TN 6 (04-12)
GN 03970.030 Action to Suspend, Disqualify, or Withdraw Charges Against a Representative by the Office of the General Counsel
Social Security Act 205 , 206 , 208 , 1106 , 1631(d)(2) ,
Regulations 20 CFR 404.1740 through 404.1799 and 20 CFR 416.1540 through 416.1599
A. Introduction to General Counsel’s sanction authority
On November 15, 2006, the Commissioner delegated to the General Counsel the authority to initiate, withdraw, and settle representative sanction cases against claimants’ representatives. The General Counsel can also redelegate this authority within the Office of the General Counsel (OGC). Since November 15, 2006, the Representative Conduct and Civil Rights Division of OGC’s Office of General Law (OGL) handled all representative sanction cases. However, in February 2008, OGC’s ten Offices of the Regional Chief Counsels (RCC) began participating in the workload.
With respect to the procedures described in this section, the term “General Counsel” also includes any authorized designees of the General Counsel.
B. Policy for OGC’s notification to a representative of charges and proposed sanctions
The General Counsel has authority to initiate sanction proceedings against a representative. OGC prepares a notice of charges and proposed sanctions against the representative. If the General Counsel signs the charges, OGC serves this notice on the representative via certified mail, return-receipt-requested, to the representative’s last known address. The notice advises the representative to file an answer with OGC stating why he or she should not be suspended or disqualified from acting as a representative before the Social Security Administration (SSA) and informs the representative that failure to respond in writing will preclude him or her from presenting evidence during any sanctions proceedings.
C. Policy for representative’s answer
The representative's answer must be in writing, signed under oath (or affirmation), and filed within 30 days from the date the notice was mailed or delivered personally to the representative. The representative may request an extension to file an answer and present good cause as to why he or she needs the extension. Upon a finding of good cause, the General Counsel may extend the representative’s time for filing an answer. The representative must file the answer with OGC at the address indicated in the notice. If the representative fails to file an answer, files a late answer without good cause, or files a defective answer, he or she will not have the right to present evidence at a hearing. However, the hearing officer may permit the representative to present a statement about the sufficiency of the evidence or the validity of the proceedings.
D. Policy for withdrawal by OGC of charges prior to the hearing
If the representative's answer or the available evidence establishes to the satisfaction of the General Counsel that the representative should not be suspended or disqualified from acting as a representative before the SSA, the General Counsel may withdraw the charges. OGC mails the notice of withdrawal of the charges to the representative at his or her last known address.
E. Policy for OGC’s action initiating a hearing on the violation
If OGC does not receive an answer within the time allowed, or if the General Counsel does not withdraw the charges, the General Counsel will ask the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge, to designate an Administrative Law Judge to serve as the hearing officer to adjudicate the case.
F. Policy for OGC’s action when the representative accepts the sanction
The representative may accept the sanction proposed in the notice by submitting to the General Counsel a signed written statement in which the representative waives his or her right to a hearing and agrees to accept the sanction proposed in the notice. On receipt of the statement, the General Counsel may impose the proposed sanction or reject the statement. If the General Counsel rejects the statement, the General Counsel may
ask the representative to sign an acceptable statement;
attempt to enter into a settlement agreement with the representative; or
proceed with prosecuting the sanction case.
G. Policy for OGC’s action in a settlement agreement with the representative
Only the General Counsel may enter into settlement agreements with representatives to resolve sanction cases. The General Counsel may settle a case even before filing charges against a representative.
The parties may agree to any terms that are not in violation of Federal law or regulation. If the parties sign a settlement agreement before the General Counsel asks OHO to designate a hearing officer, the agreement becomes effective according to the terms of the agreement. If the parties sign the settlement agreement after OHO designates a hearing officer, the agreement becomes effective when the designated hearing officer enters the agreement into the record, issues an order accepting the agreement, and dismisses the General Counsel’s request for a hearing.
NOTE: Field Office (FO) or Processing Center (PC) staff cannot negotiate any type of settlement with a representative regarding a sanction matter. However, in situations regarding fee violations, the FO or the PC staff can close a case if the representative makes a full refund of the disputed amount upon request before the FO or PC refers the case to OGC. Refer any questions regarding this section to the appropriate OGC office electronically at the addresses listed in GN 03970.070A.