TN 16 (07-24)

GN 00202.020 Processing Leads

  • A lead for Title II benefits, as defined in GN 00202.001, is a written or oral indication of potential entitlement where there is no intent to file by the party who furnishes the lead information.

  • A lead is disposed of when one of the conditions described in GN 00202.020G in this section applies.

  • All leads must be disposed of promptly to prevent a loss of benefits for proper applicants who are entitled. For the definition of proper applicants, see GN 00204.003 and SI 00601.012.

A. When further development may be needed

Further development may be needed if a child is filing or someone is filing on the child's behalf using the number holder's (NH's) Social Security number (SSN), but the child's parent does not wish to file for the child even though they are eligible. Be sure to check for a natural legitimate parent-child relationship, see GN 00306.010.

If the NH’s spouse, former spouse, widow(er), or any other applicant who files a Title II application on behalf of their child with the NH also states that they think the NH may have a child in another household, but has no information about that child, pursue as a lead.

Do not deprive a child of their right to benefits due to neglect or lack of interest by a prospective payee in filing or furnishing evidence. Make all reasonable efforts to protect the interest of each child eligible for benefits.

Take an application whenever possible; and

Develop necessary evidence.

Dispose of a lead by following the development steps in GN 00202.020G in this section.

B. Spouse named on an application

1. Title II application

When a current spouse on the NH's application is potentially entitled to spouse's benefits, they are usually considered to have a protective filing, see GN 00204.010C.1. However, if the NH raises the issue and does not wish to protect the potentially entitled current spouse's filing date, treat the naming of the current spouse as a lead for potential Title II entitlement and process promptly to prevent a loss of benefits.

Pursue a lead if the spouse is not entitled to a spouse’s benefit but could be entitled to a benefit on another SSN.

You must pursue a potentially entitled divorced spouse named on the NH's Title II application as a lead. Information on marriage documentation procedures can be found in GN 00205.070C.

EXAMPLE: Sally Smith (NH) files for retirement benefits and states that they were married to Charlie Smith in 1958 and divorced in 1971. Sally states that Charlie is 66 years old. The information provided by Sally could be a lead for divorced spouse’s benefits for Charlie (BIC-BR) on Sally’s SSN. This is also a lead for Charlie on their own SSN if they have not already filed for retirement insurance benefits (RIB-BIC A). For contacting the proper applicant and documentation information, see GN 00202.020C and GN 00202.020H, both in this section.

2. When a Title XVI application is a lead

If a claimant states they do not intend to file for individuals (other than the claimant’s current and former spouses) named on their Title XVI application or redetermination (RZ) form, the application or RZ form establishes a lead for the named individuals who:

  • are potentially eligible for Title XVI (e.g., blind, disabled, or within two months of age 65 or older); and

  • live with the claimant (e.g., listed as household members).

A Title XVI or RZ form without the claimant’s statement that they do not intend to file for the named individual establishes a Title XVI protective filing date for the named individual per SI 00601.020A.2.

The scope of a Title XVI protective writing is determined by the application subsequently filed. For more information, see SI 00601.020A.4. and SI 00601.010D.


A claimant’s naming current and former spouses on their Title XVI application or RZ form is a protective filing for the spouse who is blind, disabled, or within two months of age 65 or older, see SI 00601.020A.2.

C. Contact the potential applicant

  • Contact the potential proper applicant promptly to determine if they wish to file.


    For instructions on independently-entitled divorced spouse (IEDS) lead development, refer to RS 00202.100B.5.

  • Determine if a protective filing is appropriate per GN 00204.010.

    If so, document the protective filing date and follow the protective filing closeout instructions in GN 00204.012 for protective writings and SI 00601.037 for Title XVI oral inquiries.

    If not, (e.g., the proper applicant states they do not wish to file for Title II benefits) follow the documentation requirements in GN 00202.020H in this section. Do not contact a potential proper applicant if you determine from SSA records that no current or future entitlement exists.


    Naming a child or potential spouse on a Title II application, usually establishes a protective filing. For more information, see GN 00204.010C.

D. Spouse’s benefit is potentially payable on a number holder’s (NH’s) record.

Potential entitlement exists for divorced spouses, or surviving divorced spouses who are full retirement age (FRA) or older, regardless of the benefit amount payable on their own SSN, since these applicants may restrict their applications to exclude retirement benefits (i.e., deemed filing does not apply). For more information on deemed filing, see GN 00204.035.

