TN 99 (05-23)

GN 02602.320 Whereabouts Unknown for Retirement and Survivor (RSI) insurance beneficiaries


20 CFR §§404.705 and 404.721;
Social Security Ruling 99-1p

A. Policy for RSI beneficiaries whose whereabouts are unknown

First or third-party reports or checks returned to a field office (FO) might indicate that a beneficiary’s whereabouts are unknown. Suspend benefits for RSI cases using the suspension reason "whereabouts unknown" when we cannot locate a beneficiary after completing all required actions listed below. For more information on checks returned to a field office, see GN 02405.000 and GN 02405.010. To determine the appropriate LAF code to apply for returned checks, see SM 03020.001 .

NOTE: For undeliverable mail such as forms and notices, refer to GN 02605.055 Title II Undeliverable Mail – Change of Address (COA).

B. Procedure - Efforts to locate

1. Required Efforts

Develop for “whereabouts unknown” by following the below list of required efforts. You must first confirm that the beneficiary’s MBR is in LAF C (Current Payment Status) and that there is no indication of the beneficiary’s death in our records. Additionally, record all your efforts to locate the beneficiary in the special message field of the MBR and include the outcome of your development. For more information on the special message field of the MBR, see SM 00510.075.

Follow these required efforts and annotate the MBR accordingly:

  1. a. 

    Send an advance notice to the beneficiary or representative payee. Create the advance notice using the Document Processing System (DPS). In the notice, advise the beneficiary or representative payee that benefits will be suspended as of the date that the beneficiary's whereabouts are unknown. For more information on advance notices, see GN 03001.015 and NL 00601.030.

  2. b. 

    Set a 15-day diary for the advance notice. After sending the advance notice, continue the required efforts to locate the beneficiary in steps c and d below.

  3. c. 

    Check the MBR/SSR, CFUI scanned documents, etc., for leads such as employers, benefit sources, service agencies, community organizations, and others who might be able to help. Contact any interested persons or sources, preferably by phone, you believe might have contact with the beneficiary.

    CAUTION: When contacting an interested person or source, be careful to minimize the disclosure of any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or any information that is not permitted under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act. For more information on disclosure, see GN 03305.001 and GN 03360.005. Identify yourself and the office from which you are calling. Ask the interested person or source to have the beneficiary contact SSA by calling us or coming into a local field office. Do not disclose any unnecessary information such as “I’m calling to discuss Chad’s Social Security benefits.” The fact that a beneficiary is receiving benefits from Social Security is PII and is not necessary information that needs to be disclosed to locate the beneficiary.

  4. d. 

    Contact the beneficiary’s financial institution (FI) (if receiving direct deposit) and the USPS at the same time.

  • Fax or mail the letter E3759, Request to Financial Institution for Correct Beneficiary Address, found in NL 00703.759, or DPS Locate Letter (Beneficiary’s Bank) under “General” category.

  • Prepare and send SSA-L2001, Address Information Request, to the USPS servicing the address of record.

  • Use DPS to print both notices.

2. Beneficiary or representative payee responds to efforts to locate

If the beneficiary or the beneficiary’s representative payee responds to efforts to locate, update their record to reflect changes in the beneficiary's circumstances per GN 02602.005.

C. Procedure – FO actions after efforts to locate

1. Unable to locate

If you cannot locate the beneficiary after pursuing the required efforts and 15 days have passed since sending the advanced notice per GN 02602.320B.1.b above, then:

  1. a. 

    Include the outcome of the advance notice in the special message field of the MBR. For example, "The beneficiary did not respond to the advance notice;" and

  2. b. 

    Suspend benefits with LAF S9, following the instructions as outlined in SM 03005.160, SM 03020.290, and MS 00705.034.

NOTE: If you determine during development that another LAF code is more appropriate due to other entitlement, termination, or suspension events, update and/or change the LAF code and/or Reason for Suspension or Termination (RFST) per the priority of suspension in SM 03020.001.

2. Beneficiary or representative payee responds to suspense action

If the beneficiary or their representative payee responds to the suspense action, follow these steps:

  1. a. 

    Verify the beneficiary’s identity per GN 00203.020;

  2. b. 

    Determine whether benefits should continue or if benefits should be suspended for other reasons. The record may have additional suspense codes unrelated to "whereabouts unknown";

  3. c. 

    Reinstate benefits effective with the first month of suspension using the guidelines found in SM 03005.160, if applicable. For beneficiaries with representative payees, follow the procedures as outlined in GN 00504.160 to reinstate benefits; and

  4. d. 

    Use the Miscellaneous Online Edited Transaction System (MONET) to annotate the Special Message field on the MBR that the beneficiary was located (See MS 06307.008). Do NOT delete any prior Special Messages related to "whereabouts unknown" development.

D. Policy for presumption of death of Title II retirement and survivor beneficiaries after seven-year benefit suspension

When benefits have been suspended for “whereabouts unknown” for a period of at least seven continuous years because an adult beneficiary has been absent or missing from the beneficiary's residence and has never been heard from during this period, assume that the reason the beneficiary failed to request the resumption of benefits is death.

Terminate entitlement to benefits effective with the date that the adult beneficiary disappeared unless there is convincing evidence to establish a more likely date of death. See GN 00304.001. If evidence rebuts the presumption of death, follow the instructions in GN 00304.050.

Use MONET to annotate the Special Message field on the MBR again. Do NOT delete any prior Special Messages related to undeliverable mail efforts or "whereabouts unknown" development.

EXAMPLE: MBR Special Message - “Beneficiary’s record has been in continuous "whereabouts unknown" suspense status since MM/DD/YY. Presumption of death policy applies.”

E. Other whereabouts unknown cases

If the "whereabouts unknown" case involves disability or representative payees, refer to the appropriate policy below:

1. Title II disability cases

Follow the procedures in DI 11010.045, DI 13010.160 and SM 03020.050.

2. Disability - special CDR issues

In those situations where "whereabouts unknown" issues arise during the continuing disability review (CDR) process, follow the instructions in DI 13015.001 through DI 13015.025 and DI 40525.001.

3. Whereabouts of the representative payee are unknown

Do not suspend benefits when the whereabouts of the representative payee are unknown. Initiate development for a new payee or develop for direct payment following the guidelines in GN 00504.110.

F. References

GN 00504.110, When We May Suspend Benefits

GN 00504.160, Required Contacts Before Issuing Payments Following a Period of Suspension or Nonpayment

GN 02605.055, Title II Undeliverable Mail – COA

GN 03001.012 Title II Due Process Requirements for Determining the Identity of A Person Making A First Or Third Party Report

SM 00619.090, Whereabouts Unknown Alert

SM 03005.160, Process Whereabouts Unknown

SM 03020.050, Develop for Continuing Disability (CDIB)

SM 03020.150, Develop for Representative Payee (DPYE)

MS 00705.020, Develop for Representative Payee (DPYE)

To Link to this section - Use this URL:
GN 02602.320 - Whereabouts Unknown for Retirement and Survivor (RSI) insurance beneficiaries - 05/30/2023
Batch run: 04/01/2024