TN 7 (02-21)

GN 04010.010 Reopenings - Clerical Error

A. Clerical Error versus a Processing Error

For the purpose of the topic discussed in this section only, there are two types of errors:

  1. 1. 

    Clerical Error, which is subject to the rules of administrative finality, see GN 04010.010B and GN 04010.010C.

  2. 2. 

    Processing Error, which is not subject to the rules of administrative finality, see GN 04010.010D.

For both Clerical Error and Processing Error, SSA treats an error made by a computer the same as an error made by a human.

If the folder documentation is not clear as to whether it was a Clerical Error or a Processing Error, SSA considers that the error occurred while making the determination or decision, therefore a Clerical Error and subject to the rules of administrative finality.

B. Clerical Error subject to the rules of administrative finality

A Clerical Error exists if SSA made the error in the context of making the determination or decision and it is one or more of the following:

  • A mathematical error in the computation or re-computation of benefits.

  • A misapplication of a benefit table in the computation or re-computation of benefits.

  • Any other clerical error in the computation or re-computation of benefits.

For title II, SSA considers the term "benefits" (noted in 1, 2, and 3 above) to include Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI) and the Lump Sum Death Payment (LSDP).

C. Steps to help determine if SSA can reopen a title II determination or decision based on Clerical Error

  1. 1. 

    Is the affirmative action in writing within one year of the date of the notice of the initial determination, per GN 04001.050 and GN 04001.040B?

    • If yes, SSA does not need to determine if it can reopen a determination or decision based on Clerical Error. SSA can reopen an incorrect determination or decision for any reason if the affirmative action in writing is within one year of the date of the notice of the initial determination, per GN 04001.010.

    • If no, go to step 2.

  2. 2. 

    Did SSA make the clerical error in the context of making the determination or decision?

    • If yes, go to step 3.

    • If no, SSA cannot reopen the determination or decision based on a Clerical Error. To determine if it is a Processing Error, follow the instructions in GN 04010.010D.

  3. 3. 

    Is the clerical error an error in the computation or re-computation of benefits, per GN 04010.010B?

    • If yes, go to step 4.

    • If no, SSA cannot reopen the determination or decision based on Clerical Error. To determine if SSA can reopen a determination or decision based on Error on the Face of the Evidence or New and Material Evidence, see GN 04010.020 and GN 04010.030.

  4. 4. 

    Was the determination or decision that is subject to possible reopening based on Clerical Error originally favorable or unfavorable to the beneficiary?

    • If favorable (the correction would be unfavorable to the beneficiary), SSA can reopen the determination or decision if the affirmative action in writing (GN 04001.050) is within four years of the date of the notice of the initial determination, per GN 04010.001. To determine the time for reopening based on the notice of the initial determination, see GN 04001.040B.

    • If unfavorable (the correction would be favorable to the beneficiary), SSA can reopen the determination or decision at any time (there is no time frame), per GN 04020.080.

IMPORTANT: SSA may revise a determination or decision after the applicable time limits for reopening expire (the one and four year time limits, per GN 04001.010) if SSA reopens the determination or decision and starts its investigation before the applicable time limits expire. If SSA does not conclude its investigation and revise its determination or decision within six months after the investigation began (i.e., the affirmative action in writing date noted in steps 1 and 4 above), then SSA must show it diligently pursued the investigation if the correction is unfavorable to the beneficiary, per GN 04001.060.

EXAMPLE 1: The Claims Specialist (CS) made an addition error in computing a retirement insurance benefit (RIB). The CS computes $1260.00 payable a month, when the correct amount is $1250.00. The affirmative action in writing is within four years of the notice of the initial determination. Because the CS made the clerical error in the context of making the determination and the affirmative action in writing is within four years, SSA can reopen the determination even though the incorrect payment was favorable to the beneficiary and the correction is unfavorable to the beneficiary, per GN 04010.010C, step 4, first bullet.

EXAMPLE 2: The CS made an addition error in computing a RIB. The CS computes $1600.00 payable a month, when the correct amount is $1700.00. Because the CS made the clerical error in the context of making the determination and the error created an incorrect payment unfavorable to the beneficiary and the correction is favorable to the beneficiary, SSA can reopen the determination at any time (there is no time frame), per GN 04010.010C, step 4, second bullet.

