GN SF01010.815 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 the courts would most likely interpret the laws in question. The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) prepares legal opinions on questions regarding either federal laws or the laws of foreign countries. The Office of the 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 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, facts, and determination as explained in GN 01010.365B.3. Ensure that all public documentation (e.g. birth certificate, divorce decree, etc.) included in the determination is annotated on the evidence (EVID) screen or in the electronic file per GN 00301.286. Then retain the determination in the electronic file, e.g. in eView or the Claims File User Interface (CFUI).


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 precedent opinions.

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

B. Procedure for requesting legal opinions to the San Francisco Region

If current, established policy and legal precedent opinions do not provide sufficient guidance, refer the case for a legal opinion. Full case documentation and development is mandatory prior to submitting a legal opinion request to the San Francisco CDPS. Complete the following steps prior to referring a case.

  1. 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 claimant(s) party to the legal opinion (See note below)

  2. 2. 

    Fax the SSA-5002 into the electronic file (e.g., CFUI). Reference the SSA-5002 on a Report of Contact (RPOC) in the Modernized Claims System (MCS) or Report of Contact page in the Consolidated Claims Experience (CCE), if MCS or CCE is available.

  3. 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 records of birth, marriage, domestic partnership, divorce, death),

    • 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 (SS-760), 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. 4. 

    Initiate an inquiry through vHelp.

  5. 5. 

    In the first line of the “My Question” textbox, input in all-cap font: “POSSIBLE LEGAL OPINION REQUEST FOR THE SAN FRANCISCO REGION

  6. 6. 

    In the “My Question” textbox, document:

    • Summary Report of Contact – Reference the SSA-5002 from Subsection B.1. 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 posted to the electronic file.

    • FO Determination of Domicile – Reference the SSA-5002 from Subsection B.1. in this section, and briefly restate the final determination about domicile. Reference the date and location where the SSA-5002 posted to the electronic file.

    • Summary Case Facts – Provide a chronological, bulleted list of summary case facts pertaining to the issue to be decided.

    • Supporting Evidence – Provide a chronological, bulleted list of supporting evidence. Reference the date and location where each document posted to the electronic file.


A “domicile” is the place where a person has their true, fixed, and permanent home, and to which they intend to return 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. In addition, 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 the child's 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.

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

  1. 1. 

    Establish a 180- day tickle to control the case for a response from the San Francisco CDPS in an appropriate system, e.g., MCS, CCE, 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 CDPS, write a formal determination on a Report of Contact, or paper form (e.g. SSA-553) as explained in GN 01010.365B3 and GN 01010.800C. Include the summary of the approved legal opinion in the claim file (paper or electronic file.)

  4. 4. 

    Review the claim and verify that all the applicant’s responses on the claim are accurate and up-to-date.

  5. 5. 

    Process the outstanding action along with any other claims which were held pending receipt of the legal opinion, according to San Francisco CDPS guidance.


If the case attracts Congressional or media attention while the legal opinion request is pending, inform management at the San Francisco CDPS immediately.

D. Example of Case Development

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

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GN SF01010.815 - Request for Legal Opinion - 08/02/2023
Batch run: 08/02/2023