TN 37 (09-21)

GN CHI01010.815 Request for Legal Opinion

A. Policy on requesting legal opinions

As described in GN 01010.835A, legal opinions interpret or clarify a principle of law. As such, they constitute advice as to how courts would most likely interpret the laws in question. The Office of General Counsel (OGC) prepares legal opinions on questions regarding either federal laws or the laws of foreign countries. The Office of Chief Counsel for a respective region, i.e., Regional Chief Counsel or “RCC,” prepares legal opinions that interpret the laws of the states within its region relating to coverage, initial Title 2 and Title 16 entitlement, eligibility, and continuing entitlement or eligibility issues.

Before requesting a legal opinion, thoroughly review POMS for national policy instructions, including current precedent opinions (PR and PS) sections:

PR - Title II Regional Chief Counsel Precedents, and

PS - Title XVI Regional Chief Counsel Precedents

When an established precedent opinion clearly applies, write a formal determination on a Report of Contact (RPOC/DROC) or Special Determination (SSA-553) as explained in GN 01010.810, GN 01010.360, GN 01010.365, and GN 01010.800C. Reference the legal precedent opinion, and provide the issue that requires a legal opinion, facts, and the determination as explained in GN 01010.365B3. Ensure that all supportive documentation (e.g. birth certificate, divorce decree, etc.) included in the determination is properly photocopied (make sure a legible copy is obtained), certified per GN 00301.095, annotated in the electronic file or on the evidence (EVID) screen per GN 00301.286 and then retain the determination in the electronic file, e.g. eVIEW or the Claims File User Interface (CFUI).

Note: Do not use legal precedent opinions that are no longer part of the PR and PS POMS sections. The current version of these POMS sections are the only agency-approved sources for legal precedents.

For further information about the electronic file, see GN 00301.310, DI 81001.005, and DI 81010.135.

B. Procedure for requesting legal opinions for the Chicago Region

If established policy and legal precedent opinions do not provide sufficient guidance, refer the case to the Chicago Center for Disability, Integrity, and Program Support (CDIPS) for a legal opinion. Full case documentation and development is mandatory prior to submitting a legal opinion request to the Chicago CDIPS. Complete the following steps prior to referring a case.

Note: OGC will not accept a case that has not been fully developed with all necessary supportive evidence already obtained (clear and legible copy(ies), properly certified [if necessary], and faxed into CFUI).

1. Write a case summary on a paper or electronic Report of Contact (SSA-5002). Provide the following information:

  • A brief description of the issue(s) to be decided

  • Background information

  • POMS references

  • All relevant domiciles (city and state) for the number holder (NH) and the claimant(s) party to the legal opinion (see note below)


Note: A "domicile" is the place where a person has his/her true, fixed, and permanent home, and to which he/she intends to return to whenever away. "Relevant domiciles" determine which state laws apply to a case. A NH's current domicile, or the NH's domicile at the time of death for a survivor claim, is always relevant. Additionally, the claimant's domiciles are potentially relevant, e.g. domiciles covering major events directly related to the legal issue under consideration, such as the child's place of birth, the child's primary domicile over the course of his/her life, and the child's current domicile. Include all dates that the NH or claimant(s) changed domiciles. For additional guidance on determining domicile, see GN 00305.001.

2. Fax the SSA-5002 into the electronic file (e.g., CFUI). Reference the SSA-5002 on a Report of Contact (RPOC or DROC) in the Modernized Claims System (MCS) or Modernized Supplemental Security Income Claims System (MSSICS), if MCS or MSSICS is available.

3. Fax all supporting evidence pertaining to the legal opinion request into the electronic file: for example:

  • Summary Report of Contact (SSA-5002),

  • State vital records (e.g., certified record of birth, marriage, domestic partnership, divorce, death, etc.),

  • SSA certified Translation Request (SSA-533) for foreign documents,

  • Court documents,

  • SSA forms, e.g., Child Relationship Statement (SSA-2519), Statement Regarding Contributions (SSA-783), Certificate of Support (SSA-760-F4), Modified Benefit Formula Questionnaire (SSA-150), etc.,

  • Statement(s) from the NH, claimant, and third parties (SSA-795),

  • Tax return(s),

  • NH's obituary

4. Initiate an inquiry through vHelp.

5. In the first line of the "My Question" textbox, document:

Summary Report of Contact - Reference the SSA-5002 from the Subsection B1 in this section, and briefly restate the issue to be decided in one or two sentences. Reference the date and location where the SSA-5002 is posted in the electronic file.

FO Determination of Domicile - Reference the SSA-5002 from Subsection B1 in this section, and briefly restate the final determination about domicile. Reference the date and location where the SSA-5002 is posted in the electronic file.