D. Processing Error not subject to the rules of administrative finality

A Processing Error is any clerical error that occurs in the processing of the determination or decision after SSA made the determination or decision. Because a Processing Error is not subject to the rules of administrative finality, SSA can correct it at any time, whether the original incorrect payment was favorable or unfavorable to the beneficiary, and whether the correction is favorable or unfavorable to the beneficiary.

EXAMPLE 1: The CS correctly makes an initial determination that a monthly RIB is $1217.00 and puts the correct amount on the award form. In processing the award, a Benefits Authorizer (BA) incorrectly paid $1218.00, by inadvertently substituting an 8 for a 7. This is a Processing Error that SSA can correct at any time, because the error made by the BA was not made by an SSA employee in the context of making the determination or decision (GN 04010.010B). The Processing Error correction would decrease the $1218 paid by the BA to $1217, effective with the first month of entitlement.

EXAMPLE 2: The CS correctly makes an initial determination that a monthly RIB amount is $1550.00 and puts the correct amount on the award form. In processing the award, the BA incorrectly paid $1540.00 by inadvertently substituting a 4 for the 5. This is a Processing Error that SSA can correct at any time, because the error made by the BA was not made by an SSA employee in the context of making the determination or decision (GN 04010.010B). The Processing Error correction would increase the $1540 paid by the BA to $1550, effective with the first month of entitlement.

E. Cases that involve a Clerical Error and a Processing Error

A case may involve a Clerical Error and a Processing Error. As a result, part of the case is subject to the rules of administrative finality and part of the case is not. Depending on the details of each case, see GN 04010.010A through GN 04010.010D to determine necessary actions.

EXAMPLE: The CS made an incorrect computation of the primary insurance amount, determined a RIB of $106.50, and put that incorrect amount on the award form; the correct amount is $98.50. In processing the case, the BA incorrectly paid a monthly rate of $102.50.

If the affirmative action in writing is within four years of the date of the notice of the initial determination (GN 04010.010C, step 4, first bullet) SSA can reopen and correct the CS's incorrect determination from $106.50 to $98.50 based on Clerical Error. If SSA does not conclude its investigation and revise its determination within six months after the investigation began (i.e., the affirmative action in writing date), then SSA must show it diligently pursued the investigation since the correction is unfavorable to the beneficiary, per GN 04001.060.

If the affirmative action in writing is after four years from the date of the notice of the initial determination SSA cannot reopen and correct the CS's incorrect determination of $106.50 to $98.50 because the correction would be unfavorable to the beneficiary (i.e., the claimant would receive less money). Therefore, $106.50 is the benefit amount SSA is legally required to pay. Even though SSA cannot fix the CS's error in this scenario, SSA can still correct the BA's Processing Error (GN 04010.010D) and increase the $102.50 to $106.50, effective with the first month of entitlement. This principle applies regardless of whether the notice showed a correct or incorrect amount payable.

F. Clerical Error based on a computer clerical error

As noted in GN 04010.010A, SSA treats an error made by a computer the same as an error made by a human. Though rare, a computer error may occur in the context of SSA making a determination or decision and SSA may possibly be able to reopen a case based on Clerical Error (GN 04010.010B and GN 04010.010C) depending on the circumstances of the case. Because it is unlikely this situation will occur, contact your Regional Office (RO) or Program Service Center (PSC) support staff for guidance if you believe you have a case where it has occurred before reopening a case based on Clerical Error.

G. Documentation Requirements

SSA employees must document, per GN 04001.080:

  • The rationale used to reopen a determination or decision; or

  • If SSA only considered reopening a determination or decision, but determined the rules of administrative finality prohibit reopening.

H. References for title XVI and disability reopening instructions

For instructions on:

  • Title XVI Administrative Finality-Reopening Policies, see SI 04070.000.

  • Title XVI and good cause for reopening under the 2-year rule (including Clerical Error), see SI 04070.010F.5.

  • Reopening and:


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0204010010
GN 04010.010 - Reopenings - Clerical Error - 10/21/1996
Batch run: 02/22/2021
Rev:10/21/1996