Identification Number:
EM-20022
Intended Audience:All RCs/ARCs/ADs/FOs/TSCs/PSCs/OCO/OCO-CSTs/OHO/OARO
Originating Office:ORDP ODP
Title:Temporary Instructions for the documentation of the Appointment of a Representative during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic
Type:EM - Emergency Messages
Program:Title II (RSI); Title VIII (SVB); Title XVI (SSI)
Link To Reference:See References at the end of this EM.
 
    A. Purpose
    The purpose of this EM is to provide the Field Office (FO) and Payment Center (PC), and the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) with temporary supplemental instructions for documenting appointment of a representative while the COVID-19 case processing procedures are in place. These instructions apply to FO and PC processing of a notice of appointment of a representative, revocation of an appointment, withdrawal of a representative, representative fee agreement, and representative payment information.

    They also provide OHO instructions for a representative’s appointment via on-the-record attestation when needed for remote telephone hearings.

    These temporary instructions, while in effect, replace our subregulatory instructions for the acceptance of claimants’ signatures on the notice of appointment.


    B. Background

      To appoint a representative, our regulations require the claimant submit a dated and signed written notice. GN 03910.040 and GN 03940.003 require that the signatures on the notice of appointment and fee agreement be in pen-and-ink to provide a measure of protection of the claimant’s privacy and data integrity.

      We accept copies of the notice of appointment and other representational documents via mail, analog fax, eFax and the iAppeals and Electronic Records Express (ERE) portals.

      NOTE: Appointed representatives and other individuals can find dedicated numbers to fax their documents electronically (eFax) at the Social Security’s Office locator at https://www.ssa.gov/locator/ (under the “Locate An Office By Zip” tab). Representatives can also obtain these numbers by calling us at 1(800) 772-1213. Technicians (e.g., N8NN agents) can also locate these numbers in the Detailed Office/Organization Resource System (DOORS).
        C. FO and PC Temporary Instructions
          1. New notice of appointment for a Representative

          If the claimant’s signature on a notice of appointment (for example, Form SSA-1696) does not meet the standards listed in GN 03910.040 (e.g., signature appears to be electronic or a digitized image of a handwritten signature), follow the instructions below –

          IMPORTANT: Until further notice, apply the following workflow to new appointments whether received via mail, fax, eFax, iAppeals, or ERE.

          EXCEPTION: If OHO has jurisdiction of the claim, check with OHO staff to determine if OHO already held a telephone hearing for the case and the appointment was authenticated through an on-the-record (OTR) attestation. In these situations, do not call the claimant to seek attestations. Process the appointment, add the Representative Flag in the Electronic Disability Collect System (EDCS), perform an Update after Transfer (UAT), and notify the hearing office that we have received the claimant’s appointment.
            a. Attempt to obtain a verbal confirmation of the signature
                i. Contact the claimant to confirm his or her signature, after verifying identity, and intent to sign following these steps:
                  · Check the SSR/MBR and FO records for a current number and contact the claimant by telephone.
                  · Identify the claimant following the disclosure policy GN 00203.020. If identity is verified, proceed with the next steps following GN 03360.005A.1.

                ii. If Form SSA-1696 was filed:
                  Confirm that the claimant signed the appointment with intent to sign it using the following script:
                  · “We have received an appointment form with your electronic signature and need to ask you a few simple questions to confirm you signed it. Did you sign this form?”
                  · “And you understood that by electronically signing this form, you agreed [insert name of Appointed Representative on the SSA-1696] will now represent you on your claim with SSA, and [he/she] and [his/her] employees can obtain information about your claim from SSA?”

                iii. If another written appointment notice other than the SSA-1696 was filed:
                  Confirm the claimant’s signature and intent to sign using the following scripts:
                  · “We have received your written notice of appointment with your electronic signature and need to ask you a few simple questions to confirm you signed it. Did you sign this writing?”
                  · “And you understood that by electronically signing this notice of appointment, you agreed [insert name of Appointed Representative listed] will now represent you for your claim with SSA, and [he/she] can obtain information about your claim from SSA”?

