TN 4 (04-21)

GN 03316.125 Disclosure to Attorneys and Representatives

An individual may authorize a third party to act on his or her behalf in dealings with us. The individual must name the appointed representative in writing. An appointed representative can be an attorney or non-attorney, but must be a designated individual or individuals, not a firm or entity.

On behalf of the claimant, an appointed representative may:

  • present the claimant’s arguments and position on issues in the claimant’s proceedings;

  • cross-examine witnesses;

  • obtain information about the claim that the SSA would generally provide the claimant;

  • examine any documents to which the claimant would have access;

  • designate associates who perform administrative duties, partners or parties under contractual agreements for which the claimant has authorized us to disclose;

  • appear at any interview, conference, or hearing;

  • be informed of all additional evidence needed to support the claim;

  • make statements about facts and law;

  • request a reconsideration, hearing, or Appeals Council review;

  • submit briefs or other written statements;

  • make a request or give any report or notice about the proceedings before SSA;

  • be notified of any decision made in the claim, including, if applicable, decisions regarding auxiliary beneficiaries; and

  • help witnesses prepare for a hearing and question any witnesses.

See GN 03910.025 for more information regarding the authority of a representative.

A. Using Form SSA-1696, Appointment of Representative

Form SSA-1696-U4, or written equivalent, limits a claimant’s appointment of a representative to an individual, not an entity. The claimant must submit Form SSA-3288 to consent to disclosure of his or her records to an entity. Disclosure based on presentation of a Form SSA-1696-U4 alone only authorizes us to release records to the individual named on the form (or the individual who signs the form). An individual may also authorize the appointed representative to designate an associate (e.g. clerk), or other party or entity (e.g. a copying service) to receive information from the individual’s claim file on the representative’s behalf for the duration of the claim. An individual may permit disclosure of information to a representative’s designated associates who performs administrative duties by selecting the appropriate box on the Form SSA-1696-U4. In these instances, disclosure to the representative’s designated associate does not require a separate Form SSA-3288.

NOTE: While we will disclose information to appointed representatives outside of the United States (U.S.), we will not disclose information to these representative's designated associates located outside of the U.S. unless the claimant provides prior written consent naming the designated associate for whom disclosure is permitted.

Although an “appointed representative” and a “designated representative” may be one individual, the functions of these two types of representative are distinctly different. Refer to GN 03340.035B for information regarding a designated representative. See GN 03305.025 and GN 03900.000 for information on appointed (or authorized) representatives.

B. Identifying an appointed representative by telephone

To verify that the claimant has appointed this representative, obtain a query or access the Form SSA-1696, or a written equivalent. The caller must provide:

  • his or her name, and

  • the claimant's identifying information.

C. Identifying a representative's designated associate by telephone

If the caller is a representative’s designated associate, verify that the claimant has checked the appropriate box in Part 1 of the SSA-1696, authorizing disclosure to the designated associate. The caller must provide:

  • his or her name;

  • appointed representative's name as shown on the SSA-1696 or query; and

  • the claimant's identifying information.

NOTE: If the associate cannot provide you with the required information, the associate should have the appointed representative call or visit the field office.

D. Circumstance of disclosure

We may disclose any information an applicant, claimant, beneficiary or representative payee is entitled to receive to an appointed representative, subject only to any limitations imposed by the individual. We do not consider this access, but rather, disclosure with consent or a routine use disclosure. GN 03910.025 and GN 03910.060 provide more information on the authority of a representative and when authority expires.

NOTE: Because of the sensitivity of the contents of medical records, we must identify these records as medical records when disclosed. Cover medical records with a completed Form SSA-1994 (Cover Sheet Confidential Medical Information). If an SSA-1994 is not available, make a cover sheet to identify the records as “Confidential - Medical Information.”

E. Limiting Disclosure

When the subject individual requests a review in person, another individual of his or her choosing may accompany him or her. In some cases, you may need to discuss with the appointed representative what documents he or she needs before providing information from file. You may also suggest that the appointed representative come to the field office (FO) to review the file, to determine which items to copy.

See 20 CFR 401.40; 20 CFR 401.55; and AIMS, GAM 14.03 for more information pertaining to the handling of access requests, including special procedures regarding medical records.

FO staff normally copies all material made available to a requester. We may allow a visitor, to whom we are releasing information, operate our photocopy equipment when the following requirements are met:

  • FO management approves the arrangements;

  • information in the file pertaining to other individuals is removed from the file before photocopying or burning to a CD, if there is no authorization to disclose; and

  • FO management arranges for FO staff to monitor the appointed representative's handling of the file to ensure that he or she does not remove original material from the file.

EXAMPLE:The authorization only provides for release of information about beneficiary “A,” and there is information concerning beneficiary “B” in the file. We must remove all material pertaining to B before allowing the requester to photocopy the file.

NOTE:We do not recommend providing documents such as Master Beneficiary Record (MBR) printouts and other output query screens (administrative) to the appointed representative. If the appointed representative specifically requests that copies of such screens or queries be included, we recommend providing the information in another format, other than a copy of the query screenshot. If we can provide the specific information the appointed representative requests in another manner, there is no obligation to provide a query. Disclosure of queries to appointed representatives should be a rare occurrence. When disclosing queries to appointed representatives, we should follow the same procedures described in GN 03305.004B and GN 03305.004C for disclosing queries to third parties with consent.

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GN 03316.125 - Disclosure to Attorneys and Representatives - 08/25/2011
Batch run: 04/08/2021