TN 9 (03-16)

DI 23005.001 Processing Whereabouts Unknown Disability Cases

This section addresses how the DDS processes whereabouts unknown disability cases. However, there are specific instructions for continuing disability reviews. For instructions on whereabouts unknown situations in continuing disability reviews, refer to DI 28075.005 – Failure to Cooperate (FTC) and Whereabouts Unknown (WU) Cases.

A. Definition for whereabouts unknown (WU)

Consider the claimant’s whereabouts unknown if we cannot locate the claimant at the last known address and after completing all required actions to locate the claimant.

B. Field office (FO) actions when WU situation arises

When a claimant’s whereabouts become unknown while the FO is developing the claim, the FO reviews the case to establish if the disability determination services (DDS) must make a medical determination.

1. FO development for WU

Prior to routing the file to the DDS, the FO must:

  • Make a substantial gainful activity (SGA) determination;

  • Provide an accurate potential onset date (POD); and

  • Review the file documents.

If the FO is unable to evaluate SGA and provide a correct POD, the FO must deny the claim.

2. FO documentation for WU

The FO must ensure that the file contains:

  • Completed disability report forms (SSA-3367 (Disability Report- Field Office) and SSA-3368 (Disability Report- Adult), SSA-3441 (Disability Report- Appeal), or SSA-3820 (Disability Report – Child)); AND

  • Signed form SSA-827 (Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration (SSA)); or

  • Medical evidence (as described in DI 22505.001).

C. DDS actions when WU situation arises

When a claimant’s whereabouts become unknown after the case arrives at the DDS, the DDS chooses to attempt to locate the claimant, or if necessary, requests FO assistance in locating the claimant. If the DDS chooses to attempt to locate the claimant, the DDS must document its efforts and outcomes in the case folder.

The DDS:

  • Attempts to locate the claimant before or while requesting FO assistance.

  • Must consider special handling situations when determining whether FO involvement is necessary (see DI 23007.005C and DI 28075.005D.1.b.).

Subsequent federal quality reviewers will not cite a deficiency if DDS chooses not to attempt to locate a claimant before or while requesting FO assistance.

1. DDS attempts to locate the claimant

Examples of actions the DDS takes when choosing to locate the claimant:

  • Mail a form SSA-L2001 (Address Information Request) to postmaster;

  • Contact third parties;

  • Contact the appointed representative;

  • Contact medical sources;

  • Attempt contact via prior claimant addresses and phone numbers;

  • Check jail and prison systems for incarceration;

  • Query systems that reflect an address for the claimant (for example, Master Beneficiary Record, Modernized Claims System, Modernized Diary Worksheet, and Modernized Supplemental Security Income Claims System screens);

  • Email or call the servicing FO to ask if they updated contact information for the claimant.

2. DDS requests FO assistance to locate the claimant

If the DDS needs to request FO assistance in locating a claimant, the DDS:

  1. Completes any development that does not require the claimant’s participation;

  2. Makes a determination based on the relevant evidence in file; and

  3. Returns the case to the FO.

D. DDS determinations

The existence of a WU situation alone does not support a denial determination. Depending on the evidence in file, deny the disability determination, allow a closed period, or allow an open period. Follow appropriate standards and criteria for development, evaluation, and determination of disability claims.

The DDS must:

  1. Ensure that all less than fully favorable determinations include a thorough analysis on the Residual Functional Capacity/ Mental Residual Functional Capacity (RFC/MRFC) assessment or determination rationale about how the WU situation affects the disability determination;

  2. Complete the Disability Determination and Transmittal SSA-831-U3 (Disability Deter