              NOTE: The notice of appointment is not a change of address request. If, however, the claimant’s address on the record is different from the address listed on the notice of appointment (either the form or the writing), follow the instructions in GN 02605.001 to determine the claimant’s correct address to ensure that the claimant will receive the appointment acknowledgement notice we will send after we process the appointment.

                b. If you obtain the verbal confirmation of the signature

              If you are able to verify the claimant’s identity and the claimant confirms the signature and intent to sign:
                i. Add the appointment to the claim using RASR or other claims systems. Follow existing policy in GN 03910.040 for the signature date (date appointment begins), this means use the date the claimant electronically signed the notice of appointment. If the claimant did not date the document, use the date received (whether mailed, faxed or uploaded).

                ii. Complete the Report of Contact (ROC) feature in RASR as follows: “Claimant’s electronic signature on the written notice of appointment. Properly identified claimant and confirmed signature (including intent to electronically sign) via telephone on XX/XX/XX.”

                iii. For appointments processed outside RASR (i.e., the representative is not registered), document contact using the same language in 1.b.ii on an SSA-5002 ROC and add to claim folder as appropriate.

                iv. RASR sends a notice to both claimant and representative confirming the processing and recognition of the appointment. For the appointments processed outside RASR, follow existing procedure (i.e., send manual notices.)
                c. If you contact the claimant, but do not obtain the verbal confirmation of signature

              If you contact the claimant, but the claimant does not confirm the signature and intent to sign the notice of appointment:
                i. Do not enter the appointment into RASR.

                ii. Return the notice of appointment to the person who submitted it following existing policy in GN 03910.040D.2, attaching a manual notice using the following language: “After subsequent contact with the claimant, we were unable to confirm the claimant’s intent to sign the attached notice of appointment. We return it unprocessed. We cannot disclose information or conduct business with the representative named on the notice until we are able to recognize the appointment.”

                iii. If the appointed representative documents are in the electronic folder, move to the temporary green section/folder.

                iv. Document the contact on an SSA-5002 ROC using the following language: “Claimant’s electronic signature on the written notice of appointment. Contacted and properly identified the claimant via telephone who rejected the signature and denied intent to sign on XX/XX/XX.”

                v. Add the report to the red section of the electronic folder, or the paper folder for paper claims.

          IMPORTANT: If during the telephone verbal confirmation of the signature in Section 1.c. above the claimant denies electronically signing the notice of appointment, and you suspect fraud is involved, complete a fraud/misconduct allegation in the Allegation Referral Intake System (ARIS). When completing the ARIS referral, select “Fraud Category” and report the behavior as “Appointed Representative Misconduct”
              d. If you are unable to contact the claimant
                  i. Do not enter the appointment into RASR.

                  ii. Make three attempts on different days and different times to reach the claimant. If you leave a message for the claimant to return your call, be sure to leave an accessible return number. Do not include any sensitive or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in your message.

                  iii. Document each attempt separately on the Report of Contact (DROC) screen in MSSICS (MSOM MSSICS 022.010) or a paper report of contact (SSA-5002) faxed into NDRED in non-MSSICS cases. Use the Development Worksheet (DW01) (MSOM MSSICS 022.004) to list and record follow-ups. Use the following language: “Claimant electronic signature on the written notice of appointment. Attempt to contact claimant via telephone on XX/XX/XXXX unsuccessful.”

                  iv. If all attempts to reach the claimant are unsuccessful, return the notice of appointment and other relevant representational documents to the party who submitted them attaching a manual notice using the following language: “We were unable to reach the claimant after multiple attempts. We return the notice of appointment unprocessed. We cannot disclose information or conduct business with the representative named on the notice until we are able to recognize the appointment.”

                  v. Move any representational documents in the electronic folder to the temporary green section/folder.

              e. If the claimant subsequently confirms signature and intent to sign

                If, through a subsequent contact, the claimant confirms the signature and his or her intent to sign, follow paragraph 1.b. above to process and recognize the appointment. Move or upload (as appropriate) the notice of appointment and any relevant representational documents to the red part of the electronic folder.
            2. Fee Agreement submitted with new representative appointment
              If a new appointment and a fee agreement are submitted together and the claimant’s signature is identical on both documents, accept the fee agreement with no additional attestation only if the claimant verbally accepted the signature on the notice of appointment, or during a telephone hearing per C.1. above.
              3. Claimant appointment revocation

              If a claimant informs us that he or she wishes to revoke the appointment of a representative, but cannot mail or fax the written revocation, or SSA-1696 SUP-1, due to COVID-19 circumstances preventing the claimant from submitting the written statement, to avoid disclosing information to a representative who is no longer appointed.
                a. Document the contact with the claimant by completing either a Report of Contact (Form SSA-5002), a Report of Contact (RPOC) entry in Modernized Claims System, or a Report of Contact (DROC) in Modernized SSI Claims System (MSSICS);
                b. Annotate the file and following existing procedure in GN 03910.060B.3. to process the action and notifications;
                c. Inform the claimant that he or she should submit the written statement or SSA-1696 SUP-1 when circumstances allow it; and
                d. Stop conducting business with and do not disclose any claimant information to the revoked representative.
                NOTE: Follow existing policy in GN 03905.030 to obtain and process withdrawals of appointed representatives.
              4. Appointed Representative submissions
                a. Representative direct payment information
                  Appointed representatives with pending cases who have already submitted an SSA-1696, but never submitted the SSA-1695 to provide case-specific direct payment information should file page 5 of Section 5 with us. Generally, representatives can file this information via Electronic Records Express (ERE) or iAppeals portals, fax, eFax, mail, or in-person. If a representative submits the (now obsolete) SSA-1695 instead, process it, following procedure in EM-12004 REV 5. Do not also ask the representative to complete section 5 of the new SSA-1696.
                  b. During the COVID-19 pandemic:

