TN 6 (04-12)
GN 03970.060 Field Office and Regional Office Action When an Attorney or Non-Attorney Representative is Suspended or Disqualified
A. Prohibition from representing during suspension or disqualification
A suspended or disqualified individual is prohibited from representing claimants before the Social Security Administration (SSA). Once SSA issues a final decision to suspend or disqualify a representative, SSA administratively withdraws the individual from being the authorized representative for any claimant, beneficiary, or auxiliary on any matter pending before SSA. A claimant cannot appoint and SSA cannot recognize a suspended or disqualified individual as a representative, hire other representatives to work on his or her behalf, or exercise any of the authority described in GN 03910.025.
A sanctioned individual may not charge or collect a fee for representational services performed after the effective date of his or her suspension or disqualification. A sanctioned individual cannot legally provide representational services to claimants; consequently, he or she may not receive authorization to charge or collect fees for those services. Although a representative may be entitled to a fee for services that he or she provided up to the date of his or her suspension or disqualification, the representative cannot receive direct payment of any fee after the effective date of his or her sanction. See Note on fee petitions in GN 03970.060A.2.b. (in this section).
a. Fee agreement
SSA will disapprove a suspended or disqualified individual’s fee agreement if SSA favorably decides the claim after the effective date of the individual’s sanction.
b. Fee petition
A suspended or disqualified individual may petition SSA to authorize a fee for services provided on or before the effective date of the sanction. However, he or she may not petition for a fee for services provided after the effective date of the sanction because the individual is prohibited from acting as a representative after that date.
NOTE: Even though a sanctioned representative may seek and receive authorization to charge and collect a fee for services provided on or before the effective date of his or her suspension or disqualification, he or she is not eligible for direct payment of the authorized fee. Therefore, collection of the authorized fee is a matter between the representative and the claimant. For information on payment of the representative’s fee, see GN 03920.017.
B. Policy on indirect representation and indirect fees not allowed for suspended or disqualified representatives
1. Suspended or disqualified individual as an employer
A suspended or disqualified individual may not employ others, either directly or indirectly (i.e., through another person or business entity), to represent claimants or beneficiaries before SSA.
SSA considers a sanctioned individual who provides representational services to others through his or her employees, to be indirectly providing representational services in violation of the suspension or disqualification decision. If an SSA office discovers such violation, the office will develop and refer the case to the Office of General Counsel (OGC) per GN 03970.017 or GN 03970.025 as applicable.
When a representative employed by a sanctioned individual receives a fee for the representational services he or she performed, the representative cannot hand over this fee or any portion of this fee to the sanctioned individual. If the representative hands over the fee, any amount collected by the sanctioned individual is an indirect collection of an unauthorized fee for providing representational services and the sanctioned representative has collected it in violation of SSA’s Rules of Conduct and Standards of Responsibility for Representatives discussed in GN 03970.010.
2. Suspended or disqualified individual as an employee
A suspended or disqualified individual may neither be employed by, nor make arrangements to be employed by, a representative to perform any duties related to a claim or potential claim before SSA as normally allowed under GN 03910.025. Such prohibited duties include the following:
interpreting agency law and policy;
interviewing or advising Social Security applicants, claimants, beneficiaries, or recipients;
appearing at hearings;
filling out SSA forms; and
drafting or signing pleadings and briefs.
Sanctioned individuals who perform such duties are indirectly providing representational services and are in violation of the suspension or disqualification.
An individual who knowingly assists a sanctioned representative in providing representational services can also be subject to sanctions under Social Security regulations, 20 CFR 404.1740(c)(12), 416.1540(c)(12). If you suspect that an individual is assisting a sanctioned representative to provide representational services to claimants, you should immediately refer the matter to OGC under the procedures described in GN 03970.017.
A sanctioned individual, who receives a salary or a fee for performing duties (as described in GN 03970.060B.2.a) delegated by another representative, is indirectly collecting an unauthorized fee for indirectly providing representational services. The sanctioned representative who receives such salary or fee is in violation of the Rules of Conduct and Standards of Responsibility for Representatives, see GN 03970.010.
C. Action when a suspended or disqualified individual continues to act as a claimant’s representative
SSA will not reinstate to practice before SSA a suspended or disqualified individual who continues, directly or indirectly, to perform representational services or collect fees.
