the PC fee recommendation and determining a reasonable fee, the AFO and/or AFB staff will:
prepare the SSA-1560A-U5 (Authorization to Charge and Collect a Fee) (see GN 03930.160 for sample form);
sign Form SSA-1560A-U5;
distribute Form SSA-1560A-U5; and
return the Title II claim file to the PC and the Title XVI claim file to the FO to process the fee authorization.
NOTE: If a party requests administrative review of the fee authorized by the AFO, the Deputy Chair of the Appeals Council is the reviewing official.