                    i. If a representative cannot submit the direct payment information via any of the methods described in a. above and has no other means to submit it, you may follow existing communication instructions in GN 03360.005 to obtain affiliation/EIN information from the representative over the phone. In this situation, annotate the system with a Report of Contact (ROC) Form SSA-5002, or the ROC section in the Registration, Appointment and Services for Representatives (RASR) to document information about the contact (e.g., reporter, date, time).
                      NOTE: Representatives can only report their own affiliation information.
                D. OHO Temporary OTR Attestation Process for Remote Telephone Hearings
                  IMPORTANT: A claimant does not need to appoint relatives or friends who attend a hearing for general purposes, such as assistance with interpreting. (HALLEX I-1-1-1, GN 03910.001C.).
                    To expedite the hearing and decision-making process, the administrative law judge (ALJ) will confirm that unless the relative or friend seeks to take on the role and responsibilities of the representative, the claimant does not need to submit an appointment for that relative or friend to offer support during the telephone hearing.

                    1. If the representative’s appointment is already recognized prior to the telephone hearing
                      If the claim file contains an appointment (i.e., appointment that is recognized), the ALJ or appropriate OHO staff will verify the representative’s continued eligibility to represent claimants before us by checking the sanctions list at https://www.ssa.gov/foia/resources/proactivedisclosure/OGC_SanctionedReps_List.pdf, by visiting OHO’s website, or by searching the Registration, Appointment and Services for Representatives (RASR) application prior to the hearing. Once the ALJ confirms the parties are present at the hearing, there is no need to use the below attestation process, since we already have recognized the appointment.
                        2. Procedure for OTR attestations followed by a signed appointment – COVID-19 pandemic remote telephone hearings only
                          Use this process when an attorney or non-attorney calls in to a hearing and the claimant wants to appoint that person as his or her representative for the matter under consideration.

                            a. During the hearing

                              The ALJ will:
                                  · Assess whether the claimant understands basic information about the appointment (e.g., fee and responsibilities) and confirm that the claimant wishes to be represented by the representative who is appearing at the hearing via telephone.
                                  · Confirm that the claimant authorizes the agency to disclose his or her personal information to the representative during the hearing and the claimant’s intent to sign a written notice of appointment as soon as possible after the hearing.
                                  · Read the Privacy Act statement to the claimant (which can be found in the current SSA-1696) explaining how the agency may use the information the claimant provides us during the hearing.
                                  · Ask the representative to submit a properly executed notice of appointment or the SSA-1696 as quickly as feasible.
                                  · Inform the claimant and the representative that their oral attestations are entered into the record, but that the agency will not issue a decision until we receive an SSA-1696 or valid notice of appointment.

                              b. After the hearing

                                OHO staff will:
                                  i. Take appropriate steps (e.g., contact the parties as appropriate) to ensure the timely submission of a valid and signed appointment of a representative to avoid undue delays in issuing a decision.
                                    · Ask the appointed representative to submit the written appointment documentation electronically, or by faxing or mailing it to the local field office and to inform OHO when the appointment is submitted (e.g., contact OHO staff to inform it was faxed).
                                    · As needed, OHO will provide barcodes and fax numbers for Work Track.
                                    ii. Notify the FO if a notice of appointment is received in the hearing office and will forward it for processing following guidance in HALLEX I-1-1-11 C.
                                      iii. Follow existing procedures in SHOP and HALLEX I-2-1-10 C to close the case if efforts to secure a valid notice of appointment or SSA-1696 fail.
                              E. Closing
                                Direct all program-related and technical questions to your Regional Office (RO) support staff or Program Service Center (PSC) Operations Analysis (OA) staff. RO support staff or PSC OA staff may refer questions, concerns, or problems to their Central Office contact. OHO RO support staff may refer questions or unresolved issues to their Headquarters contacts in OCALJ.

                              F. References

                            EM-20022 - Temporary Instructions for the documentation of the Appointment of a Representative during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic - 5/21/2020