In addition, SSA may initiate a new sanction proceeding against an individual, if the individual’s period of suspension has ended, but while suspended, the individual directly or indirectly performed representational services or collected any fees. SSA may initiate such proceedings based on the individual’s failure to conduct his or her dealings with SSA in a manner that furthers the efficient, fair, and orderly conduct of SSA’s procedures; on his or her violation of SSA’s fee regulations; on his or her failure to comply with SSA’s sanction decision; or on other applicable law or regulation. See 20 CFR 404.1740(c) and 20 CFR 416.1540(c).
D. Field Office, Regional Office, or referring office’s responsibilities after a representative is suspended or disqualified
1. Notifying the suspended or disqualified representative’s claimants or beneficiaries
When the decision to suspend or disqualify a representative is final, the Field Office (FO) must advise all of the sanctioned individual's clients that SSA no longer recognizes the individual as a representative because of his or her suspension or disqualification. The referring office, FO, and regional office must coordinate with other FOs within the representative’s practice area to ensure that all offices are aware of SSA’s sanction decision.
To obtain the representative’s pending cases you should either ask the:
Office of Public Service and Operations Support (OPSOS), Division of Operations Analysis and Customer Service (DOACS), Appointed Representation and Payments Team to make available a list with the full names and SSNs.
Follow the instruction in MSOM and POMS to delete the data identifying the representative from all system(s) and annotate the records:
follow instructions in MSOM BUSSR 002.013 to eliminate any representative information from the UATH screen for MSSICS cases, and select #1 “Unresolved” for the fee situation if appropriate.
Use SSA letterhead and the sample language in GN 03970.065A, as appropriate, to notify each claimant of the individual’s suspension or disqualification and to reassure the claimant that the suspension or disqualification is not the result of any wrongdoing on the claimant's part.
2. Suspended or disqualified individual attempts or continues to act as a representative
If a suspended or disqualified individual attempts to act as a representative, the SSA employee who learns of this attempt must notify his or her supervisor and take the following actions:
Document the attempt (i.e., make copies of all letters or other documents that show the sanctioned individual’s attempts to act as a representative).
Notify the claimant and other parties as needed in the following situations:
Individual continues to act as a representative
Use SSA letterhead and the sample language in GN 03970.065A. to notify the claimant of the individual’s suspension or disqualification. Address the letter to the claimant with a copy to the sanctioned individual.
Individual acts as the assistant to another appointed representative
If the sanctioned individual acts as the assistant to another appointed representative and contacts SSA on behalf of a claimant or the employing representative, inform the claimant that SSA will not communicate with or accept correspondence from the sanctioned individual. On SSA letterhead, use the sample language in GN 03970.065B. to notify the claimant of the individual’s suspension or disqualification. Address the letter to the claimant and send copies to the sanctioned individual and the appointed representative.
Individual provides representational services through his or her employee
If the sanctioned individual is employing another individual to provide representational services to a claimant and the claimant appointed the employee to be his or her representative, use the sample language in GN 03970.065C. Notify the claimant of the employing individual’s suspension or disqualification and inform the claimant that the sanctioned individual cannot indirectly provide representational services to the claimant or indirectly collect a fee. Also, advise the claimant that the representative who is not sanctioned can continue to represent the claimant unless OGC) takes an action against that representative. Address the letter to the claimant and send copies to the sanctioned individual and the claimant’s appointed representative (i.e., the employee of the sanctioned representative).
Notify OGC of the sanctioned individual’s continued activity by forwarding all documentation of the sanctioned individual’s representation attempts and notices sent to the claimant to the appropriate Regional Chief Counsel’s (RCC) office or the Office of General Law (OGL) at the electronic addresses in GN 03970.070A.
3. Suspended or disqualified individual insists on recognition by SSA
If the suspended or disqualified individual insists that SSA recognize him or her as the representative in a case, OGC will advise the individual that SSA can neither recognize nor deal with him or her. In addition, OGC will refer the matter to the Office of the Inspector General. See information on detecting and developing program violations in GN 04110.000.
NOTE: Refer questions regarding this section to the appropriate RCC office or OGL at the electronic addresses in GN 03970.070A.