Take the following actions only when a spouse’s benefit is potentially payable on the NH’s record.

If the NH can only provide:

  • the spouse’s SSN, query our databases to determine potential eligibility on the NH’s record, possible contact information and, when deemed filing applies, entitlement on their own record. If you determine that no entitlement is possible, dispose of the lead and fully document all factors used to make your determination per GN 00202.020H in this section.

  • the spouse’s address, send a letter to the spouse asking them to call us because they may be eligible for benefits. If there is no response to the letter, dispose of the lead and document per GN 00202.020H in this section.

  • the spouse’s phone number, call the spouse. If not successful, query our databases for address information. If an address is found, send a letter to the spouse asking them to call us because they may be eligible for benefits. If no information is found, dispose of the lead and document per GN 00202.020H in this section.

  • the contact information for a relative (e.g. an adult child), call or send a call/come in letter (form SSA-2708) addressed in care of the relative. If no response, dispose of the lead and document all attempts to develop this information per GN 00202.020H in this section.


    A spouse is not protected when an abbreviated application is taken because no marriage information is asked of the NH (e.g., ABAP-R).

E. Attempts to contact or locate are unsuccessful or whereabouts unknown

If you are unable to reach the potential proper applicant by telephone, and have a mailing address, promptly send a call/come in letter (form SSA-2708).

If the call/come in letter is returned undeliverable, or you are unsuccessful in contacting or locating the potential proper applicant, dispose of the lead and document the steps taken per GN 00202.020H in this section.

F. Forms meeting the definition of a lead

Forms meeting the definition of a lead (see GN 00202.001B) may serve as a written indication of potential entitlement to benefits. If you receive a form that meets the definition of a lead, follow the procedures in GN 00202.020G in this section to dispose of the lead, and follow GN 00202.020H in this section to document the development.

Examples of forms that meet the definition of a lead:

  • Form SSA-721, Statement of Death by Funeral Director, that identifies a survivor of the deceased wage earner

  • Form SSA-1724, Claim for Amounts Due in the Case of a Deceased Beneficiary, that identifies a survivor or survivors of the deceased wage earner

For information on when a Title XVI RZ form establishes a lead, see GN 00202.020B.2. in this section.

G. When to dispose of leads

A lead is disposed of:

  • after determining from SSA records that no current or future entitlement exists.

  • after contacting the proper applicant and determining that they do not wish to file.

  • after taking an application.

  • when you are unable to contact the proper applicant.

  • when a protective filing is established. For example when a protective filing stems from a lead or an appointment is established using iAppointments, see GN 00203.016.

To close out the protective writing, see GN 00204.012.

To close out the Title XVI oral inquiry, see SI 00601.037.


It is important to distinguish between a lead and a protective filing. A protective filing for Title II benefits is a written indication of intent to file for benefits received by SSA per GN 00204.010.

H. How to document development and disposal of leads

  • Document development electronically whenever possible. Documentation should be made in the most applicable system (e.g., MDW, EVID, NDRED, DW01 and DW03 screen for MCS, Report of Contact screen for SSI). NOTE: Once you record the source of the lead in an electronic system, destroy the related paper documentation.

  • Document all attempts to contact or locate the potential proper applicant.

  • Document the outcome (e.g., unsuccessful attempts; the potential proper applicant’s decision is that they do not wish to file; or if you determine no possible entitlement exists).

Include in the documentation relevant information from the contact source where the lead was created, and any protective filing that results from the lead. For protective filing documentation, see GN 00204.010H.

I. References for leads in the United States

  • RS 00201.001 Retirement Benefits – Entitlement Requirements Leads outside of the United States

  • GN 00202.040 Application Leads Outside the United States

    To determine entitlement to possible widow(er)'s benefits (WIB

  • RS 00202.100 Independently-Entitled Divorced Spouse

  • RS 00207.001 Widower’s Benefits Definitions and Requirements

    For more information on electronic documentation and retention of the SSA-721

  • GN 00301.286 Electronic Evidence Documentation and Retention

    For the policy on taking a separate Title II application when Title XVI is filed

  • SI 00601.035 Adjudicating Title II When a Title XVI application Is Filed

    For the policy on Title VIII benefits if the claimant meets the eligibility requirements for Special Veterans Benefits

  • VB 00102.001 and VB 00102.010 Qualification Requirements and Residence Outside the United States


  • GN 00203.016 iAppointments (iAppt)

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GN 00202.020 - Processing Leads - 07/08/2024
Batch run: 07/08/2024