TN 12 (09-03)
SI 00601.060 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Interviewing
Social Security Administration (SSA) interviewers are responsible for providing accurate and meaningful information about the SSI program to claimants and the public, and for making the process of applying for benefits and maintaining eligibility as understandable and uncomplicated as possible.
Many people do not know the proper questions to ask to obtain program information relevant to their eligibility and payment amount. Interviewers need to provide an explanation of program policies so that individuals can make informed decisions about filing for SSI. “SSI Spotlights,” are fact sheets containing general SSI program information. Each Spotlight gives an explanation of a specific program rule (i.e. rules on trusts, work incentives, burial funds, etc.,). The Spotlights can be used as an interviewing or public information tool to help explain SSI policies (see SI 00601.060D.2.). They contain a statement encouraging individuals to contact Social Security for further information on how the policies apply to their own situation. They are available in both English and Spanish language versions.
The Spotlights are located in two sources:
C. Procedure -- All Interviews
1. Initial Contact
At an initial contact, approach every SSI interviewee as potentially eligible. Provide necessary and appropriate information and assistance to ensure that each individual receives all benefits for which he/she is eligible.
Be sensitive to the needs, circumstances and limitations of individuals who contact SSA about SSI, including individuals who contact SSA on behalf of another (e.g., parents, guardians, representative payees, etc.).
Be aware of barriers that may inhibit the smooth progress of the interview, such as:
embarrassment about applying for or receiving benefits,
reluctance to divulge personal information,
fear of dealing with a Government agency,
problems in communicating due to language difficulties, limited education, cultural factors, or the effects of the individual's disability (see GN 00203.011 regarding foreign language interpreters),
lack of mobility, and
anxiety due to misconceptions about eligibility requirements.
Make any reasonable accommodations necessary to deal with these factors before and during the interview.
4. Interviewer Responsibilities
Attempt to put the individual at ease to the greatest degree possible.
Explain policies and procedures and answer all questions in terms that the individual can understand. Avoid jargon.
Listen to all responses and explanations. Ask follow-up questions to clarify vague answers.
Attempt to ensure that the claimant/recipient (including a representative payee) understands the program rules and the claimant's/recipient's rights and responsibilities and the effect of the information provided to us.
Explain what information/evidence is needed and why. Also, explain why it is important to comply with requests for information/evidence.
5. Providing Information
EXAMPLE: Explain to an applicant how the SSI program treats trusts set up for a SSI claimant. Provide the applicant with a copy of the SSI Spotlight on Trusts (SI 00601.060B.). However, do not recommend whether or not the individual should set up a trust, or what type of trust to establish if he/she chooses to do so.
D. Procedure -- Pre-Application Interview
Conduct a thorough preapplication interview to determine an individual's potential eligibility and explain the SSI program so that the individual can make an informed decision on whether or not to file an application.
2. Interviewer Responsibilities
In addition to the interviewing guidelines in GN 00203.001 - GN 00203.090 and DI 11005.001 - DI 11005.605, follow the steps below:
a. Explain Program Policies
If the individual expresses a need for financial or medical assistance, be sure to discuss the SSI program.
Explain that eligibility for SSI payments is based on need and that income and resource limits are specified by law. Ensure that the claimant understands he/she must report any bank account on which his/her name appears regardless of any special purpose for which the account may have been established or whose money it is. (See SI 01140.200 for the policy on financial institutional accounts.)
Explain any SSI policies specific to the individual's situation that may help him/her decide whether or not to file, or which may impact on eligibility for benefits or payment amount. You may provide copies of the appropriate “SSI Spotlights” which can be accessed using any of the sources listed in SI 00601.060B.
NOTE: Any discussion about SSI eligibility may establish a SSI oral inquiry and protect the claimant's filing date. (See SI 00601.025 for the policy on oral inquiries.)
b. Explain Burial Funds and Spaces
Explain the SSI policies on burial funds (SI 01130.410) and spaces (SI 01130.400) to those claimants who appear to be ineligible based on excess resources since these policies may result in eligibility for SSI benefits. See SI 00601.060B. for accessing the SSI Spotlight on Burial Funds.
c. Explain Conditional Benefits
Explain conditional benefits (SI 01150.200 - SI 01150.210) to individuals whose:
resources exceed the limit due to excess nonliquid resources, and
liquid resources do not exceed triple the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) or do not exceed triple the FBR by a great deal.
d. Explain Work Incentives
Advise blind or disabled individuals of the various work incentives (WI) (SI 00870.010). If the individual expresses an interest in working or wants more information about WIs, provide the appropriate Spotlights (see SI 00601.060B.), SSA Publication No. 05-10060 Incentives To Help You Return To Work, and other public information materials.
e. Explain Documentation Requirements
Advise an individual who appears potentially eligible that SSA will require proof of statements made on the application and that verification will be made with other sources.
f. Explain Rights
Advise the individual of the right to file an application and receive a formal determination.
Explain that an individual has the right to appeal initial determinations made on the claim.
g. Select the Appropriate Application
Select the SSA-8000-BK/full MSSICS path or SSA-8001-BK/deferred or abbreviated MSSICS path as appropriate.
NOTE: If an informal denial is applicable or the individual does not wish to file, close out the oral inquiry per SI 00601.040C.2.
h. Provide a Benefit Estimate
Advise an individual of the SSI payment amount if a benefit estimate is requested. (See SI 02005.001 - SI 02005.095 for computation of benefits.) Use the living arrangement, which is likely to apply and consider income/resource exclusions, which might apply. Advise the individual that this is only an estimate and that the exact amount cannot be determined until all development and verification are completed.
i. Explore Filing for Other Benefits Administered by SSA
Explore eligibility for other benefits; e.g., title II based on the claimant's SSN (or the SSN of a spouse, former spouse, or parent, etc.) and Medicare.