Supporting Evidence - Provide a bulleted list (in chronological order) of supporting evidence. Reference the date and location where each document is posted in the electronic file.


C. Procedure after submitting a legal opinion request to the Chicago Region

  1. 1. 

    Establish a 180-day tickle to control the case for a response from the Chicago CDIPS in an appropriate system, e.g., MCS, MSSICS, or a Modernized Development Worksheet (MDW).

  2. 2. 

    Process "partial" awards, e.g., for parties not affected by the legal decision, while the legal opinion is pending per GN 01010.110 and GN 01010.815A .

    Note: Do not process the case if the pending legal opinion will impact accurate payment processing or any factor of entitlement.

  3. 3. 

    Upon receiving a response from CDIPS, write a formal determination on a Report of Contact (RPOC/DROC), of paper form (SSA-553) as explained in GN 01010.365B.3 and GN 01010.800C.

  4. 4. 

    Review the claim and verify that all the applicant's responses on the claim are accurate and current.

  5. 5. 

    Process the outstanding action along with any other claims which were held pending receipt of the legal opinion determination, according to Chicago CDIPS guidance.

    Note: If the case attracts Congressional or media attention while the legal opinion request is pending, inform the Chicago CDIPS RSI/SSI team immediately.

D. Example of Case Development

Sample Report of Contact (SSA-5002) for the electronic file, e.g., CFUI:

Issue: Is Clark Kent eligible for surviving child's benefits and the lump sum death payment (LSDP) on the record of alleged father Jonathan Kent?

Background: Jonathan Kent (NH) never married the child's biological mother, and he passed away five months after the child's birth. As proof of relationship, the mother submitted a posthumous judgment of paternity and a DNA test showing a strong likelihood of the child's biological relationship to his paternal grandparent (grandmother). In addition, the NH's mother signed a statement indicating that the NH was her only son.

POMS:GN 00306.008, GN 00306.100, GN 00306.480, PR 01105.016

Domicile: Metropolis, Illinois. NH passed away in Metropolis, Illinois. The claimant (CL) was born in Illinois, and the CL lives in Illinois. All events transpired in Illinois.

Sample required text for the "MY QUESTION" section in vHelp:

In the first line of the "My Question" text box, input in all-caps: POSSIBLE LEGAL OPINION REQUEST FOR THE CHICAGO REGION

Summary Report of Contact (SSA-5002) - Posted in CFUI on 7/15/2018.

Issue: Is Clark Kent eligible for surviving child's benefits and the lump sum death payment (LSDP) on the record of Jonathan Kent?

Domicile: Metropolis, Illinois. Jonathan Kent (NH) passed away in Metropolis, Illinois. The CL was born in Metropolis, Illinois, and currently lives in Illinois. All events transpired in Illinois.

Summary Case Facts:

  • On 10/31/2017, Clark Kent was born in Metropolis, Illinois.

  • On 3/30/2018, Jonathan Kent passed away in Metropolis, Illinois. At the time of his death, the NH was domiciled in Metropolis, Illinois.

  • On 6/15/2018, the Superior Court of Illinois issued a Judgment finding the deceased NH to be the CL’s father.

  • On 7/01/2018, the CL filed for surviving child’s benefits and the Lump Sum Death Payment (LSDP) on the late NH’s earnings record.

Supporting Evidence:

  • Clark Kent’s (CL) Certificate of Live Birth, born 10/31/2017 in Metropolis, Illinois, no father shown (see CFUI dated 7/1/2018)

  • Certificate of Death showing that Jonathan Kent (NH) died 3/30/2018 in Metropolis, Illinois (see CFUI dated 7/1/2018)

  • DNA test dated 5/15/2018, showed a high probability of biological relationship to the CL’s paternal grandparents (see CFUI dated 7/01/2018)

  • Judgment dated 6/15/2018 from the Superior Court of Illinois, found the deceased NH to be the CL’s father (see CFUI dated 7/01/2018)

  • Statement from Ms. Molly Kent (paternal grandmother) dated 4/15/2018 stated that the NH was her only son, and that the CL is her grandchild (see CFUI dated 7/15/2018)

  • Child Relationship Statement (SSA-2519) dated 7/10/2018 from the CL’s biological mother, Georgia Reeves (see CFUI dated 7/15/2018)

Direct all program-related and technical questions concerning this transmittal to the Regional Office (RO) CDIPS staff or Program Service Center (PSC) Operations Analysis (OA) staff. ROCDIPS or PSC OA staff may further refer issues and concerns to their Central Office contacts.

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GN CHI01010.815 - Request for Legal Opinion - 09/24/2021
Batch run: 09/24/2021