If the individual decides to file for SSI and agrees to file for title II, take a separate title II application when you take the title XVI application unless one of the exceptions in SI 00601.035B.2. applies. See SI 00601.035 for the policy and procedures for adjudicating title II when a title XVI application is filed. Also see SI 00510.001 - SI 00510.025 for the policy on filing for other benefits.
NOTE: Explore eligibility for other benefits administered by SSA and ask the individual if he/she wishes to file even if he/she decides not to file for SSI benefits.
j. Make Non-SSA Referrals
Explain the program requirement that the individual must file for any other benefits for which he/she may be eligible and make the appropriate referrals. (See SI 00510.001 - SI 00510.010 for the policy on filing for other benefits.)
Determine the need for non-SSA services and make the necessary referrals. (See GN 00903.010.)
E. Procedure -- Interviewing in MSSICS
Be aware that MSSICS brings with it some additional interviewing issues:
Before you begin to enter data into MSSICS, explain to the claimant what you are doing and the nature of the system.
Maintain as much eye contact as possible when asking questions.
If possible, turn the monitor so the claimant can see what you are keying and can see what is happening.
F. Procedure -- Claims Taking Interview
1. Interviewer Responsibilities
If an individual (and spouse, if applicable) decides to file, take the following actions:
a. Determine Whether Prior Filing Exists
Obtain queries on all Social Security Numbers (SSNs) the claimant alleges to determine whether prior filings for title II and title XVI exist and the status of those claims.
b. Verify Identity
Verify the claimant's identity per the instructions in SI 00601.062.
c. Explain Use of Information
Explain the Privacy Act, including computer matching. Give the claimant a copy of the SSA-5000 (Collection and Use of Information by the Social Security Administration) and the SSA-3157 (Facts About Computer Matching) per GN 03360.015B.2. unless you have taken a paper application (a paragraph about computer matching is printed on the tear off sheet of the SSA-8000-BK and SSA-8001-BK).
d. Explain the Penalty Clause
Explain that providing false information is a violation of Federal law, which may lead to prosecution by the U.S. Government.
e. Explore Program Eligibility of Others
Explore eligibility for title II and title XVI benefits for other persons named on the application. (See SI 00601.020 for establishing a protective filing for SSI for individuals named on the application.)
f. Identify Necessary Documentation
Identify the specific types of development/documentation necessary at this point. Issue an SSA-L8009-U3, (Important Information (IC)), if appropriate per SI 00601.110 and SI 00601.120.
g. Consider Special Case Processing
Consider whether the case meets the requirements for a presumptive disability/presumptive blindness (PD/PB) determination (DI 23535.001) or terminal illness (TERI) (DI 11005.601). DI 11005.006 provides special processing instructions for disability claims resulting from Operation Iraqi Freedom.
h. Consider Disability/Blindness for Aged Aliens
Aged aliens who were lawfully residing in the U.S. on 8/22/96 and are blind or disabled may be eligible for SSI benefits. (See SI 00502.142 for the eligibility requirements.) Therefore, when interviewing aged aliens, be alert to the existence of medically determinable impairments commonly associated with the aging process, e.g., osteoporosis, arthritis, vision and hearing loss, and memory loss. Question claimants specifically about these impairments during the initial interview. Also, question these individuals about daily activities and limitations, especially when there is limited or no history of medical treatment.
Do not give applications and other disability-related forms to aged aliens to complete on a self-help basis unless there is no alternative. Assist claimants in completing these forms.
If interpreter services are needed, see GN 00203.011. Also notify the disability determination services (DDS) on the SSA-831-C3/U3 that interpreter services will be needed at the consultative examination.
NOTE: A disability determination is needed to establish eligibility. (See SI 00502.142.)
i. Consider an Emergency Advance Payment
Consider whether the case meets the requirements for an Emergency Advance Payment (SI 02004.005).
j. Obtain a Third Party Contact
Obtain the name, address and telephone number of a third party if the claimant is homeless or you think you may have difficulty obtaining the information/evidence needed to adjudicate the claim (e.g., claimant is mentally impaired or is non-English speaking). (See GN 00203.011 for non-English speaking claimants.) Remember that the third party may be an individual such as a relative or friend or a service provider such as a shelter or food pantry through whom you can contact the claimant.
NOTE: In MSSICS, record this information in the MISC or REMARKS portion of the Development Worksheet (DW01) screen.
k. Explain Reporting Responsibilities
Advise the applicant of the reporting responsibilities and the penalty provision for failure to make a timely report. For more information on reporting responsibilities and the penalty provision, see SI 02301.005 and SI 02301.100.
Provide the applicant with the “Receipt for SSI Claim” and “Changes to Report” tear off page of the application at the conclusion of the interview if it is signed or mail it to the applicant when you receive the signed application.
2. Interview Method
Conduct SSI interviews by telephone or face-to-face. Note that most individuals who call the 800 number will be given appointments for teleclaims if they wish to file for SSI.
Conduct interviews by telephone unless:
the complexities or special circumstances of a case, e.g., aged aliens, indicate the need for a face-to-face interview (see GN 00203.003 for other special interviewing situations and the policy on qualified interpreters), or
the claimant's identity is questionable (see SI 00601.062C.), or
the claimant insists on coming to the field